The Bobbettes - I Shot Mr. Lee
The Bobbettes - Billy
In this classic follow-up record, The Bobbettes got to tell how they actually felt about Mr. Lee. He was their school teacher (The Bobbettes were all young, really young) and they didn't like him one bit. In 1957, when making their first recordings for Atlantic, honchos Wexler and Ertegun suggested they revise a song they had written about Mr. Lee and put a positive spin on it. So, instead of being a figure of disgust, the ugliest teacher they ever did see, Mr. Lee became the "handsomest sweetie". Well, Wexler and Ertegun proved many times that they knew the music business and this was no exception. Mr. Lee made The Bobbettes the first all female R&B group to have a top ten pop hit.
Three years later, after being let go by Atlantic, the girls righted the wrong. The Bobbettes had recorded I Shot Mr. Lee for Atlantic, but the label refused to release it, so they re-recorded it for Triple-X Records (when it became a local hit, Atlantic did release the earlier version). Although the record didn't chart anywhere near as high as the original Mr. Lee, I'm sure that the group were glad to be finally rid of him as a character. They disposed of him in quite a brutal fashion, "Shot him in the head, boom-boom". The flip-side, Billy, written by Teddy Vann, is also well worth checking out. Talk of Mr. Lee, someone named Billy and shootings in the head, has echos of the tale of Stackolee, but I don't think there's actually a connection to be found.
Labels: pop, rhythm and blues