"NSAI Hall of Fame" songwriter Dickey Lee charges forward into his sixth decade of hit making with a track record that includes twenty "BMI" awards, six "Million Performance Awards" and a reputation as one of Nashville's most consistently creative and soulful writers. No one will ever forget Dickey's place as a major hit recording artist beginning in the early, formative days of rock 'n' roll, and continuing today as he still performs around the world.
He's had number one records as a pop-rock artist, a country artist and as a songwriter. "I guess you might say I've had three careers that sort of overlapped each other," says Dickey. He got his start in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, a fantastic music melting pot of pop, rock 'n' roll, country, rhythm & blues and gospel. "I was influenced by so many people in so many fields that it took about half my career to find out who I was."
Dickey made his recording debut in 1957 with "Dream boy," a song he'd written, on the tiny Tampa label. It was a local smash! Elvis heard it and invited Dickey out to his house. Sam Phillips, discoverer and producer of Elvis Presley, heard it and signed Dickey to Sun Records where he had more local hits. Years later Sam said, "I didn't do right by Dickey because I was a one man record company and I just didn't have the time." Dickey laughs and says, "I took it as a compliment. Just the fact that Sam Phillips, (THE MAN!), heard something in me was enough to keep me going forever!" Someone always seemed to hear something as Dickey went from Tampa to Sun to Dot to Smash Records where in 1961 he and producer Jack Clement recorded his first number one…."Patches," the record that launched a pop career of major hits including "I Saw Linda Yesterday," "Laurie (Strange Things Happen in This World)" and "The Girl From Peyton Place."
It was during this string of pop hits that Dickey Lee met "The Smoke Ring" (then "Little Joe and the Ramrods") and started a long association and friendship that spawned several chart singles for the Smoke Ring, as well as opening a channel for Norfolk talent to Memphis and Nashville.
Recalls Lee, "I was on tour with this band from Norfolk, Nebraska, whom I'd never met before. They were a great band and great bunch of guys…we laughed a lot!" At Lee's invitation "Little Joe and the Ramrods" traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to the studio of famed Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, where, as "The Smoke Ring" their sessions produced a single on AMY/MALA BELL RECORDS, "That Girl Was My Girl", a regional hit. The success of a record led to a contract with BUDDAH RECORDS, and a national hit, "No, Not Much", which was followed by another chart single, "A Portrait of My Love." "The Smoke Ring was the first chart record produced by Dickey and partner, Allen Reynolds, (who later gained more fame as the producer of Garth Brooks, Kathy Mattea, Emmy Lou Harris, and others.) "Norfolk and Hupp's Wholesale were almost a second home!" Laughed Lee.
Then in 1969 Dickey signed with RCA Records and had ten years of country hits that included "Rocky," "9,999,999 Tears" and "Never Ending Song of Love." Many of these songs were top ten and several hit number one.
Today, Dickey still writes songs and speaks at various writing seminars. In addition he found an exciting niche playing classic rock 'n' roll revival shows with many of the artists he started out with in the late 50's. Fabian, Bobby Vee, Tommy Roe, Lou Christie, Bowser, The Tokens, The Shirelles, The Shagri-La's and The Crystals to name a few.
However, it's his songwriting that insures the place of Dickey Lee in American music history. "The Door Is Always Open" (#1-Dave and Sugar), "Let's Fall To Pieces Together" (#1-George Strait), "I've Been Around Enough To Know" (#1-John Schneider), "You're The First Time I've Thought about Leaving" (#1-Reba McEntire), "I'll Be Leaving Alone" (#1-Charley Pride), "In A Different Light" (#1-Doug Stone), "The Keeper of The Stars" (#1-Tracy Byrd), "She Thinks I Still Care" (#1-George Jones, #1-Anne Murray, #1 Elvis Presley). Beside these number ones he has hundreds of recordings by such diverse artists as Kenny Rogers, Merle Haggard, James Taylor, Brenda Lee, Kathy Mattea, Don Williams, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Lee Lewis, Randy Travis, The Cox Family, Marty Robbins…………well, you get the idea!
Dickey Lee was recently asked what he would do if and when he retired. His answer……."I guess I'd just keep on doing what I'm doing….as a hobby. It's a blessing from God to get paid for what you love to do!"