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Space Age Music Maker

Katie Lee


  • Born 23 October 1919, Tucson, Arizona

Folksinger Katie Lee created a sub-genre all her own--the Freudian folksong--and contributed two much-coveted albums to the archives of Space Age Pop. Life is Just a Bed of Neuroses, arranged and conducted by Ray Martin, and Songs of Couch and Consultation, arranged and conducted by Bob Thompson offer a selection of her original tunes on the struggles and psyches of modern folks: "The Ballad for Group Therapy," "Don'tville," "Shrinker Man," "Repressed Hostility Blues."

Lee herself appears to have struggled with a slight case of multiple personality disorder. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a BFA, she studied with two of the most successful folk singers of the 1940s, Burl Ives and Josh White. Hitting the streets a decade before Peter, Paul, and Mary, she found the market for folk singers wanting, and ended up working summer stock theater instead. Her luck with acting proved a little better, and she went on to work in radio on such shows as "The Halls of Ivy," "The Railroad Hour," and "The Great Gildersleeve." She continued to develop her singing, though, and became one of the early regulars at clubs like the Hungry i and the Gates of Horn.

She recorded one album of suggestive old folk songs for the great Ramp&B and gospel label, Specialty. Her talent for delivering these tunes with the right balance of humor and musicality led Commentary Records, a good old-fashioned liberal label based in Hollywood, signed her to record an album of songs written by Bud Freeman and Leon Pober parodying the rising popularity of psychoanalysis and psychological interpretations of modern life (the liner notes for Life is Just a Bed of Neuroses suggest that in 1960, everyone was "seeing their analyst twice a week"). The album was no great best-seller, but these tunes became her trademark, and a couple of years later, RCA signed her to release a similar album, this time featuring a variety of songwriters, including Fred Ebb and Charles Randolph Grean (later of "Quentin's Theme" from Dark Shadows fame).

The trademark must have become a stereotype. Lee moved on from folk singing to writing (a book titled, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle and television (producing films such as "The Last Wagon" for PBS).


Recordings

  • Saucy Songs for Cool Knights, Specialty
  • Songs of Couch and Consultation, Commentary CNT-01
  • Life is Just a Bed of Neuroses, RCA Victor LSP-2214 (1960)


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