Leon Redbone is either 62, 85, or 115 years old - depending on what mood he's in when you ask.He once told Rolling Stone magazine he was born July 10, 1670.
He may tell you he is the son of Italian violinist Paganini (who died in 1840). Or, that his mother was Swedish soprano Jenny Lind (who died in 1887).
For Redbone, the running gag is amusing, and in his eyes, helps to keep the focus off his background and on his music - a collection of late 19th and early 20th century jazz and blues standards, some of which he likes to yodel.
"I think you've got 'mysterious' confused with 'non-compliant,'" Redbone says in a telephone interview. "I try to concentrate on what it is I'm actually doing."
The details of Redbone's background have apparently been a closely guarded secret since he suddenly appeared on the Toronto folk scene in 1970. That only added to the mystery surrounding him (one theory even suggests he may really be the late comedian Andy Kaufman) and intrigued the singer's cult following of fans.
Redbone comes to South Jersey on Sunday, Nov. 20, taking the stage at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey as part of the college's "Sundays in the Campus Center" series.
Redbone's musical tastes are as varied as they are unusual. An audience can expect to hear everything from classic ragtime, to Dixieland jazz pioneer Nick La Rocca, to forgotten pop songs from the 1920s and 1930s - all of it with Redbone wearing his trademark dark sunglasses and Panama hat.
"I'm pleasantly surprised when an audience comes in and they seem to like it too," Redbone says. "I realize it's a disposable world today, but not everybody thinks that way."
Redbone is perhaps best known for his many television appearances as a regular on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" and "Saturday Night Live" in the late 1970s. He recorded several popular commercial jingles, including ads for ALL detergent and Budweiser, and sang the theme song to the popular 1980s sitcom "Mr. Belvedere." He even was featured in a Far Side cartoon.
But once an entertainer starts giving out information, he says, the public only wants more - so he prefers to reveal little.
"I just don't pay attention to it all - I just go ahead an do what I want to do," Redbone says. "You feel obliged to keep talking about things you're not interested in talking about … so I maintain my stubborn approach to what I do, which is in many ways counteractive to what I'm doing."
Redbone has released 15 albums over the years, but it's been nearly a decade since he has recorded new material. That could change soon, or not, he says.
"I know there are people out there who do like this material," Redbone says. "The notion (of a new album) comes to me and then goes. I think eventually I'll do it."
As for what the audience can expect at this Sunday's show at Stockton, even Redbone himself isn't sure.
"I have no idea," Redbone says. "That's mostly because the show is ad-libbed. It's a collection of selective songs from the past - from the turn of the century to 1935."
Students who don't have the music of the 1890s on their MP3 player could learn about a new - albeit old - sound.
"If it works out that way, I'm pleased that it happens," Redbone says, of exposing the students to his style of music. "I think most of what I do has to do with a stubborn resistance to do anything else but this."
Gilda's Club Rocks in AC
Bid on a chance to lunch with the First Lady in the first ever Gilda's Club South Jersey "Gilda Rocks On" benefit auction, 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, at The Hard Rock Caf� inside Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City. Other auction items include a Sonoma Valley vacation package and Yankees tickets. The B Street Band performs live. The event benefits Gilda's Club South Jersey. Tickets are $100 per person and all donations are tax-deductible. Fore more information, call Lauren Crenshaw at 609-926-2699, or see www.gildasclubsouthjersey.org.
at AC Aquarium
The Philadelphia Zoo on Wheels brings its "Outrageous Reptiles" show to the Atlantic City Aquarium on Saturday, Nov. 19. Learn about these often-misunderstood species and find out why they are important to a variety of ecosystems. Shows are at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and free with admission to the aquarium. The Atlantic City Aquarium is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children ages 4-12. Children younger than three are free. Call 609-348-2880 or see http://www.aquarium.com./" target= "_blank">www.aquarium.com.
'Nuncrackers' in Vineland
St. Padre Pio Parish in Vineland presents 'Nuncrackers' at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18 and Saturday, Nov. 19 at St. Mary's School Gym, 735 Union Road in Vineland. General admission tickets are $35 for adults; $15 for children 12 and younger. Ticket price includes hors d'oeuvres and desserts at intermission. BYOB. Call 856-691-7526.
Cheer Tech in Wildwood
Cheer Tech returns to the Wildwoods Convention Center for the ABSC Recreation and School U.S. Finals (below) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20 in the Oceanfront Arena. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for children 10 and younger. Call 1-866-52-CHEER or visit www.CheerTech.net.