Tornadoes Drummer Leonard Delaney Dies at 71
Delaney co-founded the band in 1960 with high school friends Gerald Sanders, Norman "Roly" Sanders, Jesse Sanders, and George White. Gerald and Norman are brothers, and Jesse is their cousin, making the Tornadoes something of a family band. But as Jesse Sanders told the Redlands Daily Facts after Delaney's death, there were no dividing lines between the Sanders boys and their bandmates: "It was a lot more than just a bunch of guys’ getting together and playing in a band. It was like family getting together. We were a tight-knit group."
According to Sanders, Delaney -- who'd go on to co-write the Tornadoes' biggest hit, the 1962 single 'Bustin' Surfboards' -- fit in instantly. "We were always in trouble," he laughed while recalling their high school years. "I met Leonard in 1960 when I was going into the 10th grade and he was in the 11th grade. He was in the high school marching band as (its) drummer, and I played the tuba of all things. He and I just hit it off right away from Day 1. And he kind of took me under his wing and taught me how to play drums. And that made us closer. He was a bit hesitant at first because he had played with other groups and it didn’t really work out. But he finally caved and came over. And when he did, it was a perfect fit. From our very first get-together it was like, ‘OK, Leonard, you are part of this group.’"
Part of Delaney's reluctance may have stemmed from his background as a pianist rather than a drummer; as his obituary notes, he took years of piano lessons as a young child at the urging of his mother, who "was sure that he would become a world famous concert pianist." Delaney maintained a variety of interests during his life, moving into contracting and carpentry after the Tornadoes ceased to be a full-time occupation in the early '70s, and is described in his obituary as an avid camper and fisherman.
The Tornadoes enjoyed an unlikely resurgence in the early '90s, when Quentin Tarantino put 'Bustin' Surfboards' on the 'Pulp Fiction' soundtrack; the renewed attention led to a heavier touring schedule and new recordings, some of which were collected on the 2005 CD 'Now and Then.' "That was Leonard’s creation," Gerald Sanders said of the band's signature song. "Leonard played with us up until 1971 and then off-and-on until about three or four years ago when he started getting sick. ... Leonard was quiet a reserved type of person. He was hard to get to know and he was not a real outgoing emotional type of person. But, anybody that knew Leonard liked him. He didn’t have any enemies. He was an unassuming and humble type of person."
Hear the Tornadoes Play 'Bustin' Surfboards'