British singer Lady Lee (now known as Lee Everett Alkin) enjoyed an exciting life among the top stars of the 1960s, including lover Billy Fury and, later, husband Kenny Everett. Her recording career, however, proved all too brief, after her debut – a take on Earl-Jean’s I’m into something good – was derailed when Herman’s Hermits released a rival version.
Lady Lee was born Audrey Middleton on 14 February 1937 in Sheffield, Yorkshire.
After quitting school, she began working as an usherette in a local cinema. She married young, but the marriage broke down when she became romantically involved with a touring musician while her husband was away on National Service.
After suffering a miscarriage, she moved to London, where she found work singing at The 2i’s Coffee Bar on Old Compton Street in Soho in 1958. Within a year, she began touring with Emile Ford before going on to perform in cabaret at The Bag o’ Nails, another well-known Soho venue.
Impresario Larry Parnes took over managing the young singer, renaming her Lady Lee. Among his roster of stars were the likes of Duffy Power, Billy Fury, Tommy Steele and Marty Wilde. Lee and Power were attracted to each other and moved in together, albeit briefly.
Things changed when she was introduced to Billy Fury, however. The pair fell in love and began a relationship that would see them live together for eight years.
Lady Lee would also tour with the singer as part of a package that included other Parnes signings, under the label Rockin’ with The 2i’s.
It wasn’t 1964, however, that Lee was rewarded for her efforts with a recording contract. Signed to the Decca label, she cut a version of a song that Parnes had found on a trip to the US – the Gerry Goffin and Carole-King-penned I’m into something good, a Stateside hit for Earl-Jean.
Excited by her new record, Lee made what would turn out to be a catastrophic mistake: she played it to former boyfriend Alex Wharton. Wharton had been half of 1950s rock ‘n’ roll duo The Most Brothers with future record producer Mickie Most.
Wharton, in turn, gave a copy of the record to Most, who whisked his own Herman’s Hermits into the studio and rush-released their version. The five-piece went on to top the UK charts with the song and enjoy a top 20 hit in the US, while Lee’s record was quickly forgotten.
After picking herself up and dusting herself off, Lee swapped managers, moving to the Phil Solomon Agency.
She also returned to the studio to record Ninety nine times out of a hundred. Issued in May 1965, the song had an impeccable pedigree – having been penned by Ivor Raymonde, the man behind hits by Dusty Springfield and others – though Lee had since said that she “loathed” the record. For all its catchiness, and despite appearances on Juke box jury and Thank your lucky stars, the single bombed. (The B-side, I can feel it, is also worth a listen.)
After switching to Columbia, the singer cut what would become her final single, My whole world (seems to be tumbling down). The song is thought to be the first composition by Tony Macaulay, who wrote it with Don Paul of The Viscounts. Macaulay would become better known for his work with The Foundations, Marmalade and The Paper Dolls, amongst others. Lee has since said that the song is her favourite of her recordings, though this held little sway with record buyers upon its release in October 1965. (Again, the B-side, Girl, deserves checking out.)
With no hits to her name, Lee settled into retirement in her and Fury’s home in Surrey. Their relationship was not without its ups and downs, and the couple separated for a while when Fury began a relationship with actress Amanda Barrie. However, in 1967, Lee and Fury would split permanently.
Around this time, she became friends with DJ and future TV star Kenny Everett and the couple went on to marry in 1969. They separated in the late 1970s and the marriage was dissolved in 1984. By this time, Everett had come out as gay and Lee had established herself as a spiritualist and faith healer. She has published a couple of books: A happy medium, in 1983, and Kinds of loving, in 1987.
She later remarried to actor John Alkin, and now goes by the name Lee Everett Alkin.
With thanks to Kris Kirk for additional research.
Our pick of the pops
Ninety nine times out of a hundred
My whole world (seems to be tumbling down)
I'm into something good
I can feel it
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Find Lady Lee 45s at GEMM