For more than three decades, Lee Williams & the Spiritual QC'S made music for little but love-love of the Gospel message, memorable melodies, sweet harmony and a beat that just refused to let feet sit still.
And none of that has changed one bit.
At the same time, almost everything else surrounding this dynamic foursome in the last six years could read like a great novel, if it wasn't the honest-to-goodness truth. Hot on the heels of Lee & the QC'S smash album, Good Time, featuring the national, chart-topping hit, "You Didn't Have To," comes their eagerly anticipated MCG Records follow-up, Right On Time, a riveting, 13-song testimony of love and faith, running a gamut from solid, rocking R&B/Gospel to heartfelt balladry and powerful anthems. The quartet's exciting, high-energy, R&B and rock-flavored Gospel quartet sound continues to captivate listeners, crossing all walks of life, ethnicity and denomination.
On an album filled with hits-in-the-making, several cuts in particular stand out for Lee. The title cut of Right On Time-an instant radio smash-rocks with joyous abandon. "We think we've got to have something, and we want it right now," says Lee. "I think God wants to show us that He knows far better than we do what we need and when. And when we look back on all He's done for us, we can see that his working in our lives is on His time, not ours. And He's always right on time."
"God So Loved" is a soul-stirring ballad. "No matter what we do, or don't do-should do or shouldn't-God still has mercy on us and makes a way for us," Lee says. "He shows his love to us every day, in so many ways. And whenever I might lose touch with that fact, I can be sure it's me who's failing and falling short. Never Him."
"Nobody But You" puts a profound message of God's omnipotence to an irresistible, roof-rattling R&B groove. "No matter what we do, or don't do-should do or shouldn't-God still has mercy on us and makes a way for us," Lee says. "He shows his love to us every day, in so many ways. And whenever I might lose touch with that fact, I can be sure it's me who's failing and falling short. Never Him."
"Jesus Made A Way" is a driving, compelling profession of faith. "I've had times-and I think a lot of people have-where there was something I truly needed, but just couldn't see where I would find the resources it required," says Lee. "So you go to bed and pray on it, and turn it over to God, and when you wake up the next morning either your phone rings, or you meet somebody, or something develops through which that need is met. Some way, somehow, He's worked it out that somebody comes to your rescue. That's no coincidence. That Jesus making a way."
Lee was born and raised in Tupelo, Mississippi-where he still lives today-in a strong, church-going household where making music was a regular part of daily life. Lee had an uncle in a quartet called the Gospel Stars that was popular in and around Tupelo. When he was only seven, Lee and his three older brothers formed their own quartet, listening to and replicating the songs they heard their elders singing.
The boys were talented and became frequent guests at the Gospel Stars performances, becoming known as the Gospel Star Juniors. It was that same uncle who formed the first Spiritual QC'S, which included Lee's brother Willie on guitar. When that act disbanded in 1964, Lee and Willie hung onto the name and assembled new personnel to round out the group.
Lee and the QC'S built a strong local and regional following, but chose to perform only on weekends and holidays, maintaining their family, church and community lives in Tupelo. It wasn't until a self-produced cassette of some of the group's songs made its way into the hands of a Memphis, Tenn., radio announcer in the early '90s that the QC'S world began to change.
Lee and his partners were surprised to find that not only had their tape been getting some airplay in Memphis, but that listeners were calling to request it and to find out where it could be purchased. That response led to release on a small local record label.
The group's popularity continued to grow and by the mid-'90s nearly all the members' free time was spent playing dates all over the Southeast. A show in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1996, was attended by a representative of MCG Records, who took an immediate interest in the Spiritual QC'S, and by that summer, the foursome-Lee, Al Hollis, Leonard Shumpart and Roger McKinney-were signed to the label and at work on their first album, Love Will Go All the Way.
"I was amazed, because I had never looked at our music as a career," says the ever-modest Lee. "I had been writing songs for 15-20 years before we even recorded anything. I wasn't thinking about the music business. I was just doing it because I loved it."
Almost as soon as the album hit the streets and the airwaves, Lee & the QC'S soared from a solid regional following in and around their Mississippi home and the Southeastern United States, to national renown almost overnight. Still packing ever-larger venues across America, and performing more than 200 dates a year, the group ignites almost explosive excitement and celebration.
"It was Gospel quartet music that played a major role in the birth of R&B, soul and rock'n'roll," says Lee. "They all borrowed from us. We've cranked it up considerably since the old days, but the heart of our sound has been consistent for years. If it sounds familiar…if it makes you wanna get up and dance, or maybe shed a tear here and there…well, it ought to. This is where it all started."
Staying close to his roots, Lee still occasionally revisits his truck-driving days. "Every now and then, if the company needs an extra driver, and I've got a couple of days off, I'll take a drive," he says. "That's a real get-away…a mind-relaxer for me, and spending time in the truck stops keeps in touch with the real world, not to mention giving me good ideas for songs."
As the pride of Tupelo is embraced across America and beyond, Lee works all the harder to keep his eyes on the Giver of all great gifts. "I never planned on any of this recognition and success," says Lee. "I was happy working Monday through Friday and playing music around the area on weekends. But when all this came about, I took it as God telling me it was time to drop everything else and go totally for Him, and that's what I've done. I've tried not to let it affect who I am, and if there have been any changes, I hope they've been changes for the better. I'm just doing my best to stay focused on what He would have me do."