Jim Lea (musician)

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Jim Lea
Slade - TopPop 1973 19 - Jim Lea - Crop.png
Lea appearing with Slade on AVRO's TopPop in 1973
Background information
Birth name James Whild Lea
Born (1949-06-14) 14 June 1949 (age 69)
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England
Genres Rock
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter
  • record producer
  • Bass guitar
  • keyboards
  • piano
  • violin
  • guitar
  • vocals
Years active 1966–present
Associated acts Slade
Website www.jimleamusic.com

James Whild Lea (born 14 June 1949) is an English musician, most notable for playing bass guitar, keyboards, piano, violin, and guitar, and singing backing vocals in Slade from their inception until 1992, and for co-writing most of their songs.


Early life

Lea was born in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England. Influenced by French jazz-violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Lea's first musical love was the violin which he began playing aged 10.[1] His parents Frank Lea and Edna Whild owned The Grange pub in Bilbrook where he grew up. He attended Codsall Comprehensive School – now Codsall Community High School. He joined the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra in 1961,[1] and gained first class honours in a London music-school practical exam, before moving on to piano, guitar and finally bass guitar. He first played guitar, and then bass, in the schoolboy group 'Nick and The Axemen'.

'N' Betweens to Slade

Lea aged 16 went for auditions for a local band, 'The 'N Betweens', of which drummer Don Powell, guitarist Dave Hill and vocalist Johnny Howells were already members. He was accepted and left school immediately. When Noddy Holder joined soon after, the foundations for Slade had been laid. Howells later left the band. In December 1966 December, the 'N' Betweens signed to EMI and their first single "You Better Run" was produced by Kim Fowley.[1]

In 1969 the 'N' Betweens were signed by Fontana Records and their name was changed to Ambrose Slade. An album titled Beginnings was recorded. Beginnings. Chas Chandler, former member of the Animals and former manager/producer for Jimi Hendrix, spotted and signed them. It was during 1969 that Lea wrote “How Does It Feel” at home on an old out-of-tune piano with half of the keys not working.[1]

In 1970 Ambrose Slade adopted a skinhead image and changed their name to Slade. Following their first chart entry with "Get Down and Get With It" in 1970, Chandler encouraged the band to write their own material, and the song-writing partnership of Lea and Holder commenced.[1] In most cases Lea wrote the melodies, and Holder concentrated on the lyrics. On the follow-up to "Get Down and Get With It, "Coz I Luv You," Lea played violin.[1] Lea was the most trained musician in Slade.

In 1979 Lea formed Cheapskate Records with his brother Frank and made records under the name of The Dummies. In 1981 Lea began record production and produced some of Slade's recordings. Following their first chart success in America, Slade were to tour the USA with Ozzy Osbourne. Lea fell ill after only one gig with Osbourne, the band returned home and the original line-up with Lea and Holder would never formally play live again.[1] In a Q&A session for his official website in March 2017, Lea commented: Over the last 6 months I've come to regret not going back to the States after I was ill in 1984. We did one gig with Ozzy and that was it. We should have gone back!!!!! The emergence of MTV would have made a huge difference.[2]

In a Q&A session for his official website in March 2017, Lea disclosed his three favourite Slade songs were "How Does It Feel", "Far Far Away", and "Coz I Luv You". He also identified "When the Lights Are Out" from Old New Borrowed and Blue as an album track he would have liked to have seen released as a Slade single.[2]

The Dummies

Slade's lack of success during the late 1970s led Lea to wonder if their material would be better received if recorded by another band. In late 1979, Lea formed The Dummies as a side project, with his brother Frank. The group released three singles, "When The Lights Are Out", "Didn't You Use To Use To Be You" and "Maybe Tonite". All three singles received plenty of radio airplay but sales suffered from distribution problems.[3] "Didn't You Use To Use To Be You" was listed in BBC Radio One's 'A' playlist and was expected to become a top ten hit.[4] Later in 1992, an album A Day in the Life of the Dummies was released, which gathered all the material recorded by the band.[5]


