Will Lee (bassist)
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|Birth name||William Franklin Lee IV|
|Born||September 8, 1952|
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
|Associated acts||CBS Orchestra|
William Franklin "Will" Lee IV (born September 8, 1952) 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.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, 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, which he co-founded in 1998.
Beginnings in music
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 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 had a formal musical education at the University of Miami. He 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
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
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. 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
- NARAS MVP Award for bass guitar, 1979, 1982, 1985–1987
- NARAS MVP Award for male session singer, 1987
- NARAS MVP Virtuoso Award for bass guitar, 1989
- Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, Some Skunk Funk, with Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Peter Erskine, Jim Beard, Vince Mendoza, Marcio Doctor, and the WDR Big Band, 2006
- Inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2014
Lee uses the Sadowsky Will Lee model, a 4-string Fender Jazz-style bass with a narrower nut width of 1.45" [37mm] instead of the usual 1.5" [38mm], 22 frets and a Hipshot D-tuner. The bass was built for him by Roger Sadowsky and has now become a production model within the line of Sadowsky basses.
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With Ace Frehley
- Ace Frehley (Casablanca, 1978)
With Patti Austin
- End of a Rainbow (CTI, 1976)
- Havana Candy (CTI, 1977)
- Body Language (CTI, 1980)
- In My Life (CTI, 1983)
With Carly Simon
- Boys in the Trees (Elektra Records, 1978)
- Spy (Elektra Records, 1979)
- Come Upstairs (Warner Bros. Records, 1980)
- Torch (Warner Bros. Records, 1981)
With Joe Beck
- Beck (Kudu, 1975)
With Melissa Manchester
- Singin'... (Arista Records, 1977)
- Emergency (Arista Records, 1983)
With Joan Armatrading
- Me Myself I (A&M Records, 1980)
With George Benson
With Meco (Domenico Monardo)
With Dan Brenner
- Little Dark Angel (2011)
With Irene Cara
With Peabo Bryson
- Take No Prisoners (Elektra Records, 1985)
With Christopher Cross
- Secret Ladder (Christopher Cross Records, 2014)
- Take Me As I Am (Christopher Cross Records, 2017)
With Roberta Flack
- Blue Lights in the Basement (Atlantic Records, 1977)
With Diane Schuur
- Talkin' 'bout You (GPR, 1988)
With Phoebe Snow
- Second Childhood (Columbia Records, 1976)
- Never Letting Go (Columbia Records, 1977)
- Against the Grain (Columbia Records, 1977)
With Carole Bayer Sager
- Carole Bayer Sager (Elektra Records, 1977)
With The Brecker Brothers
- The Brecker Bros. (Arista, 1975)
- Back to Back (Arista, 1976)
- Don't Stop the Music (Arista, 1977)
- Return of the Brecker Brothers (GRP, 1992)
With Peter Allen
- I Could Have Been a Sailor (A&M Records, 1979)
With Laura Nyro
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)
- Color Me (Via, 2001)
- Best of Hiram Bullock (WEA, 2002)
- Try Livin' It (EFA, 2003)
- Guitarman (JVC Victor, JVC Victor)
- Too Funky 2 Ignore (BHM, 2006)
With Cissy Houston
- Cissy Houston (Private Stock Records, 1977)
- Step Aside for a Lady (Columbia Records, 1980)
- Face to Face (BMG, 1996)
With Gary Burton
With Ringo Starr
- Ringo's Rotogravure (Polydor Records, 1976)
With Mariah Carey
- Emotions (Columbia, 1991)
With Bette Midler
With Dusty Springfield
- Living Without Your Love (Mercury Records, 1979)
With Chaka Khan
- Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway (Arista Records, 1980)
With Donald Fagen
- The Nightfly (Warner Bros. 1982)
With Cat Stevens
- Back to Earth (Island Records, 1978)
With Art Farmer
With Yusef Lateef
- In a Temple Garden (CTI, 1979)
With Herbie Mann
- Waterbed (Atlantic, 1975)
With Lalo Schifrin
- Towering Toccata (CTI, 1976)
With Don Sebesky
- The Rape of El Morro (CTI, 1975)
With Barry Manilow
- Barry Manilow II (Arista Records, 1974)
- Even Now (Arista Records, 1978)
- Barry (Arista Records, 1980)
- If I Should Love Again (Arista Records, 1981)
- Manilow (RCA Records, 1985)
With Spyro Gyra
With Mike Stern
With Leo Sayer
- World Radio (Chrysalis Records, 1982)
With Fred Lipsius
- Bonacich, Drago. "Biography: Will Lee". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
- Kahn, Ashley (2008-01-24). "Rebuilding The Beatles, Note by Note". NPR. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- 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.
- Orr, John (2010-02-18). "Will Lee: Happy just to play for you". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- Paulson, Dave (2014-01-28). "Musicians Hall of Fame welcomes new inductees with concert, ceremony". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- "Sadowsky Guitars | Will Lee Model". Sadowsky.com. Archived from the original on 2014-03-13. Retrieved 2013-06-28.
- Fordham, John (2006-07-27). "Will Lee, Bird House". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- Fricke, David (2013-11-01). "Will Lee 'Love, Gratitude and Other Distractions' Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- Jazz Times