Names may change, but guitarist Lee Hollowell is still playing the blues
Lee Hollowell has had three names in his 53 years – the one his mother gave him, the one he earned renting bikes in Key West, Fla., and the one he earned as a musician in the Roaring Fork Valley. Hollowell was Lee growing up in Michigan. He was a straight-ahead kid until he changed schools in his early teens. He made friends with another one of the “new kids” in school, who happened to play an electric guitar. “Once I heard it I just fell in love with it,” Hollowell said. Soon Hollowell was playing in a band, the Liberaters, singing songs through the band’s single amp and spelling words incorrectly.After high school and during his early 20s Hollowell drifted away from music, but he “always kept a little something going – strumming and singing.”On a rainy and foggy night in 1974, Hollowell drove into the side of a moving freight train. “I realized you can check out any second,” he said. “If you got something you want to do, you might want to think about not putting it off.”With that, Hollowell moved to Key West and was on his way to his first nickname. He played guitar with the Coconut Palm Trio and opened Bubba’s Bike Rental.Bubba wasn’t his name, of course, but it fit in with Key West in the 1970s, a place with locals – who were called old conchs – and new arrivals – who were called “Bubba.””Bubba” became more than a new-arrival label for Hollowell. “I was Bubba,” he said. “I didn’t want to be.”Hollowell’s stint in Key West lasted until he saw an ad for a housesitter in Aspen 10 years later. He and his wife packed up and moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1984. He soon met yet another person with an electric guitar, just as he did as a 15-year-old in Michigan. The guy was from Fort Worth, Texas, and played a Stratocaster on a Fender Reverb amplifier. That combination “just struck a chord,” he said, begging forgiveness for the pun. Hollowell played with a variety of bands in the valley – the Jaguars, Local 208 – before forming his current band. Hollowell and bandmate and harmonica player Mike Stahl tried to create a name that would be kind of fun and reflect the band’s propensity for blues. Big Daddy Lee & the Kingbees were born, and so was Big Daddy – Hollowell’s second nickname. “I am typically just Lee,” he said. “But anybody in music calls me Big Daddy.”Hollowell’s Kingbees are Stahl, Larry Gruber on bass and Bill McGreeby on drums. The band plays Chicago-style blues, according to its fliers, but is really more blues with Hollowell’s own style. “It’s either straight-ahead blues or weird tremolo kind of stuff,” he said.”(Blues) is just my natural sort of music,” he said. Though Big Daddy Lee & the Kingbees have been around for quite a while, all the members still have day jobs and will pass up gigs if they’re too big of a hassle. “The money isn’t that big of incentive,” he said.Having a fun gig, however, is a big incentive – which, lucky for New Year’s Eve partygoers, is exactly what the Big Daddy Lee & The Kingbees are planning at the Black Nugget Friday. Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.orgWhat: Big Daddy Lee & The KingbeesWhere: The Black NuggetWhen: New Year’s Eve
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