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Leon René (February 6, 1902 – May 30, 1982) was an American music composer of R&B and rock and roll songs and a record producer in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. He sometimes used the songwriting pseudonym Jimmy Thomas or Jimmie Thomas. He also established several record labels.
Born in Covington, Louisiana He is best known for his hit song "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano". The song, written as a tribute to the annual springtime return of the cliff swallows to Mission San Juan Capistrano in Southern California, spent several weeks at the top of Your Hit Parade charts during its initial release in 1940. The lyrics say:
When the swallows come back to Capistrano
That's the day you promised to come back to me'twas the day the swallows flew out to sea
When you whispered, "Farewell," in Capistrano— excerpt from "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano" by Leon René
The song has been recorded by such musicians as The Ink Spots, Fred Waring, Guy Lombardo, and Glenn Miller. A glassed-off room in the mission has been designated in René's honor and displays the upright piano on which he composed the tune, the reception desk from his office and several copies of the song's sheet music and other pieces of furniture, all donated by René's family.
René's other works included "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" (with Clarence Muse and brother Otis René), "Gloria", and such Pop staples as "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman", "Rockin' Robin", and "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus".
During the 1940s, with his brother and songwriting partner, Otis René, Leon René established and ran the independent rhythm and blues labels Exclusive Records and Excelsior Records. Otis was responsible for and publicly identified with Excelsior Records, while Leon was identified with Exclusive Records. They had purchased their own record plant, but when the format changed from 78 rpm to 45rpm, they could not press the new speed, and the labels went out of business. Otis René's Excelsior label existed from 1944 to 1951. Leon René's Exclusive Records existed from 1944 to 1950. Artists on Exclusive Records included Frantic Fay Thomas, the Buddy Baker Sextet, Joe Liggins and Johnny Moore's Three Blazers.
Leon René then set up the Class Records label in 1951, with his son, Rafael "Googie" René and Preston Love. René then issued successful recordings by his son, plus Oscar McLollie and Bobby Day. Day also recorded as Bobby Byrd of The Hollywood Flames and Bob & Earl. In 1958, he set up the Rendezvous Record Company, which produced hits by B. Bumble and the Stingers, until it folded in 1963.
- "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano"
- "When It's Sleepy Time Down South" (with Clarence Muse and brother Otis René)
- "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman"
- "Rockin' Robin"
- "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus"
- "I Lost My Sugar In Salt Lake City"
- "Sweet Lucy Brown"
- "That's My Home"
- "Beyond The Stars"
- "Someone's Rocking My Dreamboat"
- "I'm Lost"
- "Near To You" (Recorded by The Basin Street Boys)
- "Summertime Gal"
- "If Money Grew On Trees"
- Uncredited, Billboard, September 1, 1945, Buck-Five Disk of Indies Seen Different Ways. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
- The Vocal Group Harmony Website,Herb Jeffries and Three Shades of Rhythm. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
- The Vocal Group Harmony Website, Previous single artist record of the week--from the collection of Paul Ressler. Retrieved 2012-03-17.
- Greg Prato, Biography of Leon René. Allmusic, retrieved 2012-03-15.
- Dik de Heer, Biography of Oscar McLollie; Black Cat Rockabilly Europe. Retrieved 2012-03-13.
- Leon René at the Internet Broadway Database
- Leon René at the Internet Movie Database
- Class/Rendezvous Labels Album Discography — the recording company formed by René in Los Angeles in late 1951
- Back to the 50's with Leon René — interview with Leon René