Friday, May 17, 2019

Warren Lee R.I.P.

Warren at the decks, Empire State Soul Club, The Mercury Lounge, NYC, Summer 1994
Word filtered through yesterday that Warren Lee, the legendary NYC soul DJ and founding member of the Empire State Soul Club passed away and I decided it was only fitting to pay tribute to the man who kept the dance floor packed.

Mod Nite December 30, 1984

I first encountered Warren Lee when him and Weems DJ-ed a mod night organized by members of a NYC mod band called The Scene at Danceteria on December 30, 1984. I remember the date because it was like the gathering of the tribes as far as mods were concerned and I met so many people that night who I know to this day. Stepping into that room was like walking onto a 60's film set with mods everywhere, dancers on elevated podiums and Dobie Grey's "Out On The Floor" pumping through the sound system.  I did not encounter Warren again until the Empire State Soul Club rolled into Maxwell's in 1988. A whole gang of us besuitted mod types joined the ESSC that night and got our light blue membership cards and stylish Empire State building soul club badges and the stage was set.  There were never any consistent DJ nights in New York at that time, it was more about bands and here was an opportunity to dance into the wee hours to DJ's spinning 60's soul. In my opinion there was never a better soul night in the Big Apple and there never will be! Eventually I got to know Warren from their gigs at the Mercury Lunge and The Norther River Bar. He was always patient, kind and perfectly willing to indulge my barrage of questions about what he spun and was my go-to guy when I heard some British band doing a soul cover and I needed to know who the original was. Then there was Jones, a now defunct little eatery/bar on Great Jones Street in NYC where Warren bar tended and most importantly, stocked the juke box ensuring that even when the E.S.S.C. was on hiatus his tunes were still being heard! In a genre where snobbery  and pretension eventually prevailed and everyone and their grandmother is now a DJ Warren Lee stood for what it was all about: an unpretentious guy who spun music not to impress or show off his records but to keep the dance floor packed and if Warren was spinning at the E.S.S.C. I was never at the bar I was always on the floor.

My E.S.S.C memorabilia.

For more recollections and tributes to Warren please pop on over to one of our fave blogs,  Shake Some Action.  This one's for you Warren, god speed:


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