It is no secret that Alabama is home to many musical talents including Hank Williams Sr. and Jr., Tammy Wynette, Sonny James, the group Alabama and Taylor Hicks, just to name a few. Another name to add to this Who’s Who among the musical talents of our great state, but this one is also a son of the Gardendale community. His name is Gerald Douglas Lee, better known as ‘Doug’ to the many who know him.
Doug is the son of Robert Lee and Sybil Lee who, along with his brothers Dwight and Terry, moved to Gardendale in 1955. Dwight attended Mortimer Jordan High School and later West Point, Doug and Terry attended Gardendale High School, and it was there in the ninth grade, Doug, along with classmates Eddie Sellers, Jerrell Brown and Mike Gregg began playing music together. (Later, Benton White and Jimmy Little GHS class of ‘71 joined). They began as a then popular ‘garage band’ playing hits of the day with an emphasis on songs by The Beatles. By eleventh grade they were being paid to play local parties and teen dances. Doug also loved sports and played baseball and was a starter on the original Gardendale High School Football team. By senior year, (1968, the first GHS graduating class), they were being booked by Gardendale native Richard Dingler, who owned Southeastern Attractions, a Birmingham booking agent to play Teen Centers and school dances and the occasional frat party.
After graduation from Gardendale, Doug attended Jefferson State and the University of Montevallo, where in 1971 the band ‘Dogwood’ was formed. Dogwood traveled all over the South playing clubs and concerts trying to attract the attention of recording companies, Lee states, “I was really trying to make it in the music business.” He confesses he had dreams of becoming a ‘Rock Star’.
When asked what his musical influences were, he admits, “My favorite groups were The Beatles and Buffalo Springfield. My musical influences were many, but included Crosby, Stills and Nash, James Taylor, Blues Music, and EmmyLou Harris.” Lee grew up loving music, “As a kid I loved Buddy Holley, I still listen to his music today. I was bowled over by The Beatles.”
Lee still has the Dogwood group he said, “In 2017 we finally released a record”. Today they mostly perform around Birmingham, but have traveled as far as Los Angeles and New York occasionally opening concerts for other artists, including such greats as Bo Diddley, Ted Nugent, and Cactus.
Asked if he wrote any of the songs his bands play, “Writing music is not my strong point.” However, he did write a song that was a minor hit for Herb Alpert in 1974 called ‘Save the Sunlight.’ It was originally recorded by Dennis Yost and the Classic Four, (You can find it on YouTube.com). He also wrote several songs on the Dogwood CD, ‘Georgia Bar and ‘The Dogwood Ride’. In addition, he has recorded several jingles for local advertisers including Dale’s Sauces, which is currently running on television and radio.
He says he “loves the recording process,” pointing out that recording “Can be quick to show your limitations.”
Lee says he laid aside his dreams of becoming a rock star when he was 26 years old and began working a day job doing landscape maintenance and then sales. He worked for a local wine distributor for twelve years and then for PepsiCo in the food service division, retiring in 2010. He continued to play with Dogwood on weekends and part time. “In February 2014 the band “Noyoko” was formed with band members Mark Smith on bass, Greg Gentry on guitar, Sam Popkin on Keyboards, Chris Byars on drums and vocals and of course me on guitar and vocals. When Greg and Chris left the band they were replaced with George Vinson and Jim Pollard.”
“Noyoko became the name of my Beatles cover band as a joke! Anyone who knows much about the Beatles knows Yoko Ono is blamed, somewhat unfairly, as being the cause for the Beatles break-up. When planning our initial rehearsal, one of our members asked if he could bring his ‘Yoko’ to rehearsal. He was greeted with a resounding, “NO YOKO!”, thus the name of the band!
Lee plays with several bands in addition to Dogwood and Noyoko, Ulna, a Jimmy Buffett Tribute Band, Paybacks, A “Deep tracks” classic rock band and the Good’s, a trio which covers a variety of Americana and soft rock songs. You can find him playing all over Birmingham including, but not limited to the Daniel Day Gallery/Dream MECCA Studio and Workplay.
“My wife, Susan is very supportive of me. She still comes to an occasional show.” His children, two biological sons, Robbie and Michael and two step-daughters Magen Marlin Finch and Quincy Marlin also support his musical enterprises. He has one grandson, five year old Braxton Finch, whom Lee admits loving to spending time with. He says only his eldest son, Robbie learned to play the guitar and bass guitar.
Asked if he had hobbies other than playing the guitar and singing, he replied, “I love reading, always have, and I never go anywhere without a good book.” When asked what his favorite books are he said, “Choosing a favorite would be almost impossible...but Lonesome Dove.” He also enjoys gardening and movies, citing ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ among his favorites.
If you have ever had the opportunity to hear Doug Lee perform in any of his bands, then you know what a gifted artist he truly is.
The Dogwood CD is available through direct sales only. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, you can contact Doug Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you love Beatles music, you should not miss seeing Noyoko! You can catch them at Workplay in Birmingham on Friday, February 22. The show starts at 8 p.m. and doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased through Workplay.