For a period in the late 1920's, George E. Lee's Orchestra was a close competitor of Bennie Moten's in Kansas City. The older brother of singer-pianist Julia Lee
, George E. Lee
played with an Army band in 1917, sang with a vocal quartet and in 1920 formed a combo. That group (which soon featured Julia Lee
) played regularly for years at Lyric Hall in Kansas City. In 1927 the band (an octet which by then included Jesse Stone
on piano) cut two titles for the Merritt label including Julia Lee's first recorded vocal ("Down Home Syncopated Blues"). In 1929 the ensemble (which was up to ten pieces including Budd Johnson
on tenor) recorded six numbers for Brunswick: four under George E. Lee's name and two as a support group for Julia Lee
("He's Tall, Dark And Handsome" and "Won't You Come Over To My House"). As it turned out, that would be the highpoint for the George E. Lee Orchestra. In 1933, Lee's outfit became part of the Bennie Moten Orchestra. He led a new shortlived big band in 1935, toured with a combo for a few years, moved to Jackson, Michigan in 1940, managed a Detroit nightclub in 1942 and in the mid-1940's settled in San Diego, retiring from music at a time when ironically Julia Lee
started becoming famous.