Your Kisses, Seasoned

:: What Does America Mean To Me ::

:: Senselessly ::

Norman Lee played sax and performed vocals for the Lawrence Welk Orchestra for a few years in the 1940’s, where he and Welk co-wrote “Champagne Polka” together. In 1947, he joined the Eddy Howard Orchestra performing the same duties, and took over as band leader in 1963 when Howard died, thereafter calling the band the Norman Lee Orchestra.

This single, I believe, came out sometime in the early 1970’s, though it sounds like it’s straight out of the 40’s. The music and words to the a-side, “What Does America Mean to Me” were written by Lee when he was but a wee lad of ten. The simple childishness of the lyrics, read by a young boy (David Broderick), the low production values, and especially the sudden burst into “America the Beautiful” towards the end of the song go a long way towards making this into quite a charming piece of patriotic putridity. It’s contrasted by the b-side, which started out as a background score for an industrial film. The writer of the film, Tom Broderick (father of Lil’ David, I suppose), prevailed upon Lee to let him write lyrics to the song, and “Senselessly” was created. I can almost smell my grandfather’s Brylcreem and Lucky Strikes while listening to it.

In 1978, Norman returned home with his wife after playing an “over 40’s” dance in Wichita, Kansas. There they were met by a former trumpet player for Lee’s band, Charles Martin, who Norman had fired a few months prior for difficulties related to drug addiction. Martin hadn’t taken too kindly to the dismissal apparently, and gunned down both Norman and his wife, a little while later turning the same gun on himself in Houston, Texas.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009 2:31:00 PM

I am trying to find out about Norman Lee. I got ahold of a couple of his records that were recorded in Wichita, Kansas and I had a few questions if possiable. Both the LP's are autographed by him. One of the albums is called Norman Lee At The Inaugural. Please if anyone has any information, please feel free to contact me at 620-897-7171 or email at Thank you    

Monday, September 29, 2014 7:32:00 AM

In 1951, Norman Lee was my next-door neighbor in Chicago's northwest side. Norman had just returned home from a recording session (Downtown Chicago) at Universal Studios and handed me a 45 rpm. record hot-off-the-press. The title was "It's a sin to tell a lie". After playing it, I told Norman "this is going to be a hit record".
The Eddie Howard Orchestra was engaged with a run at the Aragon Ballroom (Chicago). WGN Radio broadcast many nights.
Norman was in the Army Air Force during WWII.
He had a small airplane at Orchard Place Airport, now O'hare. He invited me to fly around the north shore and lakes area.

More to follow...    

Thursday, February 25, 2016 1:21:00 PM

My father-in-law, Karl Smykil played drums for Norman and was also in the Eddie Howard Orchestra. After Norman's death, my father-in-law were in Wichita visiting with a group who was trying to preserve much of Norman Lee's work. I have some of their records and heard them play many times. They came to Denver once or twice a year.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 12:50:00 PM

I was one of Karl Smykil's drum students (in Wellington, KS). I took lessons for two years from him. I then moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. There, I took lessons from the section chair of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In my junior year in high school, my teacher told me she couldn't instruct me anymore because I was better than she was. I credit that entirely to Karl. I was known as the "Gene Kruppa" of Greenhills. I was asked, as a high school junior, to join the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. I declined because of sports. However, without reservation I can say that of all the instructors I ever had in anything, Karl was the most talented, most demanding in a gentleman's way, and the most effective I've ever had!

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