Lee Mallory (January 10, 1945 – March 21, 2005) was a singer, songwriter and guitarist who was part of such projects as The Millennium and Sagittarius. His most successful single was a cover of the Phil Ochs/Bob Gibson song "That's The Way It's Going To Be". The song, produced by Curt Boettcher, reached No. 86 on the charts and was a surprise hit in Seattle. A CD by the same name was released in 2002, with many songs and demos Mallory had recorded during the 60s. Lee Mallory helped start it all: the California Sound of the 1960s.
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Lee Mallory was born William George Mallory in Berkeley, California on January 10, 1945. At fifteen, Lee received his first guitar. At sixteen, Lee ran away from home to become a musician.
Mallory began performing for live audiences in San Francisco's North Beach cafes, such as the Coffee Gallery and Coffee and Confusion. In 1963 he undertook a "self imposed" tour to New York and played in West Village folk clubs, including the Cafe Bizarre, the Night Owl, Cafe Wha? and the Four Winds. He later became a regular at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, where he was part of the experiment called The Men, some of whose members later formed The Association. As a performing musician in LA., Lee shared the bill with performers such as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Mallory's first recording session was as a background vocalist on Tommy Roe's "Hooray for Hazel". He became a session guitar player on some of The Association's biggest hits and co-wrote two songs they recorded--"Better Times" and "Just About the Same"—both of which appear on "Just the Right Sound: The Association Anthology".
Mallory's 1966 single on Valiant Records, "That's The Way It's Gonna Be" by Phil Ochs and Bob Gibson reached No. 1 in Amsterdam and No. 2 in Seattle. It was recently re-released on the Rhino Records compilation, "Hallucinations." "Take My Hand," his second single is included in Rhino's compilation, "Come to the Sunshine." He recorded first with Valiant, then Columbia Records. His early works have been re-released on Sonic Past Music. He published with Opryland, Acuff-Rose and finally Sony/ATV before becoming an independent artist/songwriter/guitarist. Publishing of Lee's newer works is assigned to Redwood River Music.
The sunshine pop supergroup known as The Millennium formed from members of Lee's backup band (Jerry Scheff, Ben Benay & Toxie French). According to Lee, Jerry coined the name to signify "a thousand years of peace and prosperity." When Curt Boettcher joined, he became producer as well as a member.
Mallory performed as lead guitarist and a member of the "Tribe" for the first road company of the stage production of HAIR. He is the only person known to have served both in the tribe and in the band. The HAIR Archives houses some photographs and journal entries from Lee.
In the early seventies (according to the liner notes of the CD Many Are The Times), Lee Mallory formed a supergroup called Hollywood with the Songwriter Bill Martin (friend of Harry Nilsson) and the former member of the Association Russ Giguere. Apparently there are recordings of this group, although they have yet to see the light of day.
In the 1990s, Mallory developed a distinctive and subtle 12-string guitar style. In 2000, Lee toured Japan with his long-time friend and co-writer from The Millennium, Joey Stec of Sonic Past Music. In Japan, Lee was awarded a Master Musician sash.
During some lean years, as Lee recovered from his time in "the majors", Lee worked as a San Francisco bike messenger (1984 to 1995). The oldest bike messenger, he was elected to serve as president (PREZ) of HANX, which he termed the "bike messengers' disorganization."
Mallory was a regular performer at The Cannery for many years, singing selections from a vast repertoire. During the last seven years of his life, Lee performed and recorded with friends in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Jeseppi Trade Wildfeather, originator of a documentary style form of music improvisation called the Naked Underground. He and Wildfeather opened "The Picnic", a day long musical festival at San Francisco's Crissy Field in August 2002.
For forty years, earnings from his publishing and recorded albums were debited against production and publishing advances. The original Millennium album boasting 16-track songs created on three tape recorders mickey-moused together by union engineers, cost $100,000 to produce, and the Columbia label did not commit grand resources to promote it. That, and the fact that The Millennium was not a touring band, limited their exposure at the time. Down the road, in spite of poor health resulting from the occupational hazard of drugs and alcohol, Lee retained his dignity and identity as a musician. Lee appreciated the recognition he finally received as the work of The Millennium was revived in the late 1990s. San Francisco State University's Lee Mallory Scholarship supports Music and Recording Industry (MRI) learning the business side of music.
Shy, and humbled by his condition, Lee was sometimes seen at open mics standing quietly by himself. A bit older than most of the crowd, and unbeknown to them, Lee had survived a coma in 1995. This made him sometimes hesitant to start speaking, but conversations with him, his sly humor, and writings in his journals demonstrated that he understood exactly what was going on. Lee, ever the professional, was always ready to perform one of the scores of songs from his catalog. During this period, as his health began failing, he exhibited tireless support and accompaniment of others. Young musicians of the open mike scene in San Francisco assumed that Lee was of a bygone musical era. But, eventually their respect grew with his continuous performing. and when he would speak of the artists with whom he had worked. Eventually, it became clear that Lee's sound was his original trademark and statement, which echoed through the Association and the Mamas and the Papas, and may have influenced a whole generation of people known as "Flower Children". He attended the Monterey Pop Festival in the company of Mama Cass, a close friend from Hollywood recording sessions and Laurel Canyon living.
Mallory was present at the creation of sixties music and its ethos. Ultimately, Lee Mallory became highly esteemed in San Francisco. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors proclaimed January 10, 2005 as the first Lee Mallory Day, honoring Lee and all singer-songwriters.
On Friday, March 18, 2005, Lee completed a small set of mixes for his final album, produced by Alex James Muscat at Last Stop Records. This was his first studio work in decades, and the first in which he had complete creative control after 40 years of recording and playing with first-call studio musicians on approximately 35 albums. The album's release is currently on hold.
"Many Are The Times," a comprehensive review of Lee's work over time, was re-released by Sonic Past Music in 2006. This includes expanded liner notes and archival photographs.
Finally, Lee Mallory became active raising awareness of Hepatitis C. He had hoped to receive a liver transplant, but ultimately succumbed to liver cancer. Lee asked that his life story serve as a "cautionary tale" to young musicians to take care of their bodies. Lee Mallory died at the University of California, San Francisco Emergency Department on March 21, 2005.
- "Notes For a Bio" by Lee Mallory; personal interviews by Nina Jo Smith and documents in the Lee Mallory Archives.