THE NEW ORLEANS MYSTICS
(1st and 2nd tenor and falsetto)
One of the two original members of the New
Orleans Mystics still with the group, Lee Barnes
is nicknamed “Mr. Smooth” by his singing partners.
He grew up in the 10th Ward and began
singing at the age of three. While still in 5th grade
he wowed the audience during a holiday pageant at his
school with a stirring rendition of “Oh Holy Night.”
One night while watching Fats Domino on “American Bandstand” as a
young boy, Barnes was inspired to become a singer. Later in life he would
become Domino’s neighbor in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, and
performed onstage with him. At the age of 13, he formed his first singing
group with his brother, Jerry Barnes, and his cousin Woodrow Howard. He
graduated from Alcee Fortier High School and the University of Houston
and later moved to Houston where he worked for 33 years as a police officer.
Besides opening for the Bar-Kays, Barnes has met Smokey Robinson
(“a really great guy”), Patti LaBelle (“She’s a real character”) and gospel
superstar Shirley Caesar (“She is just so down to earth.”). Some of his
favorite singers include Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Brook Benton and
Tom Jones. He is the group’s historian and choreographer.
(2nd tenor, baritone and falsetto)
The other original member of the group since
its founding in the early ‘70s, William “Billy”
Mims is a big fan of the Motown sound. He
grew up watching “Soul Train” on TV, singing
and stepping to the Temptations, the Four Tops,
Spinners and other Soul groups of that era.
A former New Orleans police officer who is now the
chief of the City Park Police, he began his singing career in the city’s 10th
Ward performing at talent shows and winning many of them, along with
his late brother Anthony, Lee Barnes and two other boys their age. He later
attended and graduated Booker T. Washington High School.
The only group member still single, Mims enjoys wandering offstage
and mingling, bringing roses to young ladies in the audience and singing
to them while lightly sitting on their laps or dancing with them.
In his spare time Mims listens to many different types of music, always
with an eye toward adding new songs to the group’s repertoire. He is so
dedicated to the group,he often puts it first and foremost. He once had
a girl tell him he loved the Mystics, his dog, and then her, in that order.
“She had me right,” he laughed.
(2nd tenor, baritone, falsetto and bass)
Mike “Soul Man,” Baptiste was literally born
to sing. His godmother was Shirley Goodman,
the high-pitched soprano who sang in the duo
Shirley & Lee (“Let the Good Times Roll,”
Feel So Good”) in the mid to late ‘50s. With
that as an introduction and coming from a musical
family (his grandfather played vibes with Duke
Ellington, and his uncle, bass drummer Henry Glass, was one
of the founders of the Eureka Brass Band) it was only natural he would
gravitate toward music, even while pursuing an unrelated career and raising
a family of his own. He joined the Mystics in 1975.
A Xavier University graduate, Baptiste began his career as a dancer who
sang songs in first tenor falsetto. He now enjoys presenting tributes to some
of his favorites, including Otis Redding, Bobby Womack and James Brown.
While in Detroit, he collaborated with Ron Banks of the Dramatics, Abdul
Fakir of the Four Tops and The Winans gospel family.
Whether he is singing in harmony with the group or performing solo as
“Soul Man,” Baptiste always gives 100 percent and he especially enjoys
giving back to the city where he was born and raised. Twice a year the group
performs for 500 senior citizens inside City Park’s Pavilion of Two Sisters.
FREDDIE JOHNSON JR.
1st and 2nd tenor and falsetto)
As the “new kid on the block,” having joined
the group only six years ago, Freddie “The
Crooner” Johnson is also its youngest member.
In the words of his cohorts, “He sings a mean
falsetto capable of shattering glass!” A New
Orleans East native, St. Augustine alumnus and
U.S. Army veteran, Johnson sang with the celebrated
82nd Airborne Division’s All-American Chorus.
By his own count he also did 167 jumps with the world-renowned paratrooper
unit, in addition to traveling and singing with them.
After an honorable discharge from the military, Johnson returned to
New Orleans and, at an event during which he sang, Billy Mims was in
the house. After hearing him sing, Mims invited him to audition for the
New Orleans Mystics and he won the coveted fourth slot with the group.
Johnson lists his favorite recording artist as Luther Vandross (“hands
down!”), followed by Stevie Wonder, Rachelle Farrell, Teena Marie and
groups that include Cameo, Morris Day and The Time, Take 6 and Boyz
2 Men. On Sundays he can be found singing in his church, Living the
Word International in Slidell. People all around the world know him from
his high-octave rendition of Eddie Holman’s “Hey There Lonely Girl.”
NEW ORLEANS MYSTICS UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE
May 11: Peace on the River Fest, New Orleans
May 12: Mother's Day Tribute, Harvey, LA
May 23: City Park Pavilion of Two Sisters
June 1: Tex-La Music Festival, Lake Charles, LA
Oct. 17-21: BCP Smooth Jazz Cruise to Cozumel, Mexico
Dec 26-Jan. 2: Orvieto, Italy
MAY / J U N E 2 0 1 9 breakthrumediamagazine.com | BREAKTHRU MEDIA | 19