New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

The Return of Don Lee

By Gary Wien

One of the scariest things in the world for singers is to face surgery on their vocal chords. It's an instrument that cannot be replaced and is usually the most recognizable facet on their work. Don Lee faced such a procedure in the past few months after releasing his fourth solo record since the breakup of Red-Headed Boogie Child. Ironically, the new release is entitled Who's Talkin' Out There?

Don first noticed a problem during the summer. He's had vocal strains in the past and recalls throat infections that lasted up to a month, but this felt different. There was a strangeness in which he was unable to hit notes that should have been easy to hit. But every time he thought it was bad enough that he had to see a doctor, the voice would improve a bit. He wound up having the voice feel bad, get better, and then feel bad again enough times that by the end of the summer he decided to have it checked out.

He was referred to an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat specialist) who discovered that Don had a polyp on his right vocal chord. The ENT was concerned enough to schedule an appointment for Don with NYU Voice Center in Manhattan. After consulting with them, he decided to have the polyp removed by laser, which took place on October 7.

"The first thing you're thinking is if they nick the vocal chords, I won't be able to sing," recalled Lee. "But it was a very quick procedure. The surgical procedure itself was very simple and very routine. It was the healing process that takes a long time. I couldn't talk for a few days at all and when I began to talk I had to talk very softly. They told me I couldn't sing for 4-6 weeks, so of course I did my first gig 4 weeks out. If its rock and roll you have to push it a little!"

Don kept performing throughout this period, but didn't sing. He's done shows with The Wag (a band he filled in for a few years ago and became a permanent member) and did shows of his own in support of the new CD. So who did the singing? Well, one night he had several people handle the vocals for him.

"It was really a heartwarming thing," said Lee. "All of these people were playing the part of me and I didn't have a strained voice at the end of the night!"

Who's Talkin' Out There? continues Don Lee's unique musical style. His songs twist and turn; they frequently start and stop, never seeming to follow normal musical progressions — at least not compared to the songs that one would typically hear today on the radio. To Lee though, the songs embody the influences of artists like Squeeze, Steely Dan, Elton John, Billy Joel, Joe Jackson, and the Beatles who inspired him. He thinks people sometimes give him too much credit for using a lot of chord changes. He doesn't see his music as something different at all.

"I probably have a verse melody, a chorus melody, and a bridge melody," explained Lee. "That's three basic melodies. I'm not going to say it's overly simply, but it's not overly complicated. In the history of music you do hear this quite a lot, but at this point in time maybe not. I always come from the school of thought that you do the best thing you can as opposed to sound like everyone else. I want to have my own sound. If you do what's big on the radio right now you're already behind the curve."

Lee lives in Freehold where he has spent most of his life. While 90% of the musicians from New Jersey are often compared to Freehold's favorite son, Lee's vocals do not sound anything like Springsteen's. He is, however, a dead ringer for Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze.

"When my voice was just developing as far as becoming a lead singer, I tried to sing like John Lennon and Paul McCartney," recalled Lee. "I tried to imitate their voices but for some reason I sound a lot more like Tilbrook. I actually want to sound like Robert Plant, but I don't sound like Plant when I sing. It's funny because most people probably don't hear the influence in my music but a singer that I wish I could sound like is Lou Gramm of Foreigner. I wish I could sound like that.

"Then, of course, there's the guitar side too," he continued. "When I was a kid listening to pop radio I liked the guitar songs a lot better but it wasn't until I was in 8th grade when I heard ‘Heartbreaker' by Led Zeppelin for the first time. I don't think any song has ever blown me away as much as that song. Every time I hear it, I get the same feeling. I became a huge Jimmy Page fan. Some people hear that in my music, some don't, but I think I have a lot of Jimmy Page influence."

If these influences don't sound like your typical singer-songwriter it's because Don Lee isn't a typical singer-songwriter. His full band-like sound stands out in the coffee houses he frequently plays. Red Headed Boogie Child often played the clubs one normally associates with rock bands, but when that band broke up Don was forced to find new places to play as a solo artist. In coffee houses, Don's music becomes even more eclectic when contrasted with the normal folkie-based coffee house performers.

The future is entirely unwritten for Lee because, unlike most musicians, he's confident that he will get his shot to do music full-time someday. While many musicians go from job to job, earning just enough to keep going, Lee made the commitment to hold on to a good job in the government for years. It's a decision that will ultimately provide him with a pension that offers him the opportunity to pursue his dream.

