Lee Michaels was part of the “second-division” of the California psychedelic movement. Unlike any of his counterparts he was one of the most soulful singers and keyboard players. While on the Hammond B3 organ he would absolutely wail and create the most unbelievable sounds.
He sang with such soul reverence yet he was playing hard rock. Originally from Los Angeles he moved to San Francisco where he hooked up with bay area musicians Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape. He felt that this geographic move would earn him greater notoriety and later signed with manager Mathew Katz. Though in reality his style of music didn’t really fit in the San Francisco sound.
His vocal range was blessed with an astounding upper range. He had a Top 10 hit with the “funky inspired” song “Do You Know What I Mean”, which originally was a throwaway track from his 5th album back in 1971. Lyrically the track was simply about loosing your girlfriend to your best friend yet having an almost “I don’t care attitude”. This theme was used countless times in early rhythm & blues songs. Unlike other artists he arranged and produced his own albums. The single went to #7 and because of this the album hit its peak at #16 on Billboard album chart. It remained in the album chart for over 36 weeks.
His second album on A&M Records, “Recital” included an anti-war song simply titled “The War”. It epitomized the anti-war sentiment like no other song at that time. It contained sound effects of gun firing and bombs exploding. It was written for the growing negative feelings over the Viet Nam war.
Michaels’ best album had to be his third. What made this album unique was it was completely recorded live in the studio in basically one take. His quest was to make a “live” album in the studio. The album took only six hours to record. The musicians just included him and drummer, Barry “Frosty” Smith; who was of mammoth size and he was his only accompanist. He had neither guitar nor bass.
Once again Lee Michaels maintained his soulful vocals behind his Hammond organ, Frosty drumming, a Baptist choir singing and hand clapping. This song should’ve been a staple at every campfire in America.I’ve always thought this song should be placed in a movie… it’s a no brainer!
Please excuse the video but good footage was impossible to find however the audio is absolutely perfect; and that’s what counts.
He later left A&M Records and signed with Columbia Records where he had absolutely no success. A very reliable contact from A&M Records had told Rock Bands of L A that Michaels was impossible to work with and was not cooperative with their promotional efforts.
Later in his life he retired from the business and moved to Hawaii. Upon his return to Los Angeles he opened a restaurant chain with his son and it was named Killer Shrimp. I guess they served shrimp and only shrimp, but after three of four years he closed them down.