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Down Time?

(July 13, 2015)   After a couple weeks, I’m back. Following last month’s whirlwind of gig activity, July is much slower, just a couple local shows.

Well, that and the recording of some new TL3 songs and the organization of a Neil Young Tribute Show that only involves some 14 people and nearly 20 songs.

Okay, maybe “slower” isn’t the right word.

For the past five Januaries, Susan and I have been involved in an annual benefit called Waynestock, a multi-day show featuring a wide variety of area bands and artists. The first one was thrown together quickly to raise funds for the family of our friend, Knoxville music writer Wayne Bledsoe after his 23-year-old son Andrew died from a suspected heart defect.

It took legs pretty quickly, and every year Waynestock benefits a different deserving family or organization.

During the last three, our band has hosted the finale set involving several artists from around town. This past January’s was a Young tribute, which went over well, so our friends out at the Shed in Maryville asked us to reprise it on their stage on July 25. Some of the folks who took part in the first one are not available this time around, and some who weren’t able to participate back in January are free this time. So there’s plenty to work on, personnel-wise, plus we’re adding some more songs.

Yeah, we have a tendency to take on a lot of stuff.

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What Comes Around

(June 28, 2015) – The band laid into a thick swampy vibe. The drummer put down a groove so hard, you “can drive nails with it,” the singer said. The young guitar player closed his eyes and cradled into his aging Telecaster, wringing out stinging notes between vocal lines.

Susan leaned against a post, swayed to the beat, and sang along.

Susan Bauer Lee, Chris Bratta, The Basement, Nashville, photo by Jon Byrd

Susan Bauer Lee, Chris Bratta, The Basement, Nashville, photo by Jon Byrd

It was Ray Wylie Hubbard’s second and final encore for the rowdy east Tennessee crowd, and the ageless Texas icon was singing about a “Chick Singer, Bad Ass Rockin’.” I looked over at Susan and thought, “Yep.”

A little over 24 hours earlier, I’d watched her from across the stage at the Basement in Nashville, admiring the way she swayed to to the beat with her beloved ’72 Precision Bass strapped around her neck while laying down a groove that was deeper than deep. I love to see her plant her feet and dig into the low end, occasionally dipping her left shoulder in time with the music. I love watching her sing, the way she cocks her head to the left and occasionally looks over at me from the corner of her eye. I really dig her voice, especially when lets a little growl creep in at certain moments.

All of that’s reason enough for me to put up with the bullshit that sometimes goes with playing music.

But this was Saturday, we were off the clock and the two of us were out for two kinds of r n’ r: rest and recreation, and rock n’ roll.

We’d gotten into town mid-afternoon after two days of gigs. Free Saturdays have been at a premium lately, so we felt like going to watch some music. We were fortunate enough to score a couple passes to the Hubbard show (thanks Jimmy and Josh), so we cleaned ourselves up and made the 30-minute drive to the Shed in Maryville, just south of Knoxville.

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Off the Road Again…

(June 21, 2015) Sunday morning and it’s quiet around here. Susan’s sleeping in. Dogs are too. Can’t blame her. Yesterday was a long one, but a good one.

There was no real travel for us this week, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a busy time, musically speaking. In addition to our usual work trying to make a few bucks to live on, we had a duo gig, a Bark show, and I had a sideline job as well.

On Wednesday night, we did a short acoustic duo set at Sweet P’s Barbecue and Soul House, where we’ve taken over as hosts of their once-a-month Songwriters in the Soul House series. It’s a fun deal. I book the guests, and we host the shows.

Scott McMahan used to put these together,  and he did a great job, but he recently moved to Virginia Beach and asked me to take over. I was glad to, mainly because I like to see things happen (like the Hannibal Smith of rock n’ roll … I love it when a plan comes together), but also because I’m a big fan of both Sweet P’s and its founder, Chris Ford.

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It Takes a Village… (June 12-14)


(DATELINE: June 15, 2015) Ah, monday morning after a weekend of travel and rock n’ roll. Coffee never tasted so good.

So what was last weekend about about? Something round on the ends and hi in the middle: Ohio. We generally get up that way maybe once a year, and it’s always a blast. Susan and I have been lucky to make a lot of good friends there over the years, plus many of our favorite bands are from the Buckeye State.

Tim Lee 3

TL, KA, SBL @ Crow’s Nest, Cincy

For this trek up I-75 across the Ohio River, our pal Kevin Abernathy joined Susan, Chris, and me. As I mentioned previously, Kevin has a really cool new record called “Ain’t Learned Yet” that we all had a hand in making. He’s also a fun guy to have around, so he’s a welcome addition to the stealth van.

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Flying Under the Radar


“… at least you’ve been a has-been, not just a never was.”

— “The Home Stretch” by Loudon Wainwright III


“There’s nothing there, just rattle to that buzz

Somebody said something ’bout a never was.”

— “Monkey Dance” by the Tim Lee 3


In 1976, I read Ian Hunter’s excellent book, Diary of a Rock Star, which chronicled Mott the Hoople’s 1973 tour of the United States. In its pages, Hunter’s stated mission was to demystify the rock star thing, to pull back the curtain and show their longtime fans how the machinery of the music biz worked. It’s a fascinating read that I’ve finished several times over the years.

Upon a recent rereading, the thought occurred to me to start a rambling dialogue, whether it be a blog or something less ephemeral, that followed the life of my band, the Tim Lee 3, which consists of myself, my wife Susan Bauer Lee, and our drummer Chris Bratta.

Ours is the story of a hardworking part-time rock n’ roll band, one that makes records and plays regular shows. One that exists on a different plane from famous bands or total part-timers who rarely leave the comfort of their hometown to perform.

It’s not glamorous, but it’s not a downer trip either. It’s just what it is: the story of three people who love to make racket and see various parts of the country through that racket.

So c’mon and have fun with us.

— TL

Vol. 1: Tell Me Why (June 6, 2015)IMG_6205

What makes a grown man climb in a van and drive several hours just for an hour (or less) of being on stage, playing rock n’ roll?

It was the question I asked myself as we pulled onto I-85, headed back toward Knoxville from Charlotte, on a beautiful spring morning. We were on the cusp of summer, and most middle-aged guys were washing their cars, mowing their lawns, or getting ready for a cookout with the family and friends.

I was driving.

My band and I had just fueled up: gas for the stealth van and coffee for the body and spirit. It was time to roll home.

I considered the four-hour drive that we faced, as Susan and Chris checked email and social media on their smart phones. I thought about the question I posed at the opening of this bit of scribbling. I knew the answer, and frankly I was quite comfortable with my choices.

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