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Mickey Lee Lane

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There were many guys like Mickey Lee Lane working the fringes of the New York music business in the late '50s and '60s: songwriting, performing, arranging, fooling around in the studio, doing whatever was needed. As guys who hardly anyone recognizes several decades later go, Mickey Lee Lane persevered longer than most, building a longer and more interesting resume than many other such figures who never got big hits. Along the way he did a number of singles under his own and different names, proving himself to be a worthy if idiosyncratic performer, capable of mixing New York industry-conscious hooks with gutsy early rock & roll styles, blue-eyed soul, and outrageous novelty dance lyrics. He is perhaps best known for his mid-'60s single "Hey Sah-Lo-Ney," a soul-pop-dance tune that was covered by mid-'60s British mod band the Action. As a teenage rock fan, Lane entered the business as a songwriter in the Brill Building, doing a single for Brunswick with his sister Shonnie in 1958. He floated around as a member of the Bell Notes, a touring pianist with Neil Sedaka, and a songwriter, placing "My Little Woman" with a fading Bill Haley. All rather boring to recount, really, and Lane wasn't making much headway, but he kept plugging away and eventually got to put out some singles on Swan in the mid-'60s. These were odd but cool items that somehow sounded both like cynical pastiches of American pop-rock trends and inventive, rather off-the-wall dance tunes borrowing from early rockers like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, as well as contemporary soul dance songs. One of these, "Shaggy Dog," sneaked inside the Top Forty in late 1964. "The Zoo," "Hey Sah-Lo-Ney," and "The Senior Class" were pretty hep tunes along the same lines. Lane could also capably offer more pop-oriented tracks, such as "Little Girl (I Was Wrong)," with its mix of Jan & Dean, the Four Seasons, and Gary Lewis, or the melodramatic "She Cried to Me," which was something like the Shangri-Las as sung from a male point of view. In the latter part of the 1960s, Lane returned to a more behind-the-scenes role, as a recording engineer at New York's Studio 76, after which he became head engineer at Kama Sutra Records. He continued to record demos on his own throughout the rest of the 20th century. In the late '90s, a career retrospective CD, Rockin' On...And Beyond, was assembled for the Roller Coaster label, combining released and previously unreleased items and concentrating upon his 1960s material. ~ Richie Unterberger

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