Mr. Lee (song)

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"Mr. Lee"
Single by The Bobbettes
B-side "Look at the Stars"
Released 1957 (1957)
Label Atlantic

"Mr. Lee" is a 1957 single by The Bobbettes. The song peaked at number one on the CHUM Chart in 1957.


"Mr. Lee" was written about a teacher that members of the group had in school. Contrary to popular belief, the song was originally written not to ridicule but to describe their former teacher. Upon meeting executives from Atlantic Records, Atlantic had the lyrics of "Mr. Lee" changed to create a love song.[1] Atlantic demanded the original lyric "ugliest teacher" to be changed to "handsomest teacher".[2]


The Bobbettes recorded "Mr. Lee" during a recording session with Atlantic Records in 1957. At Atlantic, Emma Pought and Reather Dixon sang the vocals in "Mr. Lee" while Pought and Helen Gathers wrote three other songs during the session.[3]


The music of "Mr. Lee" was built around a blues sequence and had King Curtis on tenor saxophone alongside boogie-woogie music.[4]

Chart performance[edit]

"Mr. Lee" was the first to simultaneously become a Top Ten hitting single and reach #1 on the R&B charts in the United States.[5] Diana Ross's cover peaked in the UK at #58 in 1988.[6]


In 1959, The Bobbettes recorded an answer song to "Mr. Lee" called "I Shot Mr. Lee" with Atlantic Records. After Atlantic decided to shelf the song, The Bobbettes redid the song the following year with Triple-X Records.[7] "I Shot Mr. Lee" peaked at #52 on The Hot 100.[8] A lawsuit was later declared in July 1960 after Atlantic sued Triple-X for copyright infringement.[9] A ruling ordered the seizure of copies of the Triple-X recording.[10] "Mr. Lee" was #79 on Billboard's list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.[11]

Certifications and awards[edit]

"Mr. Lee" sold 2 million copies[12] and led The Bobbettes to be awarded with platinum records by Atlantic Records.[13]

Popular culture[edit]

"Mr. Lee" was featured in the soundtrack for Stand By Me and included in the 1987 film The Big Town.[13]


The Bobbettes version[edit]

Chart (1957) Peak
Canada (CHUM) 1[14]
Best Sellers in Stores (Billboard) 7[15]
Most Played By Jockeys (Billboard) 6[16]
Most Played R&B by Jockeys (Billboard) 1[17]
R&B Best Sellers in Stores (Billboard) 2[18]
Top Rhythm and Blues Records (Billboard) 5[19]

Diana Ross version[edit]

Chart (1988) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[6] 58

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Clemente, John (2013). Girl Groups: Fabulous Females Who Rocked the World. Authorhouse. p. 62. ISBN 9781477276334. Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  2. ^ Gaar, Gillian G. (2002). She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock and Roll (Expanded Second ed.). Seal Press. p. 27. ISBN 1580050786. Retrieved 12 July 2017. 
  3. ^ Clemente 2013, p. 62.
  4. ^ Warwick, Jacqueline (2007). Girl Groups, Girl Culture: Popular Music and Identity in the 1960s. Routledge. p. 28. ISBN 0415971128. Retrieved 12 July 2017. 
  5. ^ Warner, Jay (2006). American Singing Groups: A History from 1940s to Today. Hal Leonard. p. 80. ISBN 0634099787. Retrieved 12 July 2017. 
  6. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  7. ^ Gaar 2002, p. 27.
  8. ^ "The Bobbettes - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 12 July 2017. 
  9. ^ "'Mr Lee' Tune Keys Lawsuit". Billboard. 11 July 1960. pp. 3, 28. Retrieved 11 July 2017. 
  10. ^ "Suit Enjoins Triple-X Disk". Billboard. 18 July 1960. p. 42. Retrieved 11 July 2017. 
  11. ^ "100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time: Critics' Picks". Billboard. Retrieved July 11, 2017. 
  12. ^ Jancik, Wayne (1998). The Billboard Book of One-hit Wonders (2nd revised ed.). Billboard Books. p. 39. ISBN 9780823076222. Retrieved 12 July 2017. 
  13. ^ a b Clemente 2013, p. 66.
  14. ^ "CHUM Chart Archives". Archived from the original on 10 March 2006. Retrieved 7 February 2018. 
  15. ^ "Best Sellers in Stores". Billboard. 23 September 1957. p. 53. Retrieved 11 July 2017. 
  16. ^ "Most Played By Jockeys". Billboard. 23 September 1957. p. 53. Retrieved 11 July 2017. 
  17. ^ "Most Played R&B by Jockeys". Billboard. 30 September 1957. p. 60. Retrieved 11 July 2017. 
  18. ^ "R&B Best Sellers in Stores". Billboard. 16 September 1957. p. 58. Retrieved 11 July 2017. 
  19. ^ "Top Rhythm and Blues Records". Billboard. 11 November 1957. p. 74. Retrieved 11 July 2017.