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The Lee Boys

2020 Florida Folk Heritage Award Winners

Six African American men sitting on a staircase.

By combining the sacred steel traditions from the House of God church with the other genres of music they loved as kids, The Lee Boys have found a new way to use sacred steel to reach a wider audience.

The tradition of sacred steel guitar is derived from the Hawaiian steel guitar fad of the 1930’s. As it began to be picked up by Pentecostal churches, the genre got a new name of sacred steel for its attachment to gospel music. When the instrument was first picked up by Willie and Troman Eason from the House of God church in Jacksonville, they began incorporating the electric lap steel guitar into their worship services. The soulful sound of the instrument rang true with other Pentecostal congregations, eventually become a staple in their services.

In Perrine, Florida, Reverend Robert E. Lee passed down the sacred steel traditions to his children, teaching them to play the instrument by the time they were 7 and 8 years old. Even as children playing in a church service, Alvin and his brother Glenn would often mix in riffs from the music of the 80’s that they enjoyed listening to. After the passing of their father and brother Glenn in 2000, The Lee Boys began to perform the sacred steel tradition outside of the church. Sacred steel stayed primarily in the church until the late 1990’s, when Florida folklorist Bob Stone and Arthoolie records joined together to make a compilation of the sacred steel players throughout Florida. This introduction to the world was enough to increase the popularity of sacred steel with the rest of the world, resulting in The Lee Boys performing for large crowds and getting to work alongside a number of well known musicians.

Today, the group consists of brothers Alvin, Derrik, and Keith Lee, along with their nephews Alvin Cordy Jr and Earl Walker, and their newest member Chris Johnson. In April 2019, the group released their latest album “Live on the East Coast”. As the 4th generation of sacred steel musicians, the group intends to carry on the style of music and follow along their mission statement, that “if we can touch one person through our music, then our job is done”.