Lee Michaels (born , in Los Angeles, California), plays the Hammond organ, piano, and guitar (plus vocals), was best known for his 1971 Top 10 pop hit, “Do You Know What I Mean“.
Michaels began his career with The Sentinals, a San Luis-based surf group which included Merrell Fankhauser and drummer Johny Barbata (later of The Turtles, Jefferson Airplane, and Jefferson Starship).
Michaels joined Barbata in the Strangers, a group led by Joel Scott Hill, before moving to San Francisco. In 1967, he signed a contract with A&M Records, releasing his debut album, Carnival Of Life, later that year. As a session musician, he’d play with Jimi Hendrix, amongst others.
Michaels’ choice of the Hammond organ as his primary instrument was unusual for the time, as was his bare-bones stage and studio accompaniment: usually just a single drummer, most often a musician known as “Frosty” (Bartholomew Eugene Smith-Frost) member of Sweathog (band) or with Joel Larson of The Grass Roots.
His self-titled album, “Lee Michaels” (1969) is one of the masterpieces of the period.
Lee Michaels – keyboards, bass, vocals
Bartholomew Smith-Frost – drums, percussion
On this album, Michaels pulls out all the stops (literally) and showcases the organ as a bona fide rock instrument.
Track 01: Tell Me How Do You Feel / uncut (20:25) /
“Tell Me How Do You Feel” was was essentially recorded live in the studio by only Michaels (organ/bass pedals) and Frosty on drums.Despite the lengthy drum solo, it’s one of the finest sides of Los Angeles rock & roll.
Michaels’ unorthodox approach attracted a following in San Francisco, and some critical notice, but he did not achieve real commercial success until the release of his fifth album, “5th“.
This album contained a couple of surprises: a U.S. Top 10 hit (#6 in the fall of 1971), “Do You Know What I Mean,” and a Top 40 follow-up, a cover version of the Motown standard, “Can I Get A Witness“.
Michaels recorded two more albums for A&M before signing a contract with Columbia Records in 1973.
His Columbia recordings failed to generate much interest, and Michaels went into semi-retirement from the music business by the end of the decade, which was also influenced by his severe hearing loss.
For a number of years he owned a chain of restaurants, named Killer Shrimp, around Southern California.
Apparently, after a trip to New Orleans, Michaels invented a dish that his friends liked enough to urge him to open a restaurant. As of 2008 the last two Killer Shrimp locations have closed and there are apparently no plans to reopen.
Lee recently published his personal website where he says “Most of the stuff on this site has little & everything to do with music. Its just a place to vent and sell some shit. After looking at my entire web site… one would never imagine that I have a song in my heart“.