60s Music

The Story and Music of Curtis Lee

Curtis LeeIntroduction

Curtis Lee is a singer-songwriter who was featured in two Phil Spector-produced tracks, “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” and “Under the Moon of Love.”  The Arizona-born talent began his career while still in his teens.  Ray Peterson (of “Tell Laura I Love Her” and “Corinna, Corinna” fame) heard one of Lee’s early recordings and invited him to New York to cut a demo for Peterson’s fledgling label Dunes Records.  While in New York in the late 1960s he and good friend Tommy Boyce began a songwriting partnership.  Boyce would later be one-half of the Boyce-Hart songwriting team.  “Special Love” and “Pledge of Love,” Lee’s first two issued singles, hardly made any impression on the charts. Third time’s the charm however, when a Lee-Boyce original composition called “Pretty Little Angel Eyes,” produced by Spector, hit the Billboard Top 10 in 1961. Another Lee-Boyce composition, “Under the Moon of Love”, was a minor hit, and Lee’s last charting single.

 

Lee’s music career

Curtis Lee is an American singer-songwriter born on October 28, 1941 in Yuma, Arizona. Lee occupies the era of rock & roll between Buddy Holly’s death and the Beatles’ arrival. While he was in his teens, he already cut three records for small labels. He later relocated from Arizona to the West Coast he had his first single in 1959 “Pure Love” on Hollywood’s Warrior label. In 1960, Lee’s next release was on the independently-owned Hot label, “I Never Knew What Love Could Do”/ “Gotta Have You”.

 

Not long thereafter, Lee was recognized by Ray Peterson (of “Tell Laura I Love Her” fame), who just established his own label Dunes. Lee was invited to New York to record a demo there. Lee arrived in New York and started recording his material in the late 1960. With his friend Tommy Boyce, they began a songwriting partnership (Boyce would became one-half of the successful songwriting-producing-singing duo, Boyce & Hart). Lee’s first three singles from Dunes label were a failure, nevertheless Spector’s genius with the production took over which already scored a Top 10 hit for Dunes with Ray Peterson’s “Corinna Corinna.” Lee’s squeaky voice did not impress Spector so he decided to add background vocals to the song “Pretty Little Angel Eyes.”

 

Eventually, “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” entered the Billboard charts in mid-1961, reaching #7 spot and peaked at #47 in the UK chart. Another Boyce-Lee composition “Under the Moon of Love” peaked at #46 on the pop chart also that same year. Unfortunately, it was to be Lee’s last successful recording. Lee left the music business and returned to his hometown where he became a successful custom homebuilder along with his father who also works in the construction industry.

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