A Lifetime of Performing, Recording and Teaching Music
A good musical ear is often inherited from a parent. In my case, growing up in England, I remember hearing Mum singing around the house whenever she was happy. (When she was unhappy I heard a much different sound.) Mum was a semi-professional cabaret singer with an excellent mezzo-soprano voice. She could mimic a wide range of female and male singers, mainly those featured in popular musicals of the 1950s and 1960s, such as South Pacific, Kiss Me Kate and Showboat.
I can still clearly recall Mum belting out “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady. Another favorite song of hers was “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” as she walked around the house.
When I was 10 years old, just after we moved to America, Mum took to a musical instrument store. "Pick out something you want to play in the school band next year," she told me. The manager of the store hovered nearby as I inspected student-model saxophones, trombones and clarinets. Although I had no idea how to play anything, my eyes were drawn to a trumpet. It just looked cool. When I held a brass Conn Director trumpet in my small hands, pressing and releasing the three valves, it just felt right.
For the next two years I played the trumpet daily, learning all the music assigned by my school's band teacher. Just before turning 13 years old I was invited to perform with a group of fellow students at a special concert by the Charleston (South Carolina) Symphony Orchestra. During that evening's performance in front of hundreds I became hooked on the 'high' of playing on a stage.
All through high school I played in marching bands, concert bands, pep bands and jazz bands. Our Saint Andrews Parish High School Band won almost every southeast US regional competition we entered. When our family moved to Spain when I was 16 the Farragut High School Jazz Band toured villages and towns along La Costa Del Sol, playing American popular music for intrigued Spanish audiences. Joining the US Navy at age 18, I was assigned for half a year to the military band in Lakehurst, New Jersey, where we marched and performed at parades and professional outdoor sporting events.
Here's a 60-second video montage of my drumming performances since 2005:
It was while playing trumpet in the navy band that I also began playing snare drum. (Reading music really helped me make a fast switch-over from one instrument to the other.) After I was assigned to the navy base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii I began assembling a rudimentary drum set in my barracks room. (Nobody seemed to mind the noise!) As the end of my enlistment in the navy grew closer, I clearly knew what I'd be doing for a job when I traded my uniform for civilian clothes: playing drums.
From the late 1970s through the early 1980s I fulfilled that dream of making my living playing drums full-time. Back then, in Southern California, there was high demand for versatile cover bands that could play all types of music...from rock to disco to country to funk. Our band worked 4, 5 or 6 nights per week, from 9pm to 1:30am, in nightclubs around San Diego and western Arizona. My drumming skills quickly advanced by duplicating the styles of so many diverse-sounding drummers. I also learned how to sing lead and harmony while playing drums. The money wasn't great, but those were fun times.
I traded in my long hair and drumsticks for short hair and a computer keyboard when I became a young husband and father in 1984. For the next 7 years I taught drums on weekends, and dabbled in a couple of bands, but my clear focus was to advance my high-technology career and to complete my bachelors degree in computer science. In 1991 I re-entered the Southern California music scene...this time as a founding member of an original band called The Attachments. From 1991 to 1994 we recorded four albums (produced by Barry Fasman who worked with Styx and Billy Joel), we headlined at top L.A. venues (The Roxy, Club Lingerie, etc.), and we opened for major touring acts including Starship and Rick Derringer. In 1994 I released a solo EP of songs I'd written, then I recorded one album with The Mean Rights.
From 2003 to 2007 I drummed and sang with the band BGB, performing at large concert venues alongside national touring acts that included Three Dog Night, Eddie Money, Leon Russell and Macy Gray. From 2004 to 2006 I also performed with the 12-piece (including a 5-piece horn section) funk/rock/rap band Project Tru. Project Tru shared the stage with Poncho Sanchez and Salvador Santana at venues such as Hollywood's House of Blues and the Galaxy Theatre. Our 15-song album titled "In Case They Still Believe" took two years to record and mix, but the songs on the CD are timeless, and it's still selling online today.
In 2010 I co-founded the original band New Blues Revolution. I drummed and sang during our performances at venues including S.I.R. Studios and The Whiskey in Hollywood.
In early 2011 I co-founded the original band Clever Stranger. It took us a year and half to record our 10-song album, which was released in July 2012. The music is a unique combination of rock, country, funk and hip-hop. Check out www.CleverStranger.com or visit our Facebook page. (Be sure to 'Like' us!)
I continue to teach drum students daily, and my RhythmicLee Music Studios business includes other teachers who work for me as independent contractors.
Here's a brief (50 second) video snippet from RhythmicLee Music Studios' August 2011 "Students-on-Stage Show." This is drum student Christian powering through one of his favorite songs, with teacher Lee encouraging him to rock on! Our 2nd annual recital was August 22, 2012.
Here's one of my favorite videos. It's our band BGB, fronted by my longtime friend Bill Grisolia, performing in front of 800 people at the concert venue The Vault, warming up the crowd for the headline act, Three Dog Night. December 30, 2004.