MARTIN ENDER LEE
The story begins in 1978, when Martin started out unplugged with two friends from school, the Hummel Brothers –Christoph and Felix-, two acoustic guitars, three voices, blues harp and tambourine, in the fashion of the now legendary „Sit Down Shows“ of Elvis Presley’s 1968 NBC TV-Special, playing songs by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Neil Young, Eric Burdon and early Elvis, of course.
In 1980 Martin turned electric and joined the Southern Rock Band FULLHOUSE as lead singer (recruited by „Big Daddy“ Päuli Meyer, drums, and Heinz „Hitch“ Widmer, bass – by then already local heroes with quite a reputation), rocking Switzerland with classics like Sweet Home Alabama, Polk Salad Annie, Takin’ the Midnite Train, just to name a few. Two years later the band unfortunately split due to substance abuse and other Rock’n’Roll clichés.
Martin fled the scene and visited the States for the very first time, traveling for three months from the West Coast to the East on a lyrical and spiritual discovery to the roots ot the songs he’d been singing.
Back in Switzerland Martin joined the Hard Rock-Band PARASITE as lead singer. This relationship lasted just a year, and although it was not exactly Martin’s kind of music that was a rocking good year.
With his old drummer buddy from the Fullhouse days, Päuli Meyer –today lead singer of the famous SCARECROWS- he founded ROUGH CUT and rocked Switzerland for the next four years with Blues-Rock, releasing their first single, a Tony Joe White cover of „Living in the River City“, in 1985.
1987 marked the birth of CROSSROAD with Adrian Peter (Parasite) on lead guitar, François Racine (Rough Cut) on guitar and keyboards, Urs „Joe“ Mettler (Rough Cut) on bass and Freddie Meier (Bloody Six, Scarecrow, Mugshot) on drums. The same year the band released their first self penned single „Keep the Blues alive“, a homage to the River City – Memphis, Tennessee.
Many gigs and a succesful tour in Poland followed but due to the band members personal paths to follow, the band split 1990.
Then Martin went on a second trip to the US, rediscovering his musical roots and in search of his all time idol and mentor TONY JOE WHITE. Although Martin did not meet Tony Joe personally at his home near Nashville, Tennessee (right at that time he was in the studio in New York, recording „Steamy Windows“ with Tina Turner !), he met his daughter Michelle instead, who was running her dad’s fan club and is now a succesful singer/songwriter herself.
Returning to Switzerland Martin teamed up with his old buddies Aldo Fasano (ex-Rough Cut lead guitarist, later leader of the famous TOOLBOXX and member of THE BREEZE & SCAREWROW) and Christoph Hummel and it was agreed that CROSSROAD would be re-launched.
The 90’s saw the reborn CROSSROAD claiming back their reputation as a dedicated and hard working Rhythm’n Blues live act playing songs from Dr. Feelgood to ZZ Top as well as originals, rocking Switzerland, Germany, International Biker Festivals, opening shows for Alvin Lee and The Climax Blues Band, and releasing the CDs „Steady Rollin’ Men“ (1993) and „Feelgood Prescription-Live“ (1995).
1993 marked another highlight in Martin’s career by winning an impersonator contest, chosing one of his other idols, Britain’s No. 1 white blues singer, ERIC BURDON: against heavy competition, in front of an audience of 2000 plus, he took the risk by not singing the world-wide known Animals/Eric Burdon-classic„House of the Rising Sun“ but the by then new but much lesser known song „Run for your life“. This was one of Martin’s proudest moments and proving the theory that a good song can always win over an audience and a jury.
During those years Martin also collaborated with his brother Bruno (VELVET VOYAGE). The ENDER LEE BROTHERS released the albums „For the heart and other assorted life songs“ in 1997 and „Ender Lee Bros.-Volume II“ in 1999, accompanied by a handful of unplugged shows in smaller venues.
By 1995 and after a couple of changes in the CROSSROAD line-up, Martin had his dream-team together with the Fasano Brothers –Aldo on lead guitar and Vincenzo on drums- and Emil Kaegy on bass. That lasted until 1999 when Martin left Switzerland and moved to Cyprus, the mediterranean island which became his new home for the next five years, working in real estate.
After a years break from the music business Martin was invited to join the Pafos based Blues/Soul/Rock/ Jazz-Band FRONTLINE in Cyprus, playing some 200 gigs island-wide in the Hotel/Pub/Bar circuit over the next four years, singing just any song from the Beatles to Frank Sinatra.
