The Lee Boys Play Their Sacred Steel: Alvin Lee Shares His #MiamiStory
Alvin Lee is the leader of the sacred steel ensemble, The Lee Boys. He is a vocalist and guitarist for the band, although he can play a variety of instruments and was originally a bassist. Alvin grew up listening to sacred steel music in the House of God Church in Perrine, FL where his father was the pastor. He and his brothers all learned to play different instruments and performed regularly in church services.
"All my parents did was music. My father sung Jubilee songs in the church, played the guitar, piano and trombone. But what I remember most was him playing the steel guitar. We grew up in a church and the steel guitar was the focal instrument. He played it every time we went to church. It was a traditional style of music that became a part of us," said Lee.
They were influenced by the tradition's pioneers as well as rock, blues, funk, and country music. Alvin’s father was self-taught and was influenced by the style of Alvin’s uncle, Lorenzo Harrison and the pioneer musician Henry Nelson. Then, Alvin’s father taught his five sons, and they, in turn taught their nephews.
After the death of his father, Robert Lee and his brother, Glenn Lee, Alvin officially founded The Lee Boys in 2001. Glen was the pedal steel player, and he and Alvin created the particular style of The Lee Boys. After Glen’s death, it was difficult for Alvin to play in the church service without him. For this reason, he decided to perform and share their traditional style outside of the church setting and established the band with his brothers and nephews.
"The Lee Boys get their name from Lee boy number one, my father. My dad used to always say 'Come on my Lee boys, come on' in broken English. My brother that passed early, Robert Junior, was Lee Boy number two, Keith was three, I was four, and so on," said Lee. "Then the nephews came from my sisters. And they started giving themselves numbers. And then the boys had boys. So my sons had a number and so we gave them the rest of the numbers down. It became this tradition that we did. So my father gave us the name and when I started the music, I just said we had to be named The Lee Boys."
They band consists of: Alvin Lee (Group Leader, Guitar, Vocals), Keith Lee (Lead Vocal), Derrick Lee (Lead Vocal), Chris Johnson (Pedal Steel), Roosevelt Collier (Pedal Steel), Alvin Cordy (Bass Guitar), and Kenneth Earl Walker (Drummer). The Lee Boys have performed at festivals and venues all over the world and continue to play and teach about sacred steel.
"We’ve all spread out a little now but we still keep our Miami roots. A lot of us play around here at different churches and concerts. That’s how The Lee Boys give back to Miami after getting so much from the city. It’s a lot of different worlds with the within one small city, " said Lee.
To read Alvin Lee's story from his perspective, click here.
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