Friday, 15 February 2019

Please Don't Leave Me

Considered by many as one of California's top tier tenors of the mid to late 50s, though I'd venture to say, one of the finest in the country. At his peak, he was fronting 2-3 outfits at one time and to top it off, singing was just his side-job. Aurthur Lee Maye worked a concurrent career as a professional baseball player. He began both careers in 1954 and saw them through consecutively until the early 70s. Baseball began with the Milwaukee Braves Pioneer League farm team in Boise, Idaho and recording wise, he debuted with Richard Berry (The Fine One b/w Please Baby Please) as The "5" Hearts on the Flair label. Maye had talent for days, or rather ... decades.

Arthur Lee Maye was born on December 11, 1934 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was very young. He attended Jefferson High where he sang in a group called the Carmels - Eugene Taylor (lead), Arthur Lee Maye (tenor), Delmer Wilburn (tenor), Norman Manley (baritone) and Charles Holmes (bass). Always into baseball, when he was a junior at Jefferson, he made the All-City team. Lee's recording career started in early 1954, the same year he was signed by the Milwaukee Braves (upon graduating from Jefferson in June). Working his way up through the minors, he began with the Boise [Idaho] Pilots (a class C minor league team). To sing, he joined up with bass Johnny Coleman and, because he knew the Flairs from Jefferson High (where they would "all go doo-wopping up and down the halls"), Flairs' bass/baritone Richard Berry. This unnamed trio was brought into the studio twice by Flair Records, a subsidiary of Modern. The first time, the label named the group the "5" Hearts and released "The Fine One"/"Please Please Baby" on Flair in February 1954. Since there were only three singers, this may explain why the company put the number 5 in quotes. The next time, they recorded "Sweet Thing" and "Rock Bottom," but these weren't immediately released. Meanwhile, Lee was getting a group together that would come to be known as the Crowns (named after the Crown recording company, part of the Modern/Flair/RPM complex). The group consisted of Arthur Lee Maye (tenor), Charles Colbert (tenor), Johnny Morris (tenor), Joe Moore (baritone), Richard Berry (baritone), and Johnny Coleman (bass). The Crowns' first appearance on record was "Set My Heart Free," backed with "I Wanna Love" (Modern, November 1954). In September 1954, Richard Berry, backed by the Crowns, recorded "The Big Break," "What You Do To Me," "Please Tell Me," and "Get Out Of The Car." "The Big Break"/"What You Do To Me" were released that month, but only Richard Berry's name appears on the label. The Crowns—Arthur Lee Maye (tenor), Charles Colbert (tenor), Joe Moore (baritone), Richard Berry (baritone), and Johnny Coleman (bass)—did several more sides for Modern (all released on its RPM subsidiary). The first of these was "Truly"/"Oochie Pachie," released in February 1955. Lee's brother, Eugene Maye, says that this was the original version and that "Oochi Pachi" by Linda Hayes and the Platters was the cover (they were both reviewed in the same issue of Billboard). In March 1955, Flair released the other two songs that had been recorded by the trio a year before ("Sweet Thing" and "Rock Bottom"). This time, instead of The "5" Hearts, the label called them The Rams. In the 1955 baseball season, Lee played for four minor league teams, all part of the Milwaukee Braves organization: the Boise Pilots (class C), the Eau Claire [Wisconsin] Braves (class C), the Yakima [Washington] Braves (class B), and the Evansville [Indiana] Braves (class B). Lee was clearly moving up. In May, RPM released the Crowns' "Love Me Always"/"Loop De Loop De Loop." The last RPM sides were issued in October: "Please Don't Leave Me," coupled with "Do The Bop." Presumably all of these songs had been recorded around January, before Lee went off to Boise. After the 1955 baseball season, the Crowns left Modern. It was possible to get small advances from Modern, but when it came time to receive royalties, the advances always seemed to have canceled them out. Their next stop was Art Rupe's Specialty label, where, with the same five guys, they cut "Gloria" and "Oh Ruby Lee" (which was misspelled on the label as "Oh-Rooba-Lee") on February 1, 1956. These were released in March. While Lee would continue to record with the Crowns, this is the last time their name would appear. From now on, labels would only say "Arthur Lee Maye" or "Lee Maye." Two other tunes ("Cool Lovin'" and "Don't You Know I Love You So") were cut at the same Specialty session. However, they first appeared on a bootleg RPM 45 (with "Don't You Know I Love You So" retitled to "Please Say You Love Me"). These are not unreleased RPM tracks. When 1956 baseball ended (a full season with the Evansville Braves, where he led the league in RBIs, hits, and runs), Lee teamed up with bandleader Johnny Otis, who was putting a group together to do a tour of northern California and needed someone who had the time to go. The other members of this group were: Mel Williams (baritone lead), Harold Lewis (tenor), and Sonny Moore (bass). Otis called them the "Jayos" (that's "J.O.", as in Johnny Otis). After the tour the Jayos did some recordings of former R&B hits for Otis' Dig label. Since the sides weren't all recorded at the same time, they contain various combinations of six singers - the four touring Jayos, plus Jesse Belvin and Richard Berry. Lee does lead on the following sides: "Honey Love," "Earth Angel," "Gee," Only You," "At My Front Door," and "One Mint Julep." Lee was on "Sh-Boom" and "Sincerely," but not as lead. He was not on any other sides credited to "The Jayos." All these tunes were on a 1957 Dig LP called Johnny Otis Rock n' Roll Hit Parade. In addition, Lee got to record the Crowns on Dig (although only his name appears on the label). By that time, however, Richard Berry had given up on all his groups and the personnel on "This Is The Night For Love," "Honey Honey," "Whispering Wind," and "A Fool's Prayer" were: Lee, Charles Colbert (tenor), Joe Moore (baritone), Johnny Coleman (moving up to baritone), and Charles Holmes (bass). 1957 saw Lee with the Jacksonville [Florida] Braves (class A) and, in December 1957, another Crowns' record, this time on Flip. Once again, only Lee's name is on the label, but the personnel on "Hey Pretty Girl"/"Cause You're Mine Alone" is the same as on the Dig sides. In 1958, Lee started spring training with the Milwaukee Braves, but was sent back to the minors. While Lee was away, the Crowns were brought to Cash by Henry Strogin, an employee of the company. The Crowns were initially used to back up raspy-voiced Cry Baby Curtis on "I Wanna"/"Did You Think I Care." When Lee was again available for recording, he joined the Crowns at Cash. The label of "Will You Be Mine" and "Honey Honey" credits "Lee Maye of the Milwaukee Braves," but the Crowns are there behind him. The other 1958 record on Cash was "All I Want Is Someone To Love"/"Pounding." This one was credited to "Arthur Lee Maye," but the Crowns are, once again, present. In 1959, Lee started the season for the Louisville [Kentucky] Colonels (class AAA). In July, he was finally placed in the Milwaukee Braves lineup as an outfielder; he'd play 51 games with them that season. However, baseball was taking its toll on the Crowns. While Lee was on the road, they did back-up work whenever possible, but had no direction. In 1960, Lee started with Milwaukee, but was sent back to the Louisville Colonels for 72 games (between May and July) before permanently moving back to the Braves; he'd stay with them until 1965 (although he was plagued with injuries and health issues). Over the years, Lee was able to spend less and less time with the Crowns, since he moved to Milwaukee and then to Houston. Henry Strogin ended up using the group for some early 1960s recordings on Dynamic, Amazon, and Ball. Billed as "Henry Strogin and the Crowns," the rest of the group was: Eugene Maye (tenor), Charles Colbert (tenor), Joe Moore (baritone), and Johnny Coleman (bass). While the Crowns finally got their name on a record again, these were their last recordings.

