Soul Couples: Mickey & Sylvia; Shirley & Lee

By Gary:

I have the very large book: “Billboard Top 40 hits 1955 – 2000” on my desk, and also Norm N Nite’s superb book “Rock On The Solid Gold Years”.  So, I have around 2000 pages of music statistics.  Now Russ and I do not agree on everything, but we do have similar music tastes.  Russ is not overly flexible in his tastes; he likes what he likes, blues, jazz and so on.  But we had dinner together a couple of weeks ago and as usual I always have music playing and the two wives, really liked the more popular music.  So, I always try to please Russ, but here are some oldies of Duo’s and Trio’s, Brothers & Sisters, White and Black, soul, pop and almost elevator music, but it sold well and a lot of people, like our wives, really enjoyed it.  So this will be an up and down look at two duo’s and two trio’s.  First for Russ we will have the soul.

Mickey & Sylvia
(Mickey “Guitar” Baker and Sylvia Vanderpool Robinson)

1956 / Steve Allen Show / Love is Strange / 


1968 / Mickey Guitar Baker and Memphis Slim / 


1.   Love is Strange/ Groove 0175/ 1/12/57/ # 14 Billboard


Mickey & Sylvia were an R&B duo composed of Mickey “Guitar” Baker and Sylvia Van der Pool Robinson. They were the first big seller for Groove Records.

Mickey “Guitar” Baker was a music instructor, and Sylvia Robinson was one of his pupils. His guitar stylings, especially the insane soloing on “Love Is Strange”, inspired a plethora of guitarists, including Sterling Morrison of the Velvet Underground.

Mickey & Sylvia had a hit with “Love Is Strange” in 1957. They continued to record together until 1965. After that, Mickey had a successful career as a studio musician. Sylvia had a huge hit (#1 R&B, #3 Pop) in 1973 with the song “Pillow Talk”, and later assisted in the formation of the Sugar Hill rap label.

We lost Sylvia in September of 2011.  We lost Mickey November 2012.

Shirley & Lee
(Shirley Goodman June 19, 1936 & Leonard Lee June 29, 1936)

Shirley & Lee

1974 / Midnight Special / Let the Good Times Roll / Shirley and Ludie Washington / 


1.   I’m Gone/ Aladdin/ 12/52/ # 5 R&B


2.   Feels so Good/ 8/55/ R&B 7


3.   Let the Good Times Roll/ Aladdin 3325/ 9/8/56/ # 20 Billboard


4.   I feel Good/ Aladdin 3338/ 1/5/57/ # 38 Billboard


5.   Shame Shame Shame (Shirley & Company)/ Vibration 532/ 2/22/75/ # 12 Billboard


Shirley & Lee are best remembered as a rock-and-roll duo from the 50’s who came up with one great song that helps to define the era in pop music. One of them came back years later to usher in a different era in pop music history.

Sources vary as to their birth dates, but Shirley Mae Goodman and Leonard Lee were both born sometime from 1935 to 1937.

In the early 50’s they formed a rhythm-and-blues duo in New Orleans. They began to record for the Aladdin label in 1952 and became known as “The Sweethearts Of The Blues.” Shirley had a high voice and Lee’s was big and booming, and the contrast between the two gave their act its appeal.

They began to record songs that made the top ten on the rhythm-and-blues charts, such as their first big one I’m Gone in 1952, a song that was written by Leonard Lee and Dave Bartholomew.

I’m Gone


In their early songs they pretended as if they were sweethearts. Other hits followed, including Feel So Good in 1955…

Feel So Good


…and I Feel Good two years later.

I Feel Good


In late summer of 1956 the song with which Shirley & Lee are most often associated entered the charts. Let The Good Times Roll was a big hit at teenage parties everywhere.

Let The Good Times Roll


Some DJ’s refused to play it, claiming that it had suggestive lyrics. The song crossed over to the pop charts, where it reached as high as number twenty.

Shirley and Lee at Toronto’s Ascot Hall

Shirley & Lee continued to record together up until 1963, when Lee began to record songs for Imperial. Shirley developed an act with Jesse Hill which they called Shirley & Jesse, and they worked in New Orleans with Mac Rebennack and others.

In 1975 Shirley recorded a song called Shame, Shame, Shame with a group of studio musicians, and it was released on the Vibration label as by “Shirley And Company”.

Shame, Shame, Shame


Shame, Shame, Shame had links to rock-and-roll’s glorious past — in addition to Shirley’s lead female vocal, one of the musicians included in the recording was Kenny Jeremiah, who had been a founding member of the Soul Survivors [Expressway To Your Heart] in the 60’s. In addition, Shame, Shame, Shame was written and produced by Sylvia Vanderpool Robinson of Mickey & Sylvia [Love Is Strange]. The song reached # 12 and was regarded as one of the first disco hits of the 70’s.

Leonard Lee died in 1976. Shirley married and changed her name to Shirley Mae Goodman Pixley. She passed away on July 5, 2005.


4 responses to “Soul Couples: Mickey & Sylvia; Shirley & Lee

  1. We honor this duo in our live New Orleans Oldie show.


  2. i love you Mickey & Sylvia and Shirley & Lee, laying in my bed with my stuffed animals and my Princess Phone with my private number mind you ! listening to Jocko on the radio from Newark…Hey Daddio, Hey mommio, this is your engineer Jocko, back on the scene with the record machine saying ooo poppa do and a how do you do !! Then I fell in love with the Shirelles, one of the first to listen to them “Will you still love me tomorrow”.
    Well one of the first in my school . Thanks guys !

  3. Wow, brought back many memories for me in the 1950’s. First class !

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