Vocals & Inspiration
Hello, I’m Missi Lehr, or Michelle Denise Woodard-Lehr, born Lawrence Kansas, November 29, 1962. I have three brothers, Bill, Bob, and Matt. My parents, Bob and Shirley Woodard are still together, which is really unheard of today, and are still supporting my music. I have two sons, Adam and Zachary, who make me want to strive to be all I can possibly be. I know that they don’t understand sometimes how important it is to follow your passion, I hope that someday I can show them that through my music.
When I was about three years old, my brother Bill and I each sang solos at our church. It was the first time I can remember doing that, and the most memorable. It was then that I realized that I wanted to sing. I remember telling my mom, after it was all over, that I loved the way “all eyes were on me”. I’ve never stopped feeling that way about being in front of people.
My mother, who is my original inspiration to sing, has 8mm film of me dancing all around the house as a small child. Even then, I didn’t care if people saw me dancing alone, I just loved the music. I loved the way the music would just flow through me, and I felt every note as if I had written it myself. My mom used to rock me in this old orange chair when I was young and sing Tennessee Ernie Ford songs to me until I went to sleep. I know she got frustrated with me because I would stay awake as long as I could, just to hear her voice.
Things got much more interesting musically for me as I got older, however. In grade school, I landed a leading role in a musical, and that was only the beginning. In junior high school, I met one of the biggest influences on my life. Dr. Patricia Boyd was the music director for Central Junior High in Lawrence, Kansas. She taught me stage presence, and how to breathe when you sing. She also taught me that if you work hard enough on anything, you can achieve greatness. I was active in the music department as well as the theatre department at CJHS, and it was there that my real passion for the stage was born.
In 1978 I started high-school, and met one of my oldest and dearest friends, Paul Schneider. He played piano by ear, he couldn’t read music at the time, but he could literally listen to a song a couple of times on the radio, and play it. We instantly hooked up, and for a brief time, had a band called High Society. Throughout high-school, I was involved heavily in music, in fact so heavily that I sort of forgot the rest of my school work most of the time. That didn’t matter to me, however, I was in the elite choir, and also in a smaller elite group of only eight singers. We did all kinds of music, classical, jazz, blues, and pop. Manhattan Transfer’s four-part harmonies were a very large influence on me, I just loved the way all of their voices would blend together as one.
Speaking of influences... all throughout my life, I have listened to such a wide range of music, that I can’t say any one style has influenced me. What affects me when I hear music is the passion behind it and the energy. That determines whether I will like it. I have approximately 250 vinyl albums and probably 300 CD’s, and that is ever growing and changing. I have Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, Vivaldi, Beethoven, and then I also have Whitesnake, Foghat, The Stones, The Who, The Beatles, and The Police. Female artists that I look up to the most are, Janis Joplin, Melissa Etheridge, Aretha Franklin, Janis Segal, Billie Holiday, and Bonnie Raitt. Male artists that I look up to are, Robert Plant, Mick Jagger, Steve Tyler, Chris Robinson, and Peter Gabriel. My music collection also includes a great deal of new artists like, Susan Tedeschi, Shannon Curfman, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Jet, Lighthouse, Filter, 3 Doors Down, and Stabbing Westward. That fact is largely due to my two sons, Adam, and Zachary. They keep me up to date on what’s happening in today’s music world.
When I, barely, graduated high school, I was offered a job in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A friend of mine’s father was opening a casino there and wanted me to come and sing in his nightclub. It was the first time that I got scared about my talent. I wasn’t sure that I could do it, so I didn’t go. In a way, I’ve always regretted that decision, but I know that I wouldn’t have many things in my life that I cannot replace if I would have gone.
Instead of going to Jersey, I decided to go to college at KU. I was probably the only person in the history of the music department that auditioned for voice singing a pop song. Everyone else was doing arias, and I sang a song from the movie “Flashdance”. But luckily for me, John Stephens was there and thought I had potential and agreed to teach me. His teachings still are a part of my life. It’s too bad I didn’t listen to everything he was teaching me, because my stay at KU was brief, barely two semesters, but I learned an amazing amount in that time.
I sort of lost my music for several years after that, oh yeah, I would sing for weddings, and Kareoke, but it wasn’t till I was working at JJ’s in Kansas City that I met Martin Zander, and forced him to let me sing a song with his band. That’s when I really got back to what makes me whole. He reluctantly let me sing with his band, The Bidets, and I then realized what had truly been missing from my life. I started out only singing a couple of songs with them, but that steadily grew, and before long, I had landed the “lead vocalist” position with them.
I met Joey Walsh when he showed up at practice one night on the urgings of Jay Dunn, our drummer. His passion for music is infectious, and I immediately was taken in by him. He played with our band for a while, but soon moved on to create his own project. It wasn’t until November of 1999, that I got the opportunity to play with Joey again, and it turned out to be a god-send. Martin and I contacted Joey because we wanted to play New Year’s Eve 2000. We didn’t want to be anywhere else at the beginning of the new millennium, and The Bidets couldn’t play that night. So we asked if we could sit in with The Extras. He graciously accepted, and eventually over the next three months, we basically hooked up with them and a new alliance was formed. We were playing with Joey Walsh, Todd Plympton, Rick Symmonds, and Dennis Dorrell. Dennis had physical barriers that prevented him from playing as often as we were, and therefore had to bow out of the band, so I got the distinct pleasure of meeting Mo Burks.
The Extras were playing a gig at The Blue Note in Overland Park, and I decided to show up and check the new drummer out. I was immediately swept away by his incredible energy, and heart-felt vocals. He knows just about every song ever written, inside and out, and if he doesn't, he only has to listen to it once to get his part down, musically and vocally. He is truly the heartbeat of any band he plays with.
Martin Zander makes me want to be a better singer. His guitar licks are, in my opinion, comparable to any of the great guitar players of all time. The scary thing is, he keeps getting better. I don’t know if Kansas City is ready for him yet, but hold on to your seats, ladies and gentlemen, he’ll make your body rock across the dance floor, and then make your knees weak and your heart tremble. I know he does mine.
Todd had to move back to Branson to take care of family matters there, so we are now fortunate enough to have found Ken Ess, our latest addition. His bass lines are incredible, and his mere knowledge of songs and material and sheer musical ability makes him a perfect match to Mo in the rhythm section....... plus he's one hell of a vocalist!
Rick took a hiatus from the band for about two years, but has since come back in force.... so happy to have him back!
So watch out, folks, The NEW Allied Saints are here, and you’d better get ready to get your asses rocked, cause it doesn’t matter if you dance or just sit and watch, we will make you smile, and you will have a good time!