At the age of 9, already champion of several singing contests, he founded his own vocal group, the "Bossanovians". As a teenager he traveled to perform and, in 1968 he recorded his first single at Nashville, Tennessee's SSS International. He put out his next few singles on Birmingham-based Lolo Records. At the same time he was beginning to earn respect as a writer and producer. Chess Records producer Lenny Sachs gave him an opportunity to self-produce two singles on the Chess label, which Dees recorded in a former church in Birmingham.