If it weren’t for his getting a failing grade in Art History when he was a junior at Milwaukee’s High School of the Arts, we might never have had the pleasure of seeing Pierre perform music. He would’ve channeled his creative energies into painting instead. And we would have been the poorer for it.
Pierre Stephen “Mr. Untouchable” “Honey Boy” Lee prefers to be called simply Pierre now. Despite his ditching all the other monikers, he has made quite a name for himself in the Milwaukee area. Pierre is certain to have many more know his name before he is through.
Pierre made the change to broaden his appeal beyond just being known as a blues guitarist. “People never really understood that the ‘Honey Boy’ nickname was given to me after (blues legend) David “Honey Boy” Edwards,” Pierre said during an interview. He added that he doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed into just one genre of music or just one instrument. Pierre is a wonderfully talented Blues guirarist. But also plays the keys, some drums a little bass and sings for good measure.
Besides the Blues, Pierre also plays Jazz, R&B, Rock & Roll, Soul and Funk as well. You pick the genre and he will tackle it.
Back to his introduction to music. As an alternative to failing out of the art program, the school gave him the option of pursuing a double major. Jazz appreciation was the only thing left, so he went for it. Problem was, he didn’t know much about jazz and furthermore didn’t play an instrument.
Pierre borrowed some money, bought one of those toy Casio keyboards for cheap and taught himself to play a song to get through the audition. He managed to muddle through and got accepted The teacher told him how far behind the other kids who had been playing since they were in the womb so he played catch-up by practicing.
It wasn’t the easiest environment to thrive in for Pierre growing up. His father was in jail. His mother was on drugs. He was raised mostly by his 84-year old grandmother, whom he cares for in her later years.
This was in Gary, Indiana and the now 27-year old Pierre would listen to Blues artists on the 8-Track player in grandma’s Buick. It was here where he got his appreciation for Howlin’ Wolf and others. Grandma told him stories of how they would go into the clubs and hear all the great performers in the vibrant Chicago Blues scene in the 50s and 60s.
After graduating high school, Pierre joined a group called Foots & The Misfits and would play at Gene’s Supper Club starting in 2007. “There have been a lot of musicians that were good to me. I make my living as a musician and I’m proud of that,” Pierre said.
“But I hear all the war stories. I don’t want to end up to be 60 and have to scrape around just to pay my bills. As a musician I work so hard to get paid so little…sometimes you feel that you’re not appreciated,” Pierre added.
He writes songs and plays out regularly at the Five O’Clock Steakhouse on State Street in Milwaukee and with Harvey Westmoreland for the open jam at Caroline’s on Wednesday nights, 8:30-12:30. Pierre hosts the Blues-oriented jam on Thursdays at Caroline’s, also from 8:30-12:30 on Second & Florida on the city’s near south side.
We shouldn’t be at all surprised if Pierre does his own cover art for his CDs. Do yourself a favor and stop in wherever he is playing. Turns out he is pretty good at history…making musical history, that is.