Katie Lee’s long career as an entertainer started in her childhood. As a student at Tucson High School, she was part of the theater department. She also sang locally. She continued this at the University of Arizona, singing in clubs to pay for her college education. In 1948, Lee moved to Hollywood and began to build a national reputation as a folk singer. She appeared on radio shows and later on television shows. Lee traveled across the U.S. performing folk music. After she moved to Jerome, Arizona in 1970, she wrote and published five books and released nine more music albums. In total, Katie Lee released fourteen albums during her career. She also wrote articles for magazines about Glen Canyon and many “letters to the editor” concerning environmental and political issues.
Lee continued performing well into the 2000s. She sang at awareness concerts about Glen Canyon, performed book readings, and gave lectures, mainly around Northern Arizona.
After her arrival in California in 1948, Katie Lee had many jobs. She performed on NBC’s The Great Gildersleeve. After her initial episode aired, her popularity led the producers to feature her in several more episodes. Lee appeared on other radio shows and, eventually, television, usually as a folk singer. While in Hollywood, she worked as an actress, singer, and secretary for Mary Pickford Productions. Her connection to Burl Ives led to a series of club and coffee house tours where she sang folk songs between 1954 and 1962.
Some of Katie Lee’s roles on radio, television, and films include:
The Great Gildersleeve
The Railroad Hour
The Halls of Ivy
One Man’s Family
The Walter O’Keefe Show
The Armchair Detective
Helen Parrish’s The Telephone Hour
Week-End with Father
Katie Lee’s professional music career took off when she was asked to record an album in 1956. This first album, “Spicy Songs for Cool Knights,” led to more recording opportunities. In 1957 and 1960, Lee recorded two psychoanalysis satire albums, “Songs of Couch and Consultation” and “Life is Just a Bed of Neuroses,” that played on popular psychology treatments at the time. She had one live album released in 1962 before returning to folk music albums which highlighted her trips on the Colorado River. From folk music to popular satire and back to folk, Lee’s musical career mirrors other aspects of her life, making full circles and connecting the start to the finish.
Chicago: Lee performed many times in Chicago, becoming a popular act and staying in the city for an extended period. She rented an apartment there as a result of her long run.
NYC: Lee performed at the Blue Angel Club in New York City, a prestigious club and venue for many top performers from the 1940s to the early 1960s.
Tucson: Lee’s hometown was proud of her. She returned many times and performed at local clubs and restaurants. She was featured in an Arizona Daily Star article about important Tucsonan women of 1957.
Humanities Tour: In 1971, Lee was asked to do a nine month tour with other artists, performing across the United States at schools, colleges, universities. Some states where she performed are Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Spicy Songs for Cool Knights (1956)
Songs of Couch and Consultation (1957)
Life is Just a Bed of Neuroses (1960)
***The first three albums Katie Lee released were later reissued together as “Songs of Couch and Consultation”
The Best of Katie Lee; Live at the Troubadour (1962)
Folk Songs and Poems of the Colorado River (1964)
Love’s Little Sisters (1975)
Colorado River Songs (1976)
Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle (1977)
Maude, Billy, and Mr. D. (1990)
His Knibbs and the Badger (1992)
Glen Canyon River Journey (1998)
Colorado River Songs (2nd release, 1998)
Folksongs from the 50s (2009)
Katie Lee’s writing career officially began when she published Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle in 1976. The book is a compilation of cowboy songs from interviews Lee conducted while touring the country as a folk singer. She viewed the book as a history of the west through music. In 1998, Lee published All My Rivers Are Gone, which was republished as Glen Canyon Betrayed in 2006. This book is the first of a trilogy she wrote about Glen Canyon. The second book of the trilogy, Sandstone Seduction, was published in 2004. The third, Ghosts of Dandy Crossing, was published in 2014, her last publication. The Glen Canyon trilogy features Lee’s journal entries and correspondence between Lee and friends. Together, the books provide insight into her childhood in Tucson, career as an entertainer, and her trips through Glen Canyon. Just before Ghosts of Dandy Crossing was published, Lee published the Ballad of Gutless Ditch (2010), a Western adventure told through cowboy music.
10,000 Goddam Cattle (1976)
All My Rivers Are Gone (1998)
Sandstone Seduction (2004)
Glen Canyon Betrayed (previously All My Rivers Are Gone) (2006)
Ballad of Gutless Ditch (2010)
Ghosts of Dandy Crossing (2014)
In 1972, Katie Lee was awarded the Golden Eagle Award from the Council of International Nontheatrical Events (CINE) for her documentary The Last Wagon. Gail Gardner and Billy Simon, two singers and cowboys, were interviewed by Lee about music and the West.
In 2007, Lee created a DVD called Love Song to Glen Canyon which features music, stories, and photographs about her travels in Glen Canyon.