In honor of the 50th anniversary of hip hop, the Jackson Advocate dedicates its 85th anniversary issue to Lee King, Mississippi’s most celebrated visionary in the entertainment industry. We applaud his tenacity to tread new frontiers in music and dance, and after over half a century in the field, he hasn’t slowed down. His promotion of music concerts, festivals, record deals, artist development, and award shows is second to none. The Jackson Advocate takes great pride in paying tribute to our shining star. Congratulations!
Lee King was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and moved to Jackson, Mississippi, over 40 years ago. Lee, married with four children, arrived in Mississippi via Augusta, Georgia, where he worked for legendary entertainer James Brown.
King has been in the entertainment industry since he was 12 years old. As a radio announcer at the age of 13, he continued singing and dancing. Lee traveled worldwide with international recording artist Joe Tex as his opening act until he received an electrical engineer’s scholarship. He became one of the youngest in the United States with a 1st Class radio and television engineer’s license.
Entertainer James Brown read about Lee’s engineer license and had just purchased three radio stations. Lee went to Augusta, Georgia, as Brown’s radio engineer and full time DJ. King left Brown after four and a half years and landed an engineer’s position at WOKJ radio in Jackson, MS.
After working for a year at WOKJ, Lee had ambitions to produce a dance variety television show and promote concerts. He wrote, produced, and hosted “Black Gold” dance TV show for 21 years. He started his concert promotion company while doing “Black Gold” and to date, for over 40 years, is still doing concerts.
King’s list of artists he has promoted over the years reads like a “Who’s Who” of greats in the entertainment business. They include: Michael Jackson US Tour; Janet Jackson US Tour; The Jackson’s World Tour; Prince; Beyonce; Patti LaBelle US Tour; Earth, Wind & Fire World Tour; The Commodores World Tour; Isley Brothers US Tour; The O’Jays US Tour; The Budweiser Superfest; Destiny’s Child US Tour; Luther Vandross US Tour; Whitney Houston; Kirk Franklin; Vickie Winans; Williams Brothers; MS Mass Choir; Mighty Clouds of Joy; Shirley Caesar; Canton Spirituals; Dorothy Norwood; Dottie Peoples; Luther Barnes; and many more.
He has produced concerts for numerous major entertainers. King is currently producing festivals (executive producer of the Farish Street Heritage Festival for 34 years), concerts, plays, and special events for Lee King Entertainment; executive producer of the Jackson Music Awards (44 years), and serves as co-owner and CEO of Phoenix Entertainment Group, a record label, artist management, and development firm that is one of the most respected entertainment companies in the country.
The Jackson Advocate posed a few questions to our man of the hour. Here’s what he had to say:
Jackson Advocate: Did you foresee hip hop evolving to where it is fifty years later? If so, what were the signs?
Lee King: I was truly a skeptic when I first heard hip hop. I thought radio would never embrace it because it was so raw. I felt that while many of the hip hop lyrics were the truth about the streets, society, and racism, I did not like the way hip hop reflected our woman and often times the language was just too raw. Over time, as hip hop matured and many of the artists took a more positive posture, then, and only then, did I become a believer.
JA: What’s the driving force behind your desire to bring and maintain quality entertainment in your community? You could have left to pursue larger markets. Why did you stay?
King: Jackson and the state of Mississippi deserved quality entertainment. When I arrived from Augusta, Georgia, and stopped working for the most powerful man in show business, Mr. James Brown, I came away with the skills to promote and produce the highest quality shows. I also found when I arrived promoters who were promoting entertainment had little to no experience in promoting shows. I had many offers to promote in larger markets than Jackson. But once I decided to put my roots here in Jackson, I decided to bring to Jackson the greatest entertainment that could be found anywhere in the world. It was time for Jackson to get the same, if not better, entertainment like Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, and that other larger cities were experiencing.
JA: How have you influenced your son (Kamel) to carve out his own niche in the entertainment industry?
King: I think my son was influenced by feeling my passion for law. In an earlier life, I really wanted to be a lawyer or judge. Couple that with him watching and learning from me about this entertainment business forged a desire for him to become an entertainment attorney. Maybe in another life I was an entertainment attorney. When my son went to law school, he would come home and discuss many of the things he had learned. As we talked, he was amazed that I knew a lot of the answers to his law studies. While continuing to produce my “Black Gold” television show, concerts, plays, and festivals, he observed and learned many things about the entertainment business. So, I think it was only natural for him to develop some of the same likes that I have. Once he decided his path in entertainment, I gave him all of the support that he needed to carve out his own path in this entertainment industry.
JA: Who are your top five favorite artists, regardless of genre. Any dancers you find fond to remember?
King: My top five favorite artist are James Brown, of course; Joe Tex, whom I worked for before James Brown; Patti LaBelle; B.B. King; Whitney Houston; Prince; Michael Jackson, oh, sorry, I better stop there…you did just ask for five.
Dancers of my fondness memories: Hollis Pippins (“Black Gold’s” choreographer), Bridget Archer, Diamond Taylor, Sirena Wilson, JaChristava Robinson, JaTonda Carter, Betty Hamberlin, Ray Beasley, Sharon Thomas, Teresa Hubbard, JoAnn McInnis, Mammie…well I better stop right here, I don’t think you have enough room on you newspaper page to cover the many FANTASTIC dancers that put the GOLD in “Black Gold”!!!!!