Lee Bonds (1924-Present)
By Tony Biggs (thanks Tony: he’s the bass-player of the Rimshots, Gene Gambler & The Shufflers, Bill Fadden & The Rhythmbusters and Ponchartrain)
Lee Bonds was born in Albertville, Alabama on April 22, 1924. At a very young age he became interested in Honky Tonk music and by the age of 18 decided to leave his dad’s farm and head down the musical road. He toured throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida for five years. On his return to Alabama he secured a slot on local Radio station WGWD in his home town city of Gadsen, where he became a regular performer. He joined the ‘Midway Jamboree’ show in 1951 that was relayed by WGWD and became their resident bassman.
Bonds and his band, The Shady Lane Playboys, made their first recording sessions in Nashville during early 1951 for the newly formed Tennessee Records (also based in Nashville).
His style was typically Honky Tonk, but alongside his very rural voice, Bonds incorporated a trumpet into his music giving it a slight bluesy feel. His self-penned ‘Uh-Huh Honey’ was later covered by several artists including Charlie Feathers.
Bonds only saw two releases for the label before Tennessee Records folded under inauspicious circumstances.
Sometime in 1952 he ventured to California and guested for ‘Walkin’ Charlie Aldrich and
Spade Cooley in the summer.
dated June 28th 1952
he saw two more releases, until he was spotted by Capitol Records in early 1953.
It seems that Bonds’ main problem was not his self penned material, but his extremely
raw Southern vocalisation, which tended to narrow his range and place him in the ‘folk’
category of the period. Republic 7099 ‘Jesus Is My Leader’ was issued in late 1954,
whilst the label was still based in Nashville, although the actual recordings were cut in
1952 during Bonds’ earlier period with the label. This record was released whilst he was
under contract with Capitol, a record company decision that was fairly commonplace if not a little underhanded.
Three releases for the Republic label including the rare ‘Gospel Series’ 45. Republic didn’t actually have a gospel series in their range, but simply printed it on the label. ‘Jesus Is My Leader’ is an ideal record to play to someone who doesn’t realize that white hillbilly gospel music produced some of the best Honky Tonk/Hillbilly Bop tracks of the period.
Bonds’ deal with Capitol began on March 20, 1953. Capitol gave him three releases in
He then secured a release with Decca in late 1954, but once again the major label struggled to put a hat on Bonds’ style and so only released the one record. The other tracks from this session have not been issued as yet to my knowledge.
Lee Bonds released two records for the Todd label in 1959/1961, which clearly
showed a more refined Country vocal, alongside the new ‘Nashville Sound’ of the
period, but sadly neither release gave his career the spark he needed. He then sadly slipped into obscurity.
Both of Lee Bonds Todd releases featured female backing vocals, piano, pedal steel and drums within a cleaner ‘Nashville Sound’ style of recording. Once again all tracks were written by Bonds.
1951 Tennessee Recording Studio, 4th Ave., Nashville, TN – Lee Bonds
001 4082/E1KB-1620 UH-HUH HONEY Tennessee 804
002 4083/E1KB-1621 YOU’VE BEEN CRYIN’, SWEETHEART Tennessee 804
ca. April 1952 Tennessee Recording Studio, 4th Ave., Nashville, TN – Lee Bonds
003 E2KB-3722 WILD CATTIN’ WOMAN 826
004 E2KB-3723 FOR SALE – ONE BROKEN HEART 826
ca. September 1952 Nashville, TN – Lee Bonds
005 E2KB-3751 I JUST GOT YOUR HEARTBREAKING LETTER Republic 7007-45
006 HOW ABOUT A DATE Republic 7007-45
ca. March 1953 Nashville, TN – Lee Bonds & Sonny Sims
007 GIVE MY BROKEN HEART A BREAK 7041-45
008 I’M GLAD THAT I LOVE YOU (W. SONNY SIMS) 7041-45
20 March 1953 [no. 2966] Castle Studio at The Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Ave. North, Nashville 3, TN – Lee Bonds
009 11268 OKEE-FE-NO-KEE Capitol F2499
010 11269 NO HOPE F2591
011 11270 UNDECIDED HEART F2499
012 11271 A DOUBLE LIFE F2591
30 September 1953 [no 3139] Castle Studio at The Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Ave. North, Nashville 3, TN – Lee Bonds
013 11814 FROM ALL ANGLES F2692
014 11815 HOW COME YOU DONE LEFT ME unissued
015 11816 DONE GONE CRAZY F2692
5 October 1954 Castle Studio At the Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Ave. North, Nashville 3, TN -Lee Bonds
018 86912/NA 3371 SPOTLIGHT OF LOVE unissued
019 86913/NA 3372 HOME COMING unissued
late 1958 Nashville, TN – Lee Bonds
020 PC-9504 ONE MORE TIME Todd 45-1003
021 PC-9505 THAT’S THE FEELING Todd 45-1003
ca. January 1960 Nashville, TN – Lee Bonds
022 WALKIN’ WITH THE BLUES Todd 1055
023 HOMECOMING Todd 1055
Tennessee (1952) / Republic (1953-53)
804-45 Uh-Huh Honey / ? – 52
826-45 Wild Cattin’ Woman / For Sale-One Broken Heart – 52
7007-54 I Just Got Your Heartbreaking Letter / How About A Date – 52
7041-54 Give My Broken Heart A Break / I’m Glad That I Love You (w. Sonny Sims) – 53
F2499 Okee-Fe-No-Kee / Undecided Heart – 06-53
F2591 No Hope / A Double Life – 09-53
F2692 Done Gone Crazy / From All Angels – 12-53
9-29338 I’m Looking For Some Lovin’ / Dance Floor Waltz – 10-54
45-1003 One More Time / That’s The Feeling – ca. 01-59
Sources: Tony Biggs’ pictures and records + Martin Hawkins‘ book “Making Records – Nashville 1945-1955”
1055 Walkin’ With The Blues / Homecoming – ca. 03-60