Then in 1963, Lee embarked on a solo career (occasionally using a studio group). In April that year he did "Halfway Out Of Love With You" and "I Can't Please You" for Bob Gans' Lenox label. In late 1963, he did some recordings for Jamie-Guyden in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The session producer was Huey Meaux (aka The Crazy Cajun). "Have Love Will Travel" was initially released in January 1964, on Guyden, as by the "Off-Beats" (Lee, backed by a Nashville studio group). The flip, "Doodlum," is an instrumental. There were four releases on Jamie in 1964, followed by a duet ("Careless Hands") with Barbara Lynn in February 1965. In early 1965, Lee injured his ankle and ended up being traded to the Houston Astros. He'd finish out the season with them and return in 1966. While he was in Houston, he did some more recording for Huey Meaux (who operated out of nearby Pasadena, Texas). In 1965, there were three records on Meaux' Pic 1 label. Two of them were credited to Lee Maye ("Today Today"/"Touch Me On My Shoulder" and "Total Disaster"/"What's Happening"). The third was by "Arthur Lee Maye": "Stop The World"/"At The Party." "At The Party" was re-issued on Meaux' Tower label in June 1966; this time its flip was "When My Heart Hurts No More." 1967-9 saw Lee with the Cleveland Indians. In January 1967, Meaux released "Have Love Will Travel"/"Loving Fool" (two old Jamie-Guyden cuts) on his Jetstream label. A few months later, there was "Fools Rush In"/"Jes' Lookin'" on Pacemaker (another Meaux label). These cuts also came out on Chess in May. In early 1968, there was a release on ABC-Paramount ("If You Leave Me"/"The Greatest Love I've Ever Known"). Around October 1969, he released the old Jim Reeves song, "He'll Have To Go," backed with "Jes' Lookin'" on Buddah. These were definitely old Meaux sides. Lee's last season in major league baseball was in 1971, when he played for the Chicago White Sox until July. While we've gotten used to obscene baseball player salaries, in his years with the White Sox, Lee was making around $27,000. Since he couldn't find another major league team that was interested in him, for part of 1971 and 1972, Lee played for the Hawaii Islanders, a class AAA affiliate of the San Diego Padres. In 1972, after 93 games with them (and a .285 average), Lee called it a career. He was 37 and had been playing professional ball for 18 years. After this, he went to work for Amtrak for the next 12 years. There was a single on Happy Fox, from around August 1976, credited to "Country Boys & City Girls (featuring Lee Maye)." The sides were "Forgetting Someone (Is Easier Said Than Done)" (which made #99 on the R&B charts) and "She Said Hell No! (You Can't Have Any More)." There were other recordings by this group, but I'm not sure if Lee was on any of them. Lee had one more record. In 1985, he recorded "Moonlight" (not the Orioles' tune) and "I'm Happy And In Love" for Dave Antrell's Antrell label. The back-up harmony was provided by Dave Antrell and Charles Williams. Maye was very proud of "Moonlight." Moonlight made several compilation CDs, played a role in the novel '64 Intruder, and got airplay on doo-wop radio programs. Maye had a European tour planned when he became stricken with liver cancer. Maye died July 17, 2002 at the age of 67 in Riverside, California of pancreatic cancer and is buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. In 2011, a new mysterious Lee Maye CD, called Always, appeared on the Demon S&C/IODA label. 14 cuts plus 11 slightly alternate versions/takes/mixes, but virtually no details about the recordings themselves. - Marv Goldberg [R&B Notebooks]

