“Lone Justice”: the greatest band that never was


Back in November I took my son to his first concert, Wolfmother, at the Wiltern in Koreatown. The show was all about Wolfmother as was to be expected, but one of the opening bands, The Heartless Bastards, gave a great performance and reminded me of a group I remembered fondly from the 1980’s, Lone Justice.


Do you remember Lone Justice?


I doubt many of you who happen across my blog were even born during Lone Justice’s heyday, their small blip of fame, and if you were born, you were probably in diapers.


Lone Justice’s lead singer, Maria McKee was the star of the band. She was born 3 months before me in 1964. Her voice was deeply soulful and belted out the most heart-wrenching and mournful ballads. Her voice was real. Check out the live video. Nothing studio enhanced about her. And she was a doll. I had the biggest mid-80s disembodied crush on her.



Music critics lauded Lone Justice. The band made various “best” lists and one Rolling Stone magazine writer even called their first album, the self-titled “Lone Justice,” one of the best albums ever made. I still agree with that.


During that period in the mid-80s, I listened to the CD at home and the cassette in my car over and over and over. Bolstered by the same critics who excitedly proclaimed Lone Justice’s illustrious future, I held tight to their music and waited for their next album. And waited.


But the critics misled.


Typically, they recognized great art but lacked familiarity with the intricate tastes and trends of the music-buying public. Their brand of soulful country rock didn’t quite match the musical mood of the time. The album was not the rousing success it had been with the critics.


Following the album’s release and Lone Justice’s ensuing tour as U2’s opening act, the group disbanded when 3 of the members left McKee to continue Lone Justice alone. She re-formed Lone Justice with new musicians and the second album, Shelter, was released. I don’t remember it very well and that fact in itself speaks volumes. It was not memorable. It did not stand out, in spite of McKee’s distinctive voice and vast talent. Shortly after its release, McKee broke up the band and embarked on a solo career which failed to capture the magic of Lone Justice’s first album.

McKee seems to have dropped off the face of the planet.

She started a website called Maria McKee but it appears abandoned. It has not been updated since May, 2009, at least, for that is the date of the last “concert info” link, which incidentally doesn’t work. The website speaks of her “new” album, Late December. There is even a special handwritten note from Maria herself telling us the album is set to be released on April 24th. Unfortunately, all that info is 3 years old, for the date was April 24, 2007.


Nothing from McKee since.


Lone Justice, the band and the album, pinnacled in 1985. Smack dab in the middle of my greatest decade. A personal span of time marked by bittersweet periods of blossoming adulthood marred by bouts of despair and depression.


Lone Justice embodied all that; to watch as the band’s memories wither away is to truly put that decade to rest.