Thursday, March 17, 2016

Passings: Lee Andrews of Lee Andrews and the Hearts (1936 - 2016)

Lee Andrews, the lead singer of the classic Doo Wop group Lee Andrews and the Hearts, died on Wednesday at the age of 79.

Andrews' son, Questlove (Khalib Thompson) of the Roots, wrote:

The Greatest Teacher in my life, my dad Lee Andrews June 2nd 1936-March 16 2016. I love you. For every backstage experience. For every drum lesson. For giving me your tireless work ethic. For our father & son record binging expeditions. For our arguments over the summer I discovered #ItTakesANationOfMillions. For the look on your face when I told you "imma give this rap thing a try" (I waited til our 2nd album to have this convo btw) For the look on your face 5 years later when I told you "you don't have to work no more. For the look on your face when a year later I was like "Seriously dad, you don't have to work anymore!" For bringing my mom & my sister into my life. For the years we fell out. For the years we put it back together. But really, for the last 2 conversations we had. I understand why you were so hard on me praying I didn't succumb to a fate not meant for a teenager in west philly in the mid 80s. I didn't understand it at the time. But I appreciate it now. I hope Donn & I do you proud. #LeeAndrewsAndTheHearts

The Greatest Teacher in my life, my dad Lee Andrews June 2nd 1936-March 16 2016. I love you. For every backstage experience. For every drum lesson. For giving me your tireless work ethic. For our father & son record binging expeditions. For our arguments over the summer I discovered #ItTakesANationOfMillions. For the look on your face when I told you "imma give this rap thing a try" (I waited til our 2nd album to have this convo btw) For the look on your face 5 years later when I told you "you don't have to work no more. For the look on your face when a year later I was like "Seriously dad, you don't have to work anymore!" For bringing my mom & my sister into my life. For the years we fell out. For the years we put it back together. But really, for the last 2 conversations we had. I understand why you were so hard on me praying I didn't succumb to a fate not meant for a teenager in west philly in the mid 80s. I didn't understand it at the time. But I appreciate it now. I hope Donn & I do you proud. #LeeAndrewsAndTheHearts
A video posted by Questlove Gomez (@questlove) on

Andrews was born Arthur Thompson in Goldsboro, NC in 1936 (although other sources list his year of birth as 1938) to a musical family that included father Beechie Thompson of the Dixie Hummingbirds. Lee was still young when the family moved to Philadelphia and, while still in high school, he formed his first vocal group, The Dreamers. Starting in gospel, the slowly moved their repertoire in the direction of R&B and, in 1954, they were signed to a management contract with local DJ Kae Williams.

The group, who were forced to change their name to The Hearts after finding another Dreamers in the city, recorded a couple of singles for Rainbow Records without success. As their career languished and high school was behind them, Lee started working at the factory that pressed Gotham Records platters.

In late-1955, the group realized that their contract with Williams was invalid as they were minors when they signed and they were able to move to Gotham Records and, a year later, Main Line where they released Long Lonely Nights. The song became so popular that Main Line couldn't handle the demand and the record was picked up by Chess where it went to number 11 on the R&B and 45 on the pop charts.

They followed with the gorgeous Tear Drops (1958 / #4 R&B / #20 Pop) and Try the Impossible (1958 / #33 Pop), which was distributed nationally by United Artists.

After three more records for United Artists, Andrews left the group and signed with Jordan Records where he released A Wise Man Said. After three more releases with Swan, he decided to reform the Hearts and, in 1962, they released their final record, Together Again. Unfortunately, they weren't together for long and Andrews struck out again as a solo artist. His final recording came in 1973 with the group Congress Alley on Avco Embassy.


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