||By Jamie Allen
(CNN) -- There might have been a
time when a Rolling Stones tour
included nothing more than playing
concerts and partying hard.
But times have changed, even for the
forever-young rock 'n' roll group.
For instance, Chuck Leavell, the
long-time pianist for the band, spent
the Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon
tour in a very productive fashion.
During down time, he worked on a
book that addressed the hobby that
keeps him busy when he's not playing
music or spending time with his family
-- forestry and land management.
Leavell, 49, has owned and maintained
the 2,400-acr e Charlane Plantation in
middle Georgia, a tree farming and wildlife enterprise, since 1981. He was
named National Outstanding Tree Farmer in 1999.
His experience gave him a lot to say.
"I just started writing down my thoughts on
forestry in general, and some of the experiences
that I've had with land management and forestry
management," says Leavell. "Then I realized,
hey, I've got enough for a book here."
The result of his work, helped along by
co-writer Mary Welch, is "Forever Green: The
History and Hope of the American Forest." It
was recently released by Longstreet Press, in
tandem with Leavell's first solo album, "Forever
"These things are related," Leavell says of the book and CD. "The book is on the
subject of forestry and the importance of the resource of wood. I wouldn't have
an instrument to play if not for that resource.
"This is a very private and intimate way of me sharing my art form and being
able to give back a little bit to the resource that gives me my instrument," he
'A balanced, true message'
"Forever Green" is a "manual of the true picture of forestry in America," says
Leavell. "The book is trying to get the truth out there -- a balanced, true
Truth is needed on this issue, Leavell says. By
taking courses in forestry and land
management over the years, and building
Charlane to be a nationally respected
conservation farm, Leavell encountered many
people concerned with the environment -- and
he says their opinions were often distorted.
Leavell says one popular question he often
faced was, "Isn't it terrible what's happening
to our forests?"
"No, it's not terrible," says Leavell. "There's
fantastic news. Come to my place, you'll see
some of it. Go investigate the American Tree
Farm System. There are 65,000 members that
are absolutely fantastic, exemplary stewards
of the land."
"Forever Green" touches up the history of the American forests, types of
forests, the idea of urban forests, and the direction of conservation.
"Forever Blue" adds the music to this read. The title is a link to the book and a
reference to Leavell's blues background, growing up in Alabama and playing
with bands like The Allman Brothers.
The CD features 10 tunes -- seven original, and
three interpretations of classics, including
"Georgia On My Mind."
"I never get tired of that song," Leavell says. "I
can do it 50 times a day, and still have fun with
Leavell also has fun on his plantation. He takes
regular morning walks on the grounds, and he
says his home is the perfect escape from a hectic life on the road with the
"It's what life is all about," he says. "The privilege of living on this place helps
keep my priorities in order. It's wonderful to get out there and tour and see the
world. But there's nothing like being next to nature and the feeling of spirituality
that comes with that."