Please Don't Leave Me puts the majority of Arthur Lee Maye's together in one place. I'm missing roughly half a dozen sides (that I know of), however, all the early stuff is here. Issued and unissued recordings by The "5" Hearts/The Rams, The Crowns, The Jayos, one-off duets, solo's and guest spots. Most of Maye's second stint (1963-69) is included but wane's towards the post-issued Huey Meaux recordings, released between 1967-69. Also included is the mysterious 'Always' CD. All files chronicled, cleanly tagged and mp3 @ 320kbs. Thanks to original uploaders, enjoy.

*missing single sides:
63. Lee Maye - 1965 - Stop The World (Pic 1 126)
67. Lee Maye - 1968 - If You Leave Me (ABC 11028)
68. Lee Maye - 1968 - The Greatest Love I've Ever Known (ABC 11028)
69. Lee Maye - 1969 - He'll Have To Go (Buddah 141)
70. Lee Maye - 1969 - Jes' Lookin' (Buddah 141)


Anonymous said...

many many thanks
and have a nice weekend

pedro B said...

Thanks for the lee Maye sides sound a very interesting character i have heard of him but never heard anything by him

JJMURA said...

Thanks a lot for this artist I don't know well.

soulpapa said...

His Doo-Wop material always blew me away. Glad to have the chance to hear more. Thanks once again!

Aussie said...

beautiful thank you - Aussie

Bob said...

Thanks for all you recent uploads.
Much appreciated.

nessa said...

thank you

Tel said...

Thanx Once Again
A Collection Worth Having Just For "Gloria"

Bob Mac said...

Thank you very much.