Local Music Monday: Pianist Lee Carroll

Feb 3, 2014

WUKY’s DeBraun Thomas features a veteran musician who’s had a love-hate relationship with the music business.

Pianist Lee Carrol has played in Nashville and was a one-time member of Exile
Credit photo provided

Lee Carroll has been a professional musician for over 40 years. A native of Cave City, KY, Carroll moved to Lexington in 1971 to attend the University of Kentucky in pursuit of a medical degree. That changed when Carroll found himself playing every night and missing classes. Carroll eventually did get a degree in music from the Berklee School of Music and in 1984 moved to Nashville with hopes of playing professionally. It worked as Carroll spent a lot of time working on studio sessions while waiting tables. Carroll says his success in Nashville came partly because of persistence and his instrument of choice.

“I got very lucky because there’s not a whole lot of piano players in Nashville. If you’re a guitar player or a pedal steel player you’ve got a tough way to go there, but there weren’t a whole lot of piano players. Within nine months I had worked my way into a gig with one of the up and coming bands the Judds, Naomi and Wynona and spent two and a half years with them watching their careers explode.”

Carroll’s time with the Judds led to him joining the band Exile for 8 years. After his tenure in Exile ended and due to his frustration with the music industry, Carroll moved to Harrisburg Pennsylvania to open a business with his brother and for the first time in 26 years he had no urge to play music. For 10 years Carroll focused on the business rather than playing music. Just before moving back to Lexington, Carroll says he had an epiphany after playing on stage for the first time in a decade.

“After not playing for 10 years and I started up again, I came to realize that what I do in business is what I do, but a musician is who I am and I had missed that. I knew I missed the culture and I missed my friends, I always said that, but I didn’t realize how much I missed playing music and once I started again I came to realize that I’ll never stop, this is who I am.”

Lee Carroll currently plays in 4 different groups in Lexington; Tin Can Buddha, The Northside Sheiks who play every Tuesday at Willie’s Locally Known, Coralee & The Townies and his own afro-beat group C The Beat. C The Beat will be performing at Natasha’s on February 8th.