Heading: Local 627 and the Early Jazz Bands
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George E. Lee MMF Photo Collection, #38-WW

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George Ewing Lee

Originally from Boonville, Missouri, George E. Lee came from a musical family. After moving to Kansas City with his family just after the turn of the twentieth century, Lee played cello and violin with his father's string band. Lee joined the army during World War I and toured France with an orchestra and vocal quartet. After the war, he formed a small ensemble with his sister Julia, a talented pianist and vocalist. A multi-instrumentalist, Lee specialized in the slap-tongue style saxophone.

The George E. Lee band played at Lincoln and Lyric Halls. Advertisements in the Kansas City Call and the Kansas City Sun touted the band as playing "all the latest song hits." On hot summer nights, George's powerful vocals drifted out of the open windows of Lincoln Hall and carried for blocks. Unlike Bennie Moten who compensated his band members well, Lee paid band members below scale, causing a constant turnover of personnel. Nevertheless, the Lee band rivaled the Moten band in popularity throughout the 1920s.

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