William Lee is the nom de guerre of William B. Sealy—as it is understood by him that the undertaking of the production of art is to some degree a form of warfare. The moniker William Lee was chosen in homage to Lee's uncle William Lee Woodham, but also in reference to William S. Burroughs—who used William Lee as a pen name when writing his early novels and who inspired this direction of artistic purpose with the concept in his novel The Ticket That Exploded that language is a virus.
Language, of course, is not limited to spoken and symbolic languages such as English, but also of the visual and aural. It is the combination of music and lyrics as exemplified in folk traditions evolved from early human history that Lee finds as one of the more effective weapons to disrupt pervasive fallacies, propagandas, and agendas that are destructive to humanity. The question of humanity—it's loss through privation of the spirit, it's corruption by seemingly unsurmountable forces, and it's redemption and salvation by acts and actors of disproportionate courage—is a pervasive theme throughout Lee's work.
William Lee was born William Bradley Sealy in the small hamlet of Maryville in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. His paternal grandfather played fiddle in Montgomery Alabama and his maternal grandfather led his Primitive Baptist congregation in what is known as shaped-note singing, also known as sacred harp music, in Lower Alabama. Lee took Suzuki violin lessons as a child but really came to music when discovering Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, as a teenager. He learned how to play on a borrowed guitar given to his first girlfriend's father, who was a navigator in the United States Air Force, by a B-52 bomber pilot who perished when his airplane exploded after take-off.
Songwriting and experimenting with sound was a constant from the beginning through a short stint in Nashville after High School, and through college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where Lee attained a Bachelor's degree in Art History.
Soon after college Lee joined his older brother Braxton Woodham, a Captain in the Air Force at the time, in Los Angeles where he joined the band Hooverville with his brother Braxton on guitar and Gregg Garcia on drums. William Lee and Gregg Garcia would later be the main commonality in the collective of William Lee and the Modern Primitives. Hooverville would go through a number of name and personnel changes finally arriving at the name Band of Americans or BoA for short. When BoA disbanded in 2000 Gregg Garcia and William Lee began William Lee and the Modern Primitives in earnest playing their first show at The Silverlake Lounge and releasing a white 7" vinyl record. The only other release thus far has been 2009's Lost Blues and Forgotten Ballads—though there is a great deal of unreleased material including an unfinished album entitled Low Country recorded in Mufreesboro in October of 2010.
William Lee has also played solo under the name Blind Will See on a number of occasions most notably the Evereman festivals in Chattanooga and Atlanta in 2014.
William Lee is re-activating William Lee and the Modern Primitives with an upcoming single release of the song I Miss the Country (Don't You?) backed with Judges 16 (New Fantastical Version). Both of which were recorded for the unreleased album Low Country, though I Miss the Country has been re-recorded at the Bomb Shelter this past summer.
William Lee is in the process of converting his house in Nashville, as he had done in Los Angeles, to record the album of unknown length entitled The Ways of the Lonely Ones.