In the 1980s Lea also produced all of Slade's recording sessions (except for some of the singles), and became an increasingly dominant creative force within the band. It was not uncommon for him to handle Holder's, some say Hill's, guitar parts on record. In 1982, Lea was also busy working on solo projects. Under the name China Dolls, he released the track "One Hit Wonder", backed by the B-side "Ain't Love Ain't Bad". "One Hit Wonder" was the same song as "Didn't You Use To Use To Be You", originally released in 1980 under the name "The Dummies", whilst the B-side was a cover of the Slade track "It Ain't Love But It Ain't Bad", from the 1977 album Whatever Happened To Slade.[6] The same year, Lea released another single, "Poland", under the name Greenfields of Tong, with the B-side carrying an instrumental version. "Poland" was a reworking of the 1979 Slade track "Lemme Love into Ya".[7]

In late 1983, Lea's band mate Noddy Holder joined him in record production. Together they produced Girlschool's cover of the T-Rex song "20th Century Boy" and the album Play Dirty which featured two Slade tracks "Burning in the Heat of Love" and "High and Dry".[8] The "High and Dry" track was originally written for Girlschool but still appeared on Slade's album that same year.[9] Lea also produced the Holder/Lea penned "Simple Love" for the actress and model Sue Scadding. Released by Speed records and with Lea's brother, Frank on drums, the single failed to achieve any commercial success. Initially the song was intended for Slade but no version by the band is known to exist.[10] The B-side was another Holder and Lea composition, "Poland", which Lea released as a single himself the year before under the name Greenfields of Tong. In 1984 Lea also produced an album for singer / actor Gary Holton. Lea also played all the instruments (except drums, played by Geoff Seopardi) on two singles from the album; Holton's cover version of "Catch a Falling Star" and "That's How the Story Goes". Neither achieved any success.[8] In 1985, Lea released his only solo single under his own name entitled "Citizen Kane". Written by both Holder and Lea, it featured Holder on backing vocals.[11]

In 1986, Lea produced and performed all the instruments except drums, played by Lea's brother, on two singles by Annabella Lwin. The first single was a cover of the Alice Cooper hit "School's Out" whilst the other single was a version of "Fever", written by Eddie Cooley and John Davenport and previously recorded by Little Willie John and Peggy Lee, among others. Both singles failed to have any impact.[8] Lea also produced two covers by the rock band, The Redbeards From Texas; a Beatles' track, "I Saw Her Standing There", and Slade's own 1972 hit Gudbuy T'Jane. Neither was successful and the band's lead vocalist Steve Whalley would later become the vocalist of Slade II.[8] In 1988, Lea produced "Shooting Me Down" for the English hard rock band Chrome Molly. Written by Holder and Lea, the single failed to chart after receiving heavy airplay from BBC Radio 1 due to a dispute between I.R.S. and distributors MCA Records. The band were unable to capitalise on the single and they soon split.[12][13] The band held their third official fan club convention at Drummonds Convention, King's Cross, London.[14]

After Slade

Lea left Slade after Holder's departure from the band in 1992, being of the opinion that Slade was all four of them or nothing. He entered the property business in 1993 and went on to study psychotherapy in 1997 although he did not take it up as a career.[1][6] In 1994, he released the single "Hello Goodbye" under the name Gang of Angels,[15] and a reworking of "Coz I Luv You" twice; under the names "The X Specials" and "Jimbo feat Bull". In 1998, he began writing and recording new material, and would release the single "I'll Be John, You Be Yoko" in 2000, under the name Whild.[6] In 2001, he was awarded the Gold Badge of Merit by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters.[16]

Since Slade stopped touring in early 1984, Lea has performed live only twice; once for a local protest against a motorway development in his home area, and once again in 2002 for a charity event at the Robin 2 venue in Bilston, near Slade's old local pub, The Trumpet. Later the gig was made available as a download-only live album and as on a second disc of his album Therapy.