In 2003 Martin released 2 CDs simultaneously: the long overdue Ender Lee Bros. follow-up „Third Stage“ and the Martin Ender Lee solo-album „Raised on Rock“, the latter consisting of brand new songs and unreleased material from the last fiften years. Martin’s new rocking version of Elvis’ minor hit from 1973 „Raised on Rock“ was well received and played by the local radio stations.
In May 2005 Martin once again packed his bags, took his dreams and moved to Memphis, Tennessee, USA, where he always wanted to be. In Horn Lake, North Mississippi, just a short drive south from the River City, he found a new home and opened his specialty record store CROSSROADS RECORDS, selling new and used LPs and CDs and presenting live music with local musicians and bands. He met George Klein, Radio DJ and member of Elvis’ inner circle, the late Willie Mitchell, soul man and legendary producer at Royal Studios, soul queen Carla Thomas and finally his idol Tony Joe White in person.
He had weekly guest-appearences at the Blues Club at the Executive Inn Hotel near Memphis Airport where he sang with the house band featuring former Blues Brother’s drummer Willie Hall and legendary Stax/Muscle Shoals trumpet player the late Ben Cauley. A dream had come true – playing Memphis Music in Memphis.
It was hard to say goodbye after Immigration didn’t renew his visa and he had to go back to Switzerland. Disillusioned Martin had to start all over again which wasn’t an easy task. But he got on his feet again, doing his occasional one off shows with members of the old CROSSROAD-crew and in November 2008 he managed to bring TONY JOE WHITE to Switzerland where the Swamp Fox played a sold-out show at the Bar Route 66 in Hinwil (with CROSSROAD opening the show for him).
A Crossroad compilation CD „Greatest Hits…plus 1987 – 2007“ was released at the same time.
In October 2010 Martin recorded his first studio album in seven years with all new material, entitled „It is what it is!“ at DreamSound Studio in Einsiedeln with Aldo Fasano on guitars, Hamp Ruosch on keyboards, Reto Bauert on bass, Patrick Watanabe on drums and Isabelle Berthoud delivering harmony vocals. Songs by Tony Joe White, Delbert McClinton, Tommy Castro, Willie Nelson and the late Stephen Bruton were cut as well as an original, co-penned with Hamp, the rockin’ „Beale Street Boogie“, and a song Elvis Presley was supposed to record but unfortunately never did „(There’s a) Fire down below“, written by his then bass player Jerry Scheff back in 1976.
„It is what it is!“ came out in December 2010, and the CD-release-party took place January 29, 2011, at the Bar Route 66 in Hinwil. With HAMP GOES WILD as special guests
Martin rocked a packed house with his CD-crew dubbed NEW CUT ROAD, giving the new album the right kick-start.
In early May 2012 Martin assembled almost the same crew –Aldo Fasano on guitar, Hamp Ruosch on piano, Reto Bauert on bass, Markus Zehnder on drums- with guest appearences by Isabelle Berthoud, singing harmony and duetting on the funky Womack&Womack classic „Good man, good woman“ and Big Daddy Päuli Meyer, once again at Dreamsound Studio for the follow-up to „It is what it is“. 11 Songs were cut featuring songs by Tommy Castro, John Hiatt, Eric Burdon, Bob Dylan, Delbert McClinton and Tony Joe White.
The critically acclaimed album „Back to Memphis“ was released just before Christmas 2012 and a succesful release-party was held at the Tobel-Restaurant in Tann-Dürnten early January 2013 where the whole album was presented live.
The third instalment of Martin’s New Cut Road led him to Nashville, Tennessee, to cut his first album in the States. In April 2014 he recorded 12 songs at Tony Joe White’s Church Street Studio in Franklin, TN. On board Aldo Fasano, guitars, Hamp Ruosch, keys, Reto Bauert, bass, and …. Tony Joe’s drummer Bryan Fleetwood Owings. The icing on the cake was the participation of Tony Joe himself providing his trademark swampy guitar licks on 2 of his own songs High powered love & On silent wings. A dream of a lifetime came true. The album entitled «…and on to Nashville“ (in reference to the previous CD Back to Memphis) was released in November 1, 2014, with a roaring release party at the legendary Route 66 Bar in Hinwil.
Early May 2017 the gang -with the addition of Daniele Trebucchi on guitar- embarked on their second trip to Nashville. Once again in Tony Joe White’s Church Street Studio, with Tony Joe’s drummer Bryan Owings and Ryan McFadden on the recording board, they cut 13 new songs for an upcoming album due to be released in late autumn called „Old school prick“
…… to be continued …..