Katie Lee, Angel of Canyonlands, folksinger, and Wild Spirit
Katie Lee, born in Tucson in 1919, is an Arizona folk singer, writer, actress and photographer. We were lucky enough to hear her sing, in a little cafe, here in Bluff, UT. How fortunate we are to have people such as Katie Lee come to Bluff.
Katie Lee is vibrant, a fighter, a storyteller, and is still achingly beautiful.
She graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. After that, she went on to study with two of the most successful folksingers of the 1940s, Burl Ives and Josh White. Her early albums of folk music, Life is Just a Bed of Neuroses (1960) and Songs of Couch and Consultation (1957) are long out of print, but six more recent CDs are still available. She has also released three videos, including Love Song to Glen Canyon. That’s the film she came to show is in Bluff.
After joining a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon, she became a regular on river trips on the Colorado River and joined the opposition to the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. In 1964, Lee released an album on Folkways Records, entitled, Folk Songs of the Colorado River. In the 1980s she recorded a cassette-only release Colorado River Songs consisting of old songs popular among river runners on the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon, along with some original compositions. This release was hailed by Edward Abbey and David Foreman among others. Colorado River Songs was expanded and re-released in 1997 on CD. She has also released Glen Canyon River Journeys on CD, which mixes music and spoken word commentary, and is featured on the 2005 Smithsonian Folkways compilation album, Songs and Stories from Grand Canyon. Quite a woman? Yes.
She has also written three books: Sandstone Seduction, Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle and All My Rivers Are Gone. Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle is a study of the music, stories, and poetry of the American cowboy. It was also recorded as an album.
Katie Lee met her first husband “Brandy” (Edwin Carl Brandelius Jr.), her book Sandstone Seduction is dedicated to him, on a trip to Baja California. Brandy was a war veteran, a race car driver and a good friend of Turk Murphy’s. Katie Lee noted Brandy as the prime influence on finishing and publishing her first book Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle. Brandy is the father of Jerilyn Lee Brandelius, author of The Grateful Dead Family Album (and four other children) from his first marriage.
Sandstone Seduction, a memoir, relates her continuing love affair with desert rivers and canyons, and reveals her Lady Godiva-style bicycle ride through downtown Jerome, Arizona, where she lives. The chronicles of her adventures in Baja California appear in the book Almost An Island written by Bruce Berger.
October 1, 2011 Katie Lee was inducted into the Arizona Music Hall of Fame. We are honored that she came to our part of red-rock country, and consider her to be the Singing Angel of the Canyons. Thank you, Katie Lee, for your courageous and fun-loving spirit!
- Katie Lee, Angel of Canyonlands, folksinger, and Wild Spirit