Beauregard Lee

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It seems only right that this journeyman drummer and enterprising road manager would be eclipsed historically by the confederate general that he was named after. But Beauregard Lee's boss, anarchistic…
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It seems only right that this journeyman drummer and enterprising road manager would be eclipsed historically by the confederate general that he was named after. But Beauregard Lee's boss, anarchistic musical comedian Spike Jones, would find it much more interesting, indeed downright amusing, that his drummer would also be overshadowed by a groundhog, namely "Beauregard Lee," the state of Georgia's official weather forecaster circa the '90s. Despite the enormous popularity of the Spike Jones band in its heyday, the subject of this biography never had anything like the amount of public attention that is forced on General Beau the groundhog, even if it is only for one day each year. (Groundhog Day, for those that never come out of their caves.) Usually credited as Beau Lee, he was born Beauregard Wilmarth Lee and began playing professionally in the big bands of Everett Hoagland. The group gigged at the historic Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa, CA. Modernistic bandleader Stan Kenton was also one of the sidemen in this outfit. The ballroom stage was sort of a home away from home for Lee, as he became a popular drummer for a variety of groups that worked in this location. He did tour with Hoagland, and joined Jones' City Slickers in 1943.

It can be said that a band is only as good as its drummer and/or business manager, so Lee must have had extreme importance Jones, who was intensely conscious of both rhythm and business affairs. Lee doubled as manager of the group, which sometimes involved dashing off the stage during a break to go count heads in the lobby. At the same time, his position in the drum seat was equally essential to Jones. The leader wanted to be able to go stand out in front of the band, not be stuck hanging out in back with the drum set, hubcaps, washboards, tuned honkers, and whatever else. Lee came into the band right around the time the satirical recording of the song "Der Fuehrer's Face" was turning into an enormous hit. But when Jones wanted to know what the take at the box office was looking like or wanted to keep an eye on the shifty-looking Lightfingered Louise doing the door, he would take over on drums and send Lee out as business scout. Lee also often traveled ahead of the band in order to make arrangements.

The drummer/manager was part of the original cast for the Jones television show Furlough Fun, and was regularly brought out from behind the drums to sing. Lee is often part of whatever silly vocal bits there are that might involve three or four different characters. His greatest comic turn with the band has to be his performance as Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in the film Meet the People. He is easily recognizable on video collections of the Jones television shows, usually dressed in a dapper suit and sporting a derby. He has a trim mustache and usually is staring into space, as if hypnotized. But perhaps is just trying to figure out what is going on at the ticket window.