Texas-born country singer Johnny Lee spent years as a journeyman performer, playing Lone Star honky tonks and recording for various labels, before finally breaking through as a major crossover star with the 1980 hit “Lookin’ for Love.” John Lee Ham was born in Alta Loma, Texas on July 3, 1946, and he came of age listening to first-generation rock & roll artists such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Billing himself as Johnny Lee, Ham went from fan to performer in high school, when he and his friends formed a band called the Road Runners. The Road Runners’ local success came to a halt when Lee joined the Navy and served in Southeast Asia as America’s involvement in Vietnam grew. After Lee was discharged, he bounced around from Texas to California looking for gigs, and landed his first serious break when he met honky tonk man Mickey Gilley in 1968; Lee reminded Gilley of the time they had met and talked music in Galveston, Texas, and Gilley allowed Lee to join him on-stage that evening. Gilley eventually signed Lee as a backing vocalist and trumpet player, unaware that Lee was pulling his leg and the two hadn’t previously met.
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