In 2007, Lea released his first solo album, Therapy, which was made available on his website.[1] It received positive reception upon its release and features Lea's own version of Slade's last single "Universe".[17] In 2016, Wienerworld re-issued Therapy on CD and also released it on vinyl for the first time with bonus tracks.[18][19] A new six-track extended play, Lost in Space, was released on 22 June 2018.[17]

Personal life

Lea has homes in Brewood, Staffordshire, and London, England, with his wife Louise.[20] They married in 1973 after having first met as pupils at Codsall Comprehensive School. They have two children, Kristian and Bonnie.[21][22] In 2014, Lea was diagnosed with - and treated for - prostate cancer, which he revealed publicly the following year.[23][24]

Musical equipment


Lea started off with a Framus Star bass, similar to that used by Bill Wyman and later used a cherry Gibson EB-3 from the late sixties until it was stolen in the mid seventies. It is seen in Slade's (probably) first TV-performance in 1969. Lea got the bass in exchange for a Gibson EB-0 that he owned. The EB-3 was refinished in white when Lea had it in with John Birch to get some minor circuit and servicing work done to it. Lea said that he had only mentioned the refinish idea in passing, some time previously, then John Birch went ahead with it, without checking with him. After that bass was stolen in 1976 from the John Birch workshop, Lea's main bass was a very similarly-styled custom-made sunburst John Birch bass, given as a replacement. He also carried a John Birch J2 bass as a backup bass on some tours. Other notable basses that Lea owns include a Jaydee bass (which, uncommonly for a bass guitar, has a tremolo arm fitted), a pre-1981 Gibson Flying-V bass (which was used a lot in the studio in the seventies).

Slade often used hired/borrowed instruments in mimed TV performances.[25] Lea used a Fender Precision Bass, Fender Jazz bass and a Rickenbacker style bass, made by John Birch, as well as a Shaftesbury replica of a 4001 bass for TV and video shoots.[25]


In the early sixties Lea used a Höfner Colorama before turning to bass. He has also said that he used to compose a lot of songs on his wife's old Spanish guitar.


Lea owned an ARP 2600 synthesiser. However it was sold on eBay in 2003.[25]



  • 1992 The Dummies – A Day in the Life of the Dummies (Receiver Records RRLP 155 & RRCD 155)
  • 2007 James Whild Lea – Therapy (Jim Jam Records)
  • 2007 Jim Lea – Replugged/Official Bootleg of Jim Jam Live at the Robin 2 16 November 2002+
  • 2016 Jim Lea - Therapy (reissue - 2 CDs including three new tracks and Live from the Robin 2 CD) (Wienerworld WNRCD5098)


  • 1979 The Dummies – "When The Lights Are Out" / "She's The Only Woman" (Cheapskate Records FWL 001)
  • 1980 The Dummies – "When The Lights Are Out" / "She's The Only Woman" (Pye Records 7P 163)
  • 1980 The Dummies – "Didn't You Use To Use To Be You" / "Miles Out To Sea" (Cheapskate Records CHEAP 003)
  • 1981 The Dummies – "Maybe Tonite" / "When I'm Dancin' I Ain't Fightin'" (Cheapskate Records CHEAP 014)
  • 1982 The China Dolls – "One Hit Wonder" / "Ain't Love Ain't Bad" (Speed Records FIRED 1)
  • 1982 Greenfields of Tong – "Poland" / "Poland" (Instrumental) (Speed Records FIRED 2)
  • 1985 Jimmy Lea – "Citizen Kane" / "Poland" (Instrumental) (Trojan Records KANE 001)
  • 1990 The Clout – "We'll Bring The House Down" / "JimJam" (Instrumental) (Mooncrest Records JWL 1000)
  • 1994 Gang of Angels – "Hello Goodbye" / "JimJam" (Instrumental) (Shotgun Records CDBOR 012)
  • 1994 Jimbo featuring Bull – "Coz I Luv You" (Radio Edit) / "Coz I Luv You" (Bull Mix) / "Coz I Luv You" (Cowboy Mix) (Trojan Records CDTRO 9106)
  • 1994 The X Specials – "Coz I Luv You" (Radio Edit) / "Coz I Luv You" (Violin Mix) / "Coz I Luv You" (Ragga Mix) (Receiver Records RRSCD 1010)
  • 2000 Whild – "I'll Be John, You'll Be Yoko" / "Mega Drive" / "I Go Wild" (Jet Records JETSCD 501Z)
  • 2016 Jim Lea - "Am I The Greatest Now?" (Wienerworld - download only)
  • 2017 Jim Lea - "All Coming Back to Me Now" (Wienerworld - download only, CD promos exist - WNRDCS1001)
  • 2017 Jim Lea - "The Smile of Elvis" (Wienerworld - re-worked version of the song - CD promo only WNRCDS1002)
  • 2018 Jim Lea - "Lost in Space" (Wienerworld - download only, CD promos exist WNRCDS1003)


