Alley Records and the musicians of Northeast Arkansas are almost
synonymous. Joe Lee, owner of Alley has been friend and mentor
to so many musicians and budding musicians over the past four
decades that it would take the vast expanses of Craighead Forest
Park to hold their number.
His creative genius and gifted musicianship has made Joe a legend in the music business. Anywhere there is a gathering of musicians you will find someone there with a story to tell about how Joe Lee influenced his life.
Joe Lee was born in Inverness, Mississippi; another one of those small farming towns that seemed to produce as much great music as it did cotton. Joe's talent became evident early and he was still in high school when he began performing with a big band. After finishing high school he attended Ole Miss and graduated with a music degree. Making a living as a musician has always been hard and Joe began teaching music to high school students by day and playing his saxaphone by night.
In the '50s Joe worked with the Bill Black Combo while Elvis did his hitch in the Army and by the end of the 50's he had moved into the Memphis studio scene as an A&R man, engineer, writer, arranger, and session musician. During the early 60's he opened his own studio. This studio was located in a small alley in downtown Jonesboro, Arkansas; and so he called it Alley Records and the rest is history. Joe Lee releases include, Lazy Gal Blues, Blackeyed Peas, Bottom of the Bag, and Joe's Mix. Joe has written many tunes which have been recorded by other artists, one of those was "One More Time" which Willie Cobbs recorded at Fernwood.
Joe Lee has that unique ability to see the possibilities. He saw those possibilities in the young men and women who passed through his studio. He took the shy ones and gave them courage, the brash ones and gave them discipline, and then he made a record. The wealth of talent that came from that studio is legion and Papa Joe is the stuff that legends are made from.