Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 17 August 1964, LA) Singer, songwriter, guitarist. She checked out the Doors at the Whiskey at the age of two ('too young to really appreciate Jim, but I'm sure it all sinks in'); grew up next door to Victoria Williams and became a cowpunk in the early-1980s Los Angeles scene, performing at 16 in clubs with half-brother Bryan MacLean (ex-Love). She formed band Lone Justice '84, supported U2 and the Alarm on US tours; interest from Bob Dylan led to a signing with Geffen. The first album Lone Justice '85 was a strong debut; songs written or co-written by bassist Marvin Etzioni (two), MacLean (one), Tom Petty ('Ways To Be Wicked') and the rest by McKee, including 'Sweet, Sweet Baby (I'm Falling)'; the two songs named were Hot 100 singles and the album no. 56. Ryan Hedgecock on guitar, Don Heffington, drums, and keyboardist Benmont Tench from Petty's Heartbreakers played on it.
She wrote 'A Good Heart', no. 1 UK hit for former Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey; duetted with Dwight Yoakum on 'Bury Me' (on his debut Guitars Cadillacs etc etc); Lone Justice's Shelter '86 included 'I Found Love', a minor USA hit but no. 1 UK: the band now included Gregg Sutton, bass; Rudy Richman, drums; Shayne Fontayne, guitar (had gigged with Steve Forbert), Bruce Brody, keyboards (had worked with John Cale, Patti Smith). In a UK TV appearance she was quite wonderful and the band had a lovely loose country-rock feel, but the albums disappointed by comparison; McKee had not found her voice, sidetracked by the 'satin-jacketed men' in the record business.
She went solo, made Maria McKee '89 on Geffen, guests incl. Robbie Robertson and Richard Thompson, the album suffering from over-production ('Nobody's Child' was co-written with Robertson, 'Has He Got A Friend For Me?' with Thompson). She was semi-retired for three years, living in Dublin with her boyfriend; Deacon Blue's song 'Real Gone Kid' was about her. She came back with You Gotta Sin To Be Saved '93 produced by George Drakoulias; 'If Love Is A Red Dress (Hang Me In Rags)' was heard in film Pulp Fiction. Next album was Life Is Sweet '96: 'I'm really proud of who I am now and the music I'm making -- finally.'
Her Live At The BBC was released on Geffen 2007, containing tracks from Manchester U. in 1991 and Cambridge Junction in 1993.