  • 2018 Jim Lea - Lost In Space EP: "Lost in space" / "What in the world" / "Megadrive" / "Pure power" / "Going back to Birmingham" / "Through the fire" (Wienerworld CD EP: WNRCD5103)


  • 2017 Jim Lea - For One Night Only: Live at The Robin 2 (Wienerworld DVD)
  • 2018 Jim Lea - An Audience with Jim Lea at the Robin 2 (in aid of Dementia UK, DVD)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Jim Lea History". JimLeaMusic.com. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Jim Lea Q&A 2017". JimLeaMusic.com. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  3. ^ Charlesworth, Chris (1984). Slade, Feel the Noize!: an illustrated biography. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-0538-X.
  4. ^ "The Dummies". Usuarios.multimania.es. Archived from the original on 19 May 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  5. ^ "A Day in the Life of the Dummies". Amazon.co.uk. 9 September 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  6. ^ a b c "James Whild Lea". Slayed.co.uk. Archived from the original on 20 October 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  7. ^ "Greenfields of Tong – Poland / (Instrumental) – Speed Records Ltd. – FIRED 2". 45cat. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d "Jim Lea Discography". Usuarios.multimania.es. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  9. ^ "Girlschool – Play Dirty". Discogs. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  10. ^ "Sue Scadding". Slade40Years. Archived from the original on 4 January 2013. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  11. ^ "Jimmy Lea* – Citizen Kane". Discogs.com. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  12. ^ "Artists: Chrome Molly". MusicMight. 10 August 2009. Archived from the original on 21 May 2009. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  13. ^ Hawkins, Steve (19 July 2010). "Rockers return". Leicester Mercury. Archived from the original on 27 April 2014. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Conventions". Dave Kemp and Slade.com. Archived from the original on 27 December 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  15. ^ "Jim Lea". Slade – Weer All Crazee. 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  16. ^ "Gold Badge Awards: Roll of Honour" (PDF). BASCA. 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  17. ^ a b "Jim Lea – official webshop". JimLeaMusic.com. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  18. ^ "Jim Lea - Therapy (2CD)". Wienerworld. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  19. ^ "Jim Lea - Therapy (2LP)". Wienerworld. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  20. ^ "Slade Homes And Family". Dave Kemp and Slade. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  21. ^ "Jim Lea weds in secret!". Record Mirror. 24 March 1973.
  22. ^ Dodd, Ros (19 February 2000). "Interview with Jimmy Lea: I'll be Jim, like it or not". Birmingham Post. Retrieved 28 June 2017 – via Thefreelibrary.com.
  23. ^ "Jim Lea reveals he has prostate cancer". DemonsZone. 19 November 2015. Archived from the original on 26 November 2015.
  24. ^ 6 Towns Radio (30 January 2017). "Jim Lea from Slade talks to 6TR". YouTube. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  25. ^ a b c "Slade Gear: Jim's guitars and basses". Slayed.co.uk. Retrieved 15 July 2011.

External links

  • Official Jim Lea site
  • Jim Lea YouTube channel
  • Jim Lea (musician) discography at Discogs
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