Chicago Dance Band Celebrates 50th Anniversary in Classic Style

Teddy Lee Orchestra one of America's last great dance bands celebrates its 50th year of performing the music of an era and releasing a CD: "An American Dance Band" Teddy Lee Orchestra.

Chicago, IL, December 31, 2007 --( Chicago’s own Teddy Lee Orchestra celebrates its 50th year of performing by ringing in the New Year with Chicago’s ABC Channel 7 at the Willowbrook Ballroom (8900 S. Archer Ave. Willow Springs, IL 60480). Founded in 1958 by saxophonist Teddy Lee, the 13-piece band has been pleasing crowds across the country with its imminently danceable mix of big band classics, Latin, swing and jazz standards. Teddy Lee Orchestra’s newest CD “An American Dance Band” features classic tunes from the 1920s to the 1950s.

A history of high notes
An accomplished saxophonist, Henry Lega (AKA Teddy Lee) started his music career by touring nationally with several "name" orchestras from the 1930's through the mid 1950's. But Lee’s big break came when he was asked to join the nationally known Ray Pearl Band. Pearl found Lee to be instrumental to the future success of the band and asked him to arrange the music, direct the band and of course blow his famous lead alto. Lee and Pearl were a formidable team, spending the next 10 years perfecting their craft and building the band's extremely danceable style of music. Pearl, who at one point was courted by major movie studios, would ultimately end up publicly attacking then-powerful music union head Frank Petrillo – a move that effectively ended his career.

The Teddy Lee Orchestra was created when the owners of the Melody Mill Ballroom suggested Lee start his own band. On the spur of the moment, Lee put together a new version of the old Ray Pearl Band. The popularity of the band was immediate -- it became one of the biggest name orchestras in the Midwest, allowing Teddy to stop touring nationally.

The success of the Orchestra moved forward with numerous engagements at top Chicago ballrooms such as: Melody Mill, Willowbrook, Milford, Embassy, Glendora House and the Aragon Ballroom. Many of these engagements were broadcast nationally by CBS radio. Lawrence Welk, after hearing the orchestra at the Willowbrook said, "There should be more dance-bands like Teddy Lee." And the National Ballroom Association named the orchestra “One of America’s Great Dance Orchestras”.

Not only was Teddy a gifted saxophonist and bandleader, but also a highly skilled music arranger. Dancers loved Teddy Lee for his musical style and his special way with people. Although he played 5 days a week, fifty weeks a year, Teddy made the dancers and listeners feel as if each engagement was a special night for them.

In 1990, after 55 years in the music business, Teddy Lee passed his baton to his son Teddy Lee Jr. Under Teddy Lee Jr.'s leadership the orchestra maintains a 50-year tradition of performing great live music. Over the years the Orchestra has played for tens of thousands of fans and performed over 8000 engagements.

Like father, like son
Ted Lega Jr.'s musical career began at age eight studying piano, then clarinet and saxophone. By nineteen he was performing and teaching professionally. In 1995 he was recognized and inducted into the illustrious "American Band Masters Association" which had members such as John Philip Sousa. In 2002 he was given St. Genesius award for excellence in the arts from Lewis University and in 2006 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate by Vandercook University.

An American Dance Band – now on CD.
Today the orchestra is performing a wide array of engagements and Teddy Jr. is working to preserve and record the vast arrangements with today’s technology and a sound as pure as its 50 year history.

The orchestra’s new CD release “An American Dance Band” features vocals by Peter Oprisko and songs from the 20’s through the 50’s in styles including standards, waltzes, cha chas and many others. For more information on the orchestra go to and to purchase the new CD or others visit

Teddy Lee Orchestra
Ted Lega