British rock and roller Freddie 'Fingers' Lee passed away on Monday, Jan. 13. He was 76 years old. Lee suffered two strokes within the past decade and had recently contracted pneumonia.

Though hardly a household name, Lee was a wild and notorious presence on the UK rock and roll scene from the early '60s up to his death. Born in 1937, he lost his right eye at the age of three after an accident with a stray dart thrown by his father. According to the North Hampton Chronicle, Lee's daughter remembers her father occasionally dropping his glass eye in people’s drinks while they weren’t looking. “He was the most unconventional dad ever, but I wouldn’t of had it any other way."

In the early '60s he joined the Savages, Screaming Lord Sutch's band. Sutch was arguably the first rocker to incorporate theatrics into his concerts, long before Arthur Brown or Alice Cooper would make the scene. Lee was the guitarist in the band until a young upstart named Ritchie Blackmore stepped in. It was then that Lee moved over to piano.

He went on to play with Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde, and would also become a fixture at the legendary Star Club in Hamburg, Germany. Hanging out with a pre-mania Beatles, it was there Lee would play with many of his musical heroes including Gene Vincent, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Lee was also a prolific songwriter, penning songs recorded by Tom Jones and others.

Mott the Hoople lead singer Ian Hunter, who played with Lee in Hurricane Harry and the Shriekers back in the mid-'60s, offered this tribute on his official website:

I’m so sorry.


Fred, Miller Anderson, Pete Phillips and I had some great times back in the day. Fred was a character. He told me he started with Sutch on ten bob a week AND he had to drive the van. We starved together in Germany – van broken down – club owner not paying us – but we got to play for hours every night and that was the buzz. Somehow disasters were averted and we’d make it back.


I always felt bad for Fred. He was – quite naturally – Jerry Lee Lewis’ twin. Same range, same power on the keyboards, same arrogance and he could be really funny – same love of American Country music – he would often sail into a song the band had never heard of. Fred loved the raw original beginnings of Rock ‘n’ Roll and remained staunchly loyal to it during a long, successful career. He had a lot of fans in Europe and never seemed to stop working – music was his life.


We all went off and did different things, but I’ll always be grateful to Fred for giving me a little hope at a time when I thought the factory was my only future. I’ll always remember him saying to me “You’re a good songwriter – but don’t ever try to sing.” He was probably right!!!
Rest In Peace, Freddie.
Condolences to all.
Ian Hunter

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