Henry Lee Summer latched on to the sound of pop and rock radio in the 80s and rode that bad boy to a couple of late-decade hits, and a handful of good, heartland rock and roll albums.
But in his home state - Indiana - Summer was more than couple nice radio hits and a handful of albums. Weird that he could be, maybe? Really not. His story is like a lot of local-but-more-music heroes. Cleveland and Providence and Pittsburgh and Toronto. Artists like Donnie Iris, Kim Mitchell, John Cafferty, and Joe Grushecky.
Henry Lee Summer mined the sound of late 80’s rock and roll with his own little twist, influenced by Top 40 AM radio hooks, and, in the best way, a product of live sets in the smoke and noise and chaos of a live rock and roll club. His is the sound of the Midwest. The studio recordings - most of them - shined up for presentation to the masses, and the live shows greased and gritted for the faithful.
And he played great shows. Evenings that turned revival-ish. A shared act of live, loud, shakin' crowd-into-it rock and roll. Henry Lee, well beyond most of his hit-making days, brought the goods, man. His last hit was the early 90s. I saw him making it rock in a live setting be fantastic ten years past that.
And then he wasn't. And now he is again.
I loved seeing Henry Lee live. Here's an episode driven by a hope to share how great that act was without overselling it. Because in the end, Henry Lee Summer had a handful of hits on the radio. Nothing more than that - unless you saw him live. Then it makes more sense: the straining-to-be-loose studio albums that never quite were roughed up enough (other than the second major label release - "I've Got Everything") as he chased the right mix of hanging on and totally in the groove. That balance was what he harnessed on stage.
So these are my stories of discovery and the way one musician nothing much to most music fans, found a way to mean something more where he was and when he could. Maybe this one is a little more personal than usual. I'm OK with that. I hope you are too. Enjoy the listen.
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Read Rob's current and archived writing at rockforwardmusic.com