Julia Lee Biography

31 October 1902, Booneville, Missouri, USA, d. 8 December 1958, Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Beginning her career as a pianist and singer while in her early teens, Lee joined a band led by her brother, George E. Lee (1896-1958), a popular vocalist whose ‘Novelty Singing Orchestra’ played extensively in and around Kansas City. Despite the musical advances being made by other Kansas City Jazz bands of the time, notably the Lees’ great rival, Bennie Moten, they retained their popularity into the mid-30s. After her brother’s retirement, Julia Lee continued her career as a solo artist, enjoying a resurgence of popularity during the blues revival of the early and mid-40s. Her recordings of these and the following few years feature leading jazz musicians, including Benny Carter and Red Norvo. An effective if sometimes unprofound performer of the blues, and a disarming singer of popular songs of the day, Lee was well-placed to adapt to the growing public interest in R&B. However, her decision to spend most of her career in Kansas City rather than New York or Los Angeles, where R&B really took off, meant that she was far more unfamiliar to the wider public than many less talented singer-pianists of her generation.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.