Lemoine “Lee” Gardner Ketcham, step-cousin and pygmalion of the Teen Idol, died Tuesday at the age of 95.
He gave his first name and stage name to Johnny Hallyday. Lemoine Gardner Ketcham, better known by his famous pseudonym Lee Halliday (without the first y) died Tuesday, September 5, at the age of 95. It was he, the American-born dancer and music-hall singer, whom the Idol of the Young always considered his “heart father“.
The emotional and almost paternal bond that united these two acrobats is part of the legend of Jean-Philippe Smet alias of course Johnny Hallyday…the y having replaced the i after a simple spelling mistake. Their story begins like this. At the end of the 1940s Lee Halliday fell in love with Desta, a cousin of Johnny. The two acrobatic lovers take in the abandoned child. With them and Desta’s sister, Menen, with “Halliday’sSo the child goes from show to show for about ten years. It is only natural that he will take the pseudonym of Halliday when he himself begins to fly on his own in 1959.
In 1960, the historic misspelling on a 45 rpm which changes the “I” in “there“, is finally dubbed by Lee. A year later,the heart father“, quite naturally becomes Johnny’s impresario and to further mark their artistic filiation adopts in turn this pseudonym Hallyday which brings luck.
Johnny and Lee in 1980 in Tahiti
Johnny, who knew his real father Léon Smet very little, repeated all the affection he had for Lee during an interview given in the mid-1960s: “ There are a lot of people to whom I owe a lot. But Lee Halliday is surely the person in my life who served as my father, who raised me, who taught me a little dance“.
Until 1979, Lee now Hallyday produced almost all of Johnny’s records. He recounted this epic twice in souvenir books: the first, released in 1964, was simply titled Lee Hallyday tells Johnny. The second, released in 2000, co-signed by Desta Hallyday and titled Johnny, the childhood of a star, will be more intimate. We finally understood by reading it why all his life Jean-Philippe Smet considered Lee as his mentor, his father in the heart, and above all a real father who had not abandoned him.