Born Royden Dickey Lipscomb, 21 September 1936, Whitehaven, Tennessee
As with others like Charlie Rich and Conway Twitty, Dickey Lee achieved his greatest fame after leaving the legendary Sun record label. Starting out as a rockabilly singer in the 1950s, Lee had his biggest success in the 1970s, with 29 country hits between 1971 and 1982.
Born in the Memphis suburb of Whitehaven, Tennessee, Dickey started off in a high school band which won several talent shows. He was discovered by Memphis deejay Dewey Phillips in 1957, which led to his first record, "Dream Boy"/"Stay True Baby" on the Tampa label. Writing credit on both sides went to Dick Lipscomb, Lee's real name. The A-side was little more than a clone of the Sonny James hit "Young Love", but the rockabilly flip had its merits. Next Dewey Phillips introduced young Dickey to Sam Phillips (no relation), who signed Lee to Sun. Two singles came out in 1957-58, first "Good Lovin'"/ "Memories Never Grow Old" (Sun 280). "Good Lovin'" was a cover of the Clovers hit from 1953. The A-side of the second Sun single, "Fool, Fool, Fool" (Sun 297), could create the impression that this was another Clovers cover, but that was not the case. Though credited to Dickey Lee only (his previous two records were credited to Dickey Lee and the Collegiates), "Fool, Fool, Fool"/ "Dreamy Nights" was very much a vocal group record, reminiscent of Dion and the Belmonts.
Both Sun singles were commercial flops and his contract was not renewed. While at Sun, Lee had forged a friendship with Jack Clement. When Clement moved to Beaumont, Texas in 1960, Dickey and his friend Allen Reynolds followed him. In Beaumont they became part of a recording studio crew set up by Clement and his partner Bill Hall. In 1962 Dickey had his first taste of real success when George Jones took his song "She Thinks I Still Care" to the top of the country charts. (When Anne Murray revived the song in 1974 as "He Thinks I Still Care", it was a # 1 all over again.) In the autumn of 1962, Lee had his own hit with "Patches" (produced by Clement and Hall), which went to # 6 on the pop charts, on the Smash label. Written by Barry Mann and Larry Kolber, it was a maudlin song about teenage suicide. The follow-up to this million seller, "I Saw Linda Yesterday" was a much better record and peaked at # 14. Clearly inspired by Dion's "Runaround Sue", it was co-penned by Dickey and Allen Reynolds. "Don't Wanna Think About Paula" was his last hit on Smash (# 68, 1963). In 1965 he switched to the TCF Hall label, where Ray Stevens became his new producer. Lee scored with another weird death song, "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)", which went to # 14, followed by "The Girl From Peyton Place" (# 73), after which the pop hits dried up and he began to concentrate on songwriting and production.
In 1970 Dickey was signed to RCA and a new phase in his career began. All through the 1970s he had chart success with ephemeral pop-flavoured country songs, many of which were cover versions of songs that had already been hits on the pop charts. "Rocky" (a country # 1 in 1975), "9,999,999 Tears" (# 3 country, # 52 pop) and "Never Ending Song Of Love" (# 8) are a few of his better-known country hits. In 1979 Lee left RCA for Mercury and had several minor hits, but no further Top 20 entries. "Everybody Loves A Winner" was his last single and his last chart entry (# 56 country, 1982).
After re-recording some of his biggest hits for a K-Tel album in 1982 and a similar album for Koch in 1991, there was a lull in his recording career until 2011 when "The Classic Songs Of Dickey Lee" appeared on Varese Sarabande. Re-recordings again, except for Dickey's version of "Memphis Beat", which he originally co-wrote for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1966. Without Lee's knowledge, the song had been used in a successful TV series (sung by Keb Mo) and became the source of unexpected royalty checks. Not that he really needed the money, for many of his compositions have become big hits for other country stars, like Charley Pride, George Strait and Reba McEntire. In 1995 Lee was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is still performing on occasional shows.
Official website : http://www.dickeyleemusic.com/bio.htm
Acknowledgements : Shaun Mather, Bob Allen, John Bush, Wikipedia.
Dik, June 2014
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