Will Lee (bassist)

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Will Lee
GenresJazz, rock
Instrument(s)Bass guitar
Years active1973–present

Will Lee is an American bassist known for his work on the Late Show with David Letterman as part of the CBS Orchestra and before that "The World's Most Dangerous Band" when Letterman hosted the NBC "Late Night" show.[1]

Lee has recorded and toured with many artists. He appeared on the Mark & Clark Band's hit record Worn Down Piano. He performs with his Beatles tribute band, The Fab Faux,[2] which he co-founded in 1998.[3]


Beginnings in music[edit]

Lee was greatly influenced to pursue music because of his parents. His father, William Franklin Lee III played piano, trumpet and the upright bass professionally. Lee's mother Lois sang with big bands. Lee took up drums after seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, and by the time he was 12 had formed his first band in Miami. The band members each earned $9 a night playing the popular surfing tunes characteristic of the 60s. With the great numbers of drummers in Miami, Lee shifted to bass, an instrument that offered more opportunities. Lee was part of a succession of bands including top 40 bands with names like "Chances R" "The Loving Kind", and "Green Cloud."

Lee studied French horn for a year and then switched to a bass major. After classes, he worked on bass fundamentals listening to not only the Beatles, but also Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Miller, The Rascals, Motown, Sly & the Family Stone, among others. He would put it all into practice six sets a night playing with various local bands, including a horn band called "Goldrush."

Professional music career[edit]

Lee then went to New York City. Trumpeter Randy Brecker called Lee out of class one day and invited him to audition for "Dreams". In New York, Lee's career as a session musician flourished, and he toured with many artists. Lee played in the New York "24th Street Band" which had great success in Japan, giving him a solo artist career that yielded him a top 5 single. Most recently, his solo CD entitled OH! reached the #1 position on the "Jazz Beyond" chart there. On January 20, 2016 Lee played bass with Christopher Cross at the Moody Theater in Austin, TX at a taping for Austin City Limits.

The CBS Orchestra[edit]

In 1982, Lee became one of the original members of The World's Most Dangerous Band, the house band on NBC's Late Night with David Letterman. He holds the distinction of playing with Paul Shaffer, on both Late Night and the Late Show, longer than any other member of the CBS Orchestra.[4] Before the Late Show begins taping, he often tosses out guitar picks to the audience as souvenirs. On the May 13, 2015 episode of the Late Show with David Letterman, as Letterman was interviewing Paul Shaffer, Shaffer gave recognition to the members of his band, and lastly mentioned Lee as the "man has been with us on bass since the first night we were on Late Night, Will Lee."

Awards and honors[edit]


Lee uses the Sadowsky Will Lee model, 4 and 5-string Fender Jazz-style basses with a narrower nut width of 1.45" [37mm] instead of the usual 1.5" [38mm], 22 frets and a Hipshot D-tuner. This is the only instrument offered by Sadowsky that has a midrange control, an on-off toggle switch selectable between 500hz and 800hz. The bass was built for him by Roger Sadowsky and has now become a production model within the line of Sadowsky basses.[6]


  • OH! (1993)
  • Birdhouse (2006)[7]
  • Love, Gratitude and Other Distractions (2013)[8]

As sideman[edit]

With Ace Frehley

With Patti Austin

With Carly Simon

With Leo Sayer

With Joe Beck

With Steely Dan

With Melissa Manchester

  • Singin'... (Arista Records, 1977)
  • Emergency (Arista Records, 1983)
  • If My Heart Had Wings (Atlantic Records, 1995)

With Diana Ross

With Delbert McClinton

  • Never Been Rocked Enough (Curb, 1992)

With Nicole Renée

With Joan Armatrading

With Major Harris

  • How Do You Take Your Love (RCA Records, 1978)

With Neil Sedaka

  • A Song (Elektra Records, 1977)

With Glenn Medeiros

  • It's Alright to Love (Mercury Records, 1993)

