Lee Gatlin Jr.
Bass/Vocals (May 1980-September 1983)
At age 15, Lee Gatlin, Jr. started playing guitar, then electric bass by teaching himself both instruments. As a sophomore in high school, Gatlin began studying upright bass with his high school band teacher, learning the techniques necessary to lead him to being a highly accomplished musician.
After high school, Gatlin, who was born and raised in Chicago, moved to live with other family members in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There he became a member of the burgeoning Minneapolis music scene in the mid 70’s.
In 1977, he replaced Prince as guitarist in the band Champagne, a fledgling local group harboring several soon to be superstars. Besides Prince, the group featured Andres Simone as bassist and vocalist (who later reunited and worked with Prince) and Morris Day as a drummer/vocalist (who went on to form and front the Time). Champagne played locally, developed somewhat of a following, and recorded several demo tapes. But in the end, the group was unable to ink a record deal, and fell apart by 1978.
Soon afterwards, Gatlin relocated back to Chicago, and attended the Vandercook College of Music for a few semesters in the late 70’s. There, he certainly honed the technical discipline so vital to his next assignment, which unbeknownst to him would be as the Skafish bassist.
In April of 1980, just prior to the debut Skafish LP being released, bassist Larry Mazalan left the group, leaving a vacancy in the roster. About a month later, Javier Cruz introduced Lee Gatlin to Skafish with the hope of Lee becoming the new band bassist. Cruz had played music with Gatlin before, and Javier vouched for Lee’s tremendous musicianship and level-headed disposition. When Skafish heard Gatlin play, he was also impressed with his bass playing, and invited Gatlin to join the band.
First on the European tour and then in the studio, Lee brought razor-sharp precision, economy, and virtuosity of playing to every live performance and recorded track. On the live recording of “Sign of the Cross” recorded in August of 1980 for the film and soundtrack to “Urgh! A Music War,” Gatlin’s bass playing sounds as rhythmically accurate as a sequencer. In November 1982, Lee amazed everyone in the studio when he laid down an aggressive, melodic and perfectly phrased bass part to “Let’s Play Doctor” for the rejected second Skafish LP sessions.
After the second Skafish album didn’t yield a concert tour, Gatlin began playing on several radio commercials in the Chicago area. During this period, he also was a member of the Chicago funk group Third Rail, recording and releasing two LP’s.
In the mid 80’s, Gatlin moved back to Minneapolis, picking up where he left off in Chicago by performing as a bassist on numerous radio commercials. He then revisited Europe, this time as a member of the orchestra for the musical production of “Chatouranga” in Switzerland.
Besides playing bass and guitar, Gatlin started playing keyboards about 15 years after he picked up his first guitar. Currently still residing in Minneapolis and working as a fireman, Lee Gatlin uses his keyboard skills to play for church services, which keeps him connected to his Christian roots.
All photographs copyright by the respective photographers