Mr. Lee

Album: Atlantic Rhythm & Blues 1947-1974, Vol. 3 (1955-1958) (1957)
Charted: 6

Songfacts®:

  • The first hit for the Bobbettes, this song made them the first girl group to have a #1 R&B hit and a Top 10 American Pop hit.
  • Written by the Bobbettes themselves, this song was inspired by a schoolteacher that the girls strongly despised. It was originally written as an insult to Mr. Lee, but their record company, Atlantic Records, told them to revise it into a loving tribute to him.
  • In a scene from the 1978 film American Hot Wax, a fictional girl group called the Delights open Alan Freed's rock-and-roll concert at the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn with this song. The Bobbettes' version was featured in the 1986 film Stand by Me.
  • In 1959, the Bobbettes recorded the sequel to this song, "I Shot Mr. Lee" (which revealed what the group really felt of him) but it remained unreleased. When Atlantic released them from their contract, they signed with a small label called Triple-X, where they rerecorded it and it reached #52 in the US. Atlantic responded to its release by releasing their original version of it. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jerro - New Alexandria, PA, for all above
  • Cullen Dorn, author of The Hierophant Of 100th Street, had Mr. Lee as his sixth grade teacher at P.S. 109 in East Harlem, New York City. Cullen told us: "He's a lookalike of the old TV series Superman's Clark Kent. I remember him being uptight, too conservative, nervous eyes, and up to the time when he wept hearing his song reach number one on the charts, emotionally constipated.
    The Bobbettes were my classmates who lived across the street from the school on 99th Street. They were the average girls in those days, bubbly, excitable, and talented. I happened to live on 100th Street, the most infamous block in New York City's criminal history. It was a wonder, a curse, a privilege to have lived during those times." (Check out Cullen's website.)

Comments: 6

  • Paulo Pinto from Rio De Janeiro - BrasilI remember when I was young and used to hear this song from a 78 RPM; but in my memory the sax solo was longer and the backing vocal a little bit different. It's a pitty that I could never find that version anywhere.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 2, 1957, the Bobbettes performed "Mr. Lee" on the Dick Clark ABC-TV weekday-afternoon program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #8 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, two weeks later it would peak at #6 {for 2 weeks} and it spent almost a half-year on the Top 100 {24 weeks}...
    The NYC quintet had four other Top 100 entries, "I Shot Mr. Lee" {#52 in 1960}, "Have Mercy Baby" {#66 in 1960}, "Dance with Me Georgie" {#95 in 1960}, and answer* record "I Don't Like It Like That" {#72 in 1961}...
    * Answer record to "I Like It Like That" by Chris Kenner, it peaked at #2 {for 3 weeks} on July 31st, 1961.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 11th 1957, Alan Freed's 'The Biggest Show of Stars For 1957' concert tour played the Cincinnati Gardens in Cincinnati, Ohio...
    Appearing in the concert were The Crickets, The Bobbettes, The Everly Brothers, Bubby Knox, Frankie Lyman, Eddie Cochran, and Chuck Berry...
    At the time "That'll Be the Day" was at #3 on the Billboard's Top 100 chart; "Mr. Lee" at #7, "Bye, Bye Love" at #10, "Hula Love" at #21, "Goody Goody" at #24, "Drive-In Show" at #82, and "School Days" at #98...
    The rest of the bill featured Fats Domino, Paul Anka, Clyde McPhatter, LaVern Baker, The Drifters, Johnnie & Joe, the Spaniels, and Jimmy Bowen...
    I was 12 years old at the time and would have loved to been in one of the Cinny Gardens' 10,210 seats.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 28th 1960, "I Shot Mr. Lee" by the Bobbettes entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #95; and August 1st, 1960 it peaked at #52 (for 1 week) and spent 8 weeks on the Top 100...
    Both sides of their next release made the Top 100; "Have Mercy Baby" peaked at #66 while the B-side, "Dance With Me Georgie" reached #95...
    Sadly, four of the group's five members have passed away; Jannie Pought (1945 - 1980), Reather Dixon (1945 - 2014), Laura Webb (1941 - 2001), and Helen Gathers (1942-2011)
    May they R.I.P.
    Surviving member Emma Pought celebrated her 72nd birthday two months ago on April 28th, 2014.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScIf you haven't heard the sequel "I Shot Mr. Lee" you should. It's memorable.
  • Debra from Wakeeney, KsThis song was featured in an episode of "The Cosby Show". When Claire Huxtable reunites with old school friends, they lipsinc to this song while dancing around the livingroom.
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