Loud dispatches from Lansing’s music scene

A look back at the late, great Lee Talboys

From Harlem Globetrotters games to venues across Lansing, Talboys always entertained

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Aside from Don Lee Bloomquist and The Blue Echoes, another Lansing music pioneer was Homer “Lee” Talboys, a supper-club entertainer who sang and played a variety of instruments, including sax and organ.  

Sure, he was not churning out wild rock ’n roll, but his signature easy listening pop tunes, paired with a pleasing baritone vocal delivery, allowed him to press up stacks of records, like “Ladder of Love,” from the early ’60s through the 1980s. 

Some of those tunes are streamed on YouTube, like the bubbly 1962 track “Lovin’ Lies” on Palladium Records and the uber smooth “Baby Baby” 7-inch single on the Spinning Records label. Some even gained commercial success. “Lovin’ Lies” knocked off Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini” as the number one song on the WILS music chart in August 1960.

Aside from performing and releasing 45s and LPs on the Royalty Records imprint, he also owned his own restaurant, Coventry Inn, in Mason from 1971 to 1981. There, Talboys was known to entertain the patrons as they dined.

Talboys, who died Dec. 1, 2009 at age 79, started his musical journey at age 15. Prior to that, he was born May 13, 193w0 in Stockton, Illnois. Along with his parents, Claude and Alice Talboys, the soon-to-be performer moved to Boyne City, Michigan where the family opened and operated a restaurant. 

After graduating from Boyne City High School, Talboys attended Michigan State University where he also played on the football team. Following his East Lansing stint, he was stationed in Germany while serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. After returning to his hometown, in July 1952, he married his wife, Margaret A. Tomkins. The couple would ultimately have two sons and one daughter. 

Over the following years, he worked at Metropolitan Life Insurance, and then later at Fisher Body. In 1992, he retired from the State of Michigan where he administered the Deferred Compensation Program for state workers. Through all of that, writing and performing music was his true passion. 

As a teen, he played tenor saxophone with big bands around the Michigan area. But his talents took him far beyond the Great Lakes State. During the early 1960s, he toured across the United States with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team for three years. During halftime, he entertained the crowd along with his longtime friend Don Lee Bloomquist and (the nationally known entertainer) Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates. Legend has it, Talboys is the one who nicknamed the baldheaded Goldtrotters’ great Fred Neal “Curly”—a nod to “The Three Stooges’” great Curly Howard. 

Lee also co-wrote several songs with Detroit Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell, including a collaboration on their “Soft, Quiet Lovin’” LP. Over the years, Talboys made some high-profile appearances on “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson” and “The Merv Griffin Show,” “Mayberry R.F.D.,” and “Hee Haw,” where he appeared as his comedic down-home character, Homer T. Barfarkle. Beyond that, he also had a recurring role on “The Doctors,” the NBC daytime soap opera, as Dr. McKenzie.

All through his life, right up until his hospitalization in early 2009, Lee booked gigs at venues all across Michigan, including the old Elks club on Moores River Dr. One of the last shows was held at the University Club at MSU. Outside of music, Talboys was a member of the Mason First United Methodist Church, the Scottish Rite, the Mason Optimist Club, and was a “Worshipful Master” at the Mason Masonic Lodge #70. In 2009, he was honored with the “Citizen of the Year” award from the Mason Area Chamber of Commerce. It’s nice when an entire town not only appreciates, but also recognizes fine musical talent. 

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Hugh Leach

Great to see the article on Lee Talboys. I'm proud to say I was his friend as well as his fan. He was not only a great entertainer, but a wonderful human being as well. Thanks for helping keep his memory alive.

Friday, June 4

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