T C Lee

When the Kelly Brothers – Andrw, Robert and Curtis - formed their own gospel group in 1948 in Chicago, having moved up from their native Shelby, MS, they were joined by Offe Reese, another Mississippi migrant. And by the time their first record was released for C H Brewster in 1955, the combo had another recruit, Charles “T C” Lee.

Over the next decade and half the group’s membership remained pretty constant, as they sang gospel for Vee Jay (check out the moving accapella coupling of “God Said He Was Coming” / “Prayer For Tomorrow”), Nashboro and Federal before moving into the R & B world as the King Pins, still with Federal, in 1963. Lee took the lead vocals on tracks like “I Won’t Have It” and it was during this period that he recorded the first of his class 45s under his own name. ListenI’m A Lonely Rooster is a lovely blues ballad, with a nice easy swaying rhythm, and superlative vocal support from the other Kelly Brothers personnel. The flip “Just Keep On Smiling” also appeared on the King Pins album called “It Won’t Be This Way Always” after their first big seller, but not under Lee’s name.

Lee’s second 45 was released on King as late as 1967, but it’s a good bet that it was recorded before the group left the Cincinnati label, and even better bet that the credited background singers, “The Bricklayers”, were the Kelly Brothers. In any event ListenGet Away From Here is a really splendid deep ballad, with so much righteous fervour in Lee’s outstanding vocal. The uptempo flip “Up And Down The Hill” has had a lot of dance floor action. Lee’s performance is exemplary once again.

In 1965 the Kelly Brothers they moved onto the Sims label and then to Excello under their own name, making some of the most intense – and intensely enjoyable – southern soul. Although Curtis and Robert handled most of the lead chores, Lee did get a chance now and again, on tracks such as the driving “Time Has Made Me Change”. As southern soul began its decline in the early 70s the Kelly Brothers returned to Chicago and gospel music. In time Lee became a minister in a local church.

UPDATE ~ Soul group expert Bob Abrahamian has very kindly sent me a lot of new info on the Fads ecording. He says:-

"The Fads were a South Side Chicago group of three singers -- Eddie Cherry, Bob Pittman, and Lewis Hill -- who had all previously sang and recorded in gospel or doowop groups. In 1966 the group recorded a single for Mercury records: “Just like a woman” / “What the problem is”. The group also had written a song that they had intended to record -- “You lost and I won” -- but the Ideals heard them practicing the song and asked if they could record the track; the Fads let them use it.

In 1967, TC managed to get a deal to release a single for King records. He found the Fads to use as his backing group and they all drove down to Cincinnati to record. The record was pretty much written and cut in a day and the group drove back to Chicago that night. “Get away from here” was penned by already experienced songwriters Eddie Cherry and Bob Pittman of the Fads. The flip “Up and down the hill” was written by Lee and remaining Fad Lewis Hill (who may have inspired the title / song). The name “The Bricklayers” was made up on the spot. The record came out and despite having a classic deep soul sound, got little to no airplay or sales. The b-side “Up and down the hill” eventually became an in-demand Northern Soul play. The Fads never released any more material, although Robert Pittman went on to be a songwriter for several labels and released a couple of records as part of the duo Bobby and Walter."

I'm very grateful to Bob for sharing his expertise.


ListenI’m a lonesome rooster / Just keep on smiling ~ FEDERAL 12525 (1964)
ListenGet away from here / Up and down the hill ~ KING 6135 (1967)


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