Lee Michaels

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Michaels in 1968.

Lee Eugene Michaels (born Michael Olsen, November 24, 1945, Los Angeles, California) is a rock musician who performs vocals and accompanies himself on organ, piano, or guitar. He is best known for his energetic virtuosity on the Hammond organ, peaking in 1971 with his Top 10 pop hit single, "Do You Know What I Mean".

Career[edit]

Michaels began his career with The Sentinals, a San Luis Obispo, California-based surf group that included drummer Johny Barbata (later of The Turtles, Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship). Michaels joined Barbata in the Strangers, a group led by guitarist Joel Scott Hill. Michaels later moved to San Francisco, where he joined an early version of The Family Tree, a band led by Bob Segarini.[1] In 1967, he signed a contract with A&M Records, releasing his debut album, Carnival of Life, later that year. As a session musician, he played with Jimi Hendrix, among others.

Michaels' choice of the Hammond organ as his primary instrument was unusual for the time, as was his bare-bones stage and studio accompaniment: Usually just a single drummer,[2] most often a musician known as "Frosty" (Bartholomew Eugene Smith-Frost) a member of Sweathog,[3] or with Joel Larson of The Grass Roots. This unorthodox approach attracted a following in San Francisco, and some critical notice (Sounds reported that he had been called "the ultimate power organist"),[2] but Michaels did not achieve real commercial success until the release of his fifth album.

Album 5th (1971) produced a surprise US Top 10 hit (#6 in the fall of 1971), "Do You Know What I Mean", an autobiographical homage to the loss of a girlfriend, and a Top 40 follow-up, a cover version of the Motown standard, "Can I Get a Witness" (#39). Michaels recorded two more albums for A&M before signing a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1973. His Columbia recordings failed to generate much interest, and Michaels went into semi-retirement from the music industry by the end of the decade.

Album discography[edit]

Studio albums and live album[edit]

Title Details United States
Carnival of Life
  • Release date: 1968
  • Label: A&M
  • Formats: LP
Recital
  • Release date: 1968
  • Label: A&M
  • Formats: LP
Lee Michaels
  • Release date: 1969
  • Label: A&M
  • Formats: LP
53
Barrel
  • Release date: 1970
  • Label: A&M
  • Formats: LP
51
5th
  • Release date: 1971
  • Label: A&M
  • Formats: LP
16
Space and First Takes
  • Release date: 1972
  • Label: A&M
  • Formats: LP
78
Lee Michaels Live
  • Release date: 1973
  • Label: A&M 2 LP
  • Formats: LP
135
Nice Day for Something
  • Release date: 1973
  • Label: Columbia
  • Formats: LP
172
Tailface
  • Release date: 1974
  • Label: Columbia
  • Formats: LP
Saturn Rings
  • Release date: 1975
  • Label: ABC
  • Formats: LP
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

References[edit]

  1. ^ Richie Unterberger, Liner Notes for Roxy's Roxy; www.richieunterberger.com.
  2. ^ a b "Mr. Piano Power". Sounds (Spotlight Publications). 28 August 1971. p. 3. 
  3. ^ Who, based in Texas, continues to perform as Barry Smith or B.E. "Frosty" Smith:Experience Summary; www.soulhat.net; Biography of Barry Smith; www.frostysmith.tripod.com.

External links[edit]