Lee, George Ewing
band leader, vocalist, reed player
Following his Army service, he formed a trio with his sister, Julia, and worked primarily at Lyric Hall at 1739 Lydia. During the 1920s, George and Julia's strong vocals and showmanship gave them an edge over their principal rival, the Moten band. Trumpeter Buck Clayton would later recall that George E. Lee "had a beautiful voice, a strong voice, that could fill up the hall without a microphone."
George E. Lee's Novelty Singing Orchestra made its first recordings in 1927 for the Merrit Label, produced by the Winston Holmes Music Company at 1704 E. 18th Street. Both recordings from this session, "Down Home Syncopated Blues" and "Merrit Stomp" , are rare treasures, highly coveted by record collectors.
George expanded the band to 13 pieces in 1929 and modernized its sound with the addition of arranger Jesse Stone. The Lee band's recording sessions for the Brunswick label on November 6 and 8, 1929, produced the hit record "If I Could Be With You" , backed by "Paseo Street" . The record sold an astonishing 2,000-plus copies in Kansas City in one week.
The Moten and Lee bands merged temporarily in 1933-1934. Julia split with her brother and began a solo career in 1934 or 1935.
George retired from music in 1940 and died in San Diego in 1958.
[ index | people | sounds | venues | articles | kansascity.com ]
all content © 1996 University of Missouri-Kansas City