Born in St. Louis, McLemore dreamed of playing baseball, and pitching for the Cardinals, or try his other fascination; photography. After breaking his arm while playing for a Dodger farm team, photography won.
Then photography took a back seat. While in the Navy, he developed an interest in music. In the early 1960s, Lamonte and Marilyn McCoo, a former beauty pageant winner, got together with two other friends from Los Angeles, Harry Elston and Floyd Butler, to form a group called the Hi-Fis. In 1964, they came to the attention of Ray Charles, who took them on tour with him the following year. He produced a single by the group, "Lonesome Mood," but internal disagreements caused Butler and Elston to go their own way, eventually leading to their organizing the Friends of Distinction.