"I learned long ago that the second you think you're going to be a rock star and quit your job something wrong happens," said Lee. "I know that I'm not going to be America's Next Teen Idol, but I'm always going to be a songwriter, and I'm going to perform as long as I can and keep recording."

For more by this author, click here

Mungion To Perform At The Stone Pony
 (ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Since their inception in the Spring of 2015, Mungion (pronounced mung-yin) has quickly made a name for themselves as one of the rising stars of the jam scene. The band will open a pair of shows for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park on January 24-25.
MPAC Presents Disney's DCappella Live!
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Disney's highly acclaimed a cappella group, DCappella comes to Mayo Performing Arts Center on Friday, February 15 at 8:00pm. Tickets range from  $39-$89.
Leonia Chamber Musicians Society to Present Benefit Concert for Leonia High School Music Department
(LEONIA, NJ) -- The Leonia Chamber Musicians Society, Inc., a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization based in Leonia, New Jersey, presents "Our Hearts in Music", a benefit concert, on Sunday, February 10 at 4:00pm at Leonia High School’s Little Theater, located at 100 Christie Heights in Leonia, New Jersey.
The Newton Theatre Presents Ruben Studdard
(NEWTON, NJ) --  Ruben Studdard, the Grammy-nominated R&B, gospel and pop singer was the winner of American Idol’s second season. He has recorded six studio albums, appears frequently on tv, toured extensively and has sold over two million albums worldwide. Studdard officially confirmed that he will be releasing RUBEN SINGS LUTHER to his musical hero Luther Vandross on March 16th and will be launching a 25 city ‘Always and Forever Tour’ starting in Sacramento, California on April 8th.  Locally, he will perform at the Newton Theatre on Friday, March 29 at 8:00pm.
Bill Frisell To Headline the 8th Les Paul Festival Concert at Ramapo College
(MAHWAH, NJ) -- Guitarist Bill Frisell will headline the Les Paul Festival Concert on Saturday night, February 16 in the Sharp Theater at Ramapo College. Often hailed as one of the most distinctive and original improvising guitarists of our time, Frisell’s career as a guitarist and composer has spanned more than 35 years and 250 recordings, including 40 of his own.

The Empire Strikes Back in Concert with the NJSO LIVE! at the State Theatre
Some of our favorite childhood memories growing up at the Jersey Shore involved going to our town’s grand old movie palace, The Community Theater, in Toms River. Built with colonial architecture and featuring large white columns in the front, paned glass windows in the lobby, a circular brick walk from the sidewalk to the box office, and a white picket fence which enclosed a lawn and a flower bed, this local gem presented the latest Hollywood films. For kids like us back in the 1960’s, that meant pictures like Mary Poppins, Cinderella, The Love Bug, and Flipper.
Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes At Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme
This coming Sunday, January 20, Scott Wolfson and his band will be serving up their unique blend of Americana at the Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme series at Investors Bank Theater in Succasunna, New Jersey. The band – Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes – formed in Jersey City in 2011, and, even though the members have migrated in various directions since then, they still consider themselves to be a Jersey City band.
"He Totally Wowed Us!" John Oates LIVE! at SOPAC
It’s brisk for an evening walk on South Orange Ave. in South Orange, NJ, this Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 evening, but it’s a good road to follow as it leads us directly to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) for a special performance by singer, songwriter, and guitarist John Oates and his backup group, The Good Road Band.
“Tons of Fun!” The Glenn Miller Orchestra LIVE! at the Grunin Center
Although Friday, December 21, 2018 is the shortest day of the year, the audience of big band music lovers here at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts is hoping for a long evening of classic swing and holiday tunes performed by the incomparable Glenn Miller Orchestra!
Mike Davis and The New Wonders
Mike Davis traces his love for the trumpet back to a Disney movie. He grew up in a musical family, with both his parents playing strings in the Seattle Symphony. But Davis wanted an instrument of his own. Then, at age 9, he saw “The Aristocats,” the animated film about a bunch of French felines — including a group of jazz-playing alley cats.

Event calendar
Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019

Sorry, no events listed for today.
Here are some upcoming events.

Rechnitz Halls DiMattio Gallery, Monmouth University @ 10:00am
West Long Branch

Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University @ 7:30pm
West Long Branch

New Jersey Repertory Company @ 8:00pm
Long Branch

New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.