Commercial success proved frustratingly elusive, but Willie Tee remains an institution of the New Orleans music scene. A powerfully expressive vocalist and pianist rooted in the traditions of Crescent City R&B and jazz, his mid-'60s soul sides are acknowledged classics on the Carolinas' beach music circuit. Born Wilson Turbinton on February 6, 1944, in New Orleans, he began playing piano at age three, no doubt inspired by older brother Earl's studies of saxophone and flute. In 1952, the Turbintons relocated to the city's Calliope Street housing projects, where Willie and Earl were regularly exposed to the music and dancing of the Native Americans dominant in the area; in 1960, the brothers formed their first group, the Seminoles, launching their career in local talent shows. At school, Willie also fell under the influence of his music teacher, Harold Battiste, who with the permission of the boy's parents, added Turbinton to his jazz combo the AFO Band (All for One), whose roster also included legendary pianist Ellis Marsalis. For Battiste's AFO label, the newly rechristened Willie Tee also recorded his 1962 debut single, "Always Accused" -- though not a hit, the record immediately established the buoyant marriage of R&B and jazz that would remain his signature throughout much of his career.