With Frankie Valli

  • Romantic the 60's (Universal Motown, 2007)

With Barbra Streisand

  • Songbird (Columbia Records, 1978)
  • Wet (Columbia Records, 1979)

With Steve Goodman

  • Say It in Private (Asylum Records, 1977)

With George Benson

With Meco (Domenico Monardo)

With Bonnie Tyler

With Janis Ian

  • Janis Ian (Columbia Records, 1978)

With Al Green

With Sheena Easton

With Major Harris

  • How Do You Take Your Love (RCA Records, 1978)

With Janis Siegel

  • At Home (Atlantic Records, 1987)

With Dan Brenner

  • Little Dark Angel (2011)

With Melanie

  • Phonogenic – Not Just Another Pretty Face (Midsong International, 1978)

With Michael Bolton

With Irene Cara

With Peabo Bryson

With Christopher Cross

  • Secret Ladder (Christopher Cross Records, 2014)
  • Take Me As I Am (Christopher Cross Records, 2017)

With Dionne Warwick

With Roberta Flack

With Michael Franks

With Diane Schuur

  • Talkin' 'bout You (GPR, 1988)

With Liza Minnelli

With Phoebe Snow

With Steve Lukather

With Carole Bayer Sager

  • Carole Bayer Sager (Elektra Records, 1977)

With Cher

With The Brecker Brothers

With Beth Nielsen Chapman

With Peter Allen

With Laura Nyro

  • Smile (Columbia Records, 1976)
  • Nested (Columbia Records, 1978)

With James Brown

  • Dead on the Heavy Funk (1975–1983)

With Hiram Bullock

  • From All Sides (Atlantic, 1986)
  • Give It What U Got (Atlantic, 1987)
  • Way Kool (Atlantic, 1992)
  • World of Collision (Big World, 1994)
  • Manny's Car Wash (Big World, 1996)
  • First Class Vagabond (JVC Victor, 2000)
  • Guitarman (JVC Victor, 2000)
  • Color Me (Via, 2001)
  • Best of Hiram Bullock (WEA, 2002)
  • Try Livin' It (EFA, 2003)
  • Too Funky 2 Ignore (BHM, 2006)

With Cissy Houston

With Gary Burton

With Ringo Starr

With Mariah Carey

With Linda Clifford

  • I'll Keep on Loving You (Capitol Records, 1982)

With Bette Midler

With D'Angelo

With Dusty Springfield

With Chaka Khan

With Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway

With Donald Fagen

With Cat Stevens

With Art Farmer

With Yusef Lateef

With Randy Crawford

  • Raw Slik (Warner Bros. Records, 1979)

With Herbie Mann

With Lalo Schifrin

With Don Sebesky

With Barry Manilow

With Lawrence Gowan

With Spyro Gyra

With Mike Stern

With David Sanborn

With Fred Lipsius

  • Better Believe It (mja Records, 1996)[9][10]


  1. ^ Bonacich, Drago. "Biography: Will Lee". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  2. ^ Kahn, Ashley (2008-01-24). "Rebuilding The Beatles, Note by Note". NPR. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
  3. ^ Corrigan, John (2013-10-08). "Fab Faux don't look like the Beatles, but they do sound like them". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
  4. ^ Orr, John (2010-02-18). "Will Lee: Happy just to play for you". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
  5. ^ Paulson, Dave (2014-01-28). "Musicians Hall of Fame welcomes new inductees with concert, ceremony". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
  6. ^ "Sadowsky Guitars | Will Lee Model". Sadowsky.com. Archived from the original on 2014-03-13. Retrieved 2013-06-28.
  7. ^ Fordham, John (2006-07-27). "Will Lee, Bird House". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
  8. ^ Fricke, David (2013-11-01). "Will Lee 'Love, Gratitude and Other Distractions' Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
  9. ^ Allmusic
  10. ^ Jazz Times

External links[edit]