1961 Lee Dorsey – Do-Re-Mi
Irving Lee Dorsey was born in New Orleans and seems to have dropped his first name, preferring to appear in public as Lee. While in elementary school, he was friends with Fats Domino, but his family moved to the West Coast when he was ten.
Lee moved back to Portland after a tour in the Navy during WW II. He pursued a light heavyweight boxing career as Kid Chocolate, but hung up his gloves and moved back to New Orleans in 1955. He began living a dual life: running an auto repair shop during the day and singing in clubs at night. Allen Toussaint began producing records for Lee in 1958, but his initial singles were unsuccessful.
Lee co-wrote the song Ya-Ya after hearing some kids chanting nursery rhymes. Allen produced the record, and in 1961 it reached #7 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart. The single eventually sold over a million copies.
Lee’s next single failed to chart, but after that, he recorded Do-Re-Mi, a song written by blues musician Earl King. The single reached #27 on the Hot 100 and #22 on the R&B chart in early 1962.
It would be four years before Lee managed to reach the charts again, and 1966 before he reached the top ten with Working In The Coal Mine. Allen and Lee wrote the song and Lee even got to lip-sync his two biggest hits on television.
One more single reached the top 25, after which Lee’s singing career ended and he went back to working full time in his auto repair shop.
Lee had four more top forty singles on the Hot 100 and seven top forty singles on the R&B chart before his career faded in 1967. Once Lee’s singing career ended in 1982, he went back to working full time in his auto repair shop.
Lee died from complications of emphysema at age 61 in 1986.
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