Passings: Freddie "Fingers" Lee (1937 - 2014)

British piano player Freddie "Fingers" Lee died last Monday (January 13) after a lengthy illness at the age of 76. According to reports, Lee had suffered two strokes eight years ago from which he never fully recorded.  He was living in a care home at the time of his death, having contracted pneumonia on Christmas Day.

Lee, born Frederick John Chessman in 1937, lost his right eye at an early age (sources vary on the age from one to three), a disability that he turned into his trademark which included the name "The One Eyed Boogie Boy". He started out playing guitar during the 50's in a local skiffle group but once he heard the early records of Jerry Lee Lewis, he took up the piano.

Throughout the early-60's, he played with Screaming Lord Sutch and Eden Kane's band which toured with Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde. By the middle of the decade, he had settled in Liverpool where he played in the house bands at the Top Ten Club (he also spent time playing with the band at The Star Club in Hamburg). It was during those years that he had what he called one of his greatest honors, playing with artists like Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis.

In the mid-60's, Lee joined Hurricane Henry and the Shriekers with guitarist Ian Hunter. Hunter wrote a tribute to Lee on his website:
Fred, Miller Anderson, Pete Phillips and I had some great times back in the day. Fred was a character. He told me he started with Sutch on ten bob a week AND he had to drive the van. We starved together in Germany – van broken down – club owner not paying us – but we got to play for hours every night and that was the buzz. Somehow disasters were averted and we’d make it back.

I always felt bad for Fred. He was – quite naturally – Jerry Lee Lewis’s twin. Same range, same power on the keyboards, same arrogance and he could be really funny – same love of American Country music – he would often sail into a song the band had never heard of. Fred loved the raw original beginnings of Rock ‘n’ Roll and remained staunchly loyal to it during a long, successful career. He had a lot of fans in Europe and never seemed to stop working – music was his life.

We all went off and did different things, but I’ll always be grateful to Fred for giving me a little hope at a time when I thought the factory was my only future.

I’ll always remember him saying to me “You’re a good songwriter – but don’t ever try to sing.” He was probably right!!!

Rest In Peace, Freddie.

Condolences to all.
Lee's long career in backing bands came to an end in 1979 when he became popular on the revival of the British TV show Oh Boy. He toured Europe, where the show was particularly popular and recorded a number of albums of his own music. In 1980, he appeared in the documentary Blue Suede Shoes with Bill Haley and Ray Campi.

Lee was known not only for his music but also for his antics, including sneaking his glass eye into people's beer when they weren't looking. He continued touring until the late-90's although he still did an occasional benefit show.

Lee is survived by five children, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

No comments

Powered by Blogger.