On the heels of Fats Domino and Lloyd Price came Shirley and Lee "the Sweethearts of the Blues" who together were key figures in bringing New Orleans rhythm and blues into popular music's mainstream. Best known for their 1950s hits I'm Gone, Feel So Good, I Feel Good, and the timeless classic Let The Good Times Roll, Shirley and Lee were among the first R&B acts to be accepted by white audiences. The picture of youthful innocence, the duo were tailor made for the record buyers of era. They retained their popularity by working through most of the facets of teenage romance including break-ups, reunions, revenge, flirting, and eventually rocking all night long. Each new release was another chapter in a vinyl love affair that lasted over a decade.
Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee were part of a teenage group which harmonized in church and on street corners. The youngsters found out that in exchange for $2 they could make a one-sided demonstration 78 rpm record at Cosimo Matassa's J&M Studio. The kids pooled their allowances and one day after school they recorded a song they'd been rehearsing. A few months later, Aladdin Records' Eddie Mesner was in New Orleans looking for talent when Matassa played him the kids' tape. Mesner went crazy when he heard Goodman's shrill voice and demanded Matassa locate her. Eventually she was found and returned to the studio where she was paired with Leonard Lee.
Shirley and Lee's initial recording, I'm Gone, produced by Dave Bartholomew, was a #2 R&B hit in 1952 and set a pattern for records which followed. The duo rarely sang in unison because the range in their voices was so far apart. Lee usually cooed or posed a question and Shirley answered in sharp innocence. Their early records rarely strayed from the 12 bar blues or Louisiana ballad structure. Their sessions usually featured top-rated New Orleans session men like saxophonists Lee Allen and Red Tyler, drummer Earl Palmer, and string bassist Frank Fields. Besides the previously mentioned hits, this collection also includes lesser-known classics like Lee's Dream, Come On And Have Your Fun, The Flirt, Rockin Around the Clock, When Day Is Done, and A Little Word, a song Lloyd Price turned into the hit Just Because. This CD collects Shirley and Lee's finest Aladdin sides and shows that they deserve to be listed along with the other greats of New Orleans music.
By Jeff Hannusch