Bill Crow’s Band Room

Volume CV, No. 12December, 2005

Bill Crow

The late Billy Bauer made a tape in response to some questions by Frad Garner on Nov 15, 2004, when Billy was 89. He spoke about Zeb Julian, a guitarist who was briefly on the New York jazz scene, but who appears in none of the jazz encyclopedias. Frad recently sent me his transcription of that tape, and I edited it slightly for clarity. Billy said:

“I met Zeb through Flip Phillips in the 1940’s. At that time he was playing with Frankie Newton’s band in Kelly’s Stable (on 52nd Street). I hung out with Flip, and that’s how I met Zeb. He sat down with us in the room…he wasn’t working anywhere…and he picked up my guitar and started to play. He could play like the whole Ellington brass section! Just to sit down and play such a full, chordal effect on the guitar, and still be swinging and everything, well, it amazed me. So I got to talking to him, and we became pretty good friends.

“He wound up letting me…I don’t know if you can call it lessons, because I didn’t pay him, but he started telling me to do this or that, you know. It was a little bit over my head, what he was talking about. That’s as close as I got to studying with him. The rest of the time, he would just sit there and play. Gees, they had to pull him away from it.

“When I got with Woody’s band, Zeb would come in and hang around, watch the guys, listen to the band. Then he asked me could he play with the band. Woody took off for the last set most nights in this hotel. After one number or so, he’d walk off the bandstand. When Woody walked off, I’d give Zeb my guitar. One night he played the whole last set, and when the band played the theme song and were getting off the bandstand, Zeb just kept playing and playing. I finally went over to him and said, ‘Zeb, I want to go!’ He just wouldn’t stop when he got going!

“When Woody was working at a theater in Newark, New Jersey, Zeb came over to see us. We were talking in the dressing room, and when the band was called to go on stage I told him, ‘Come on down on the stage and stand in the wings.’ I was on the second platform at the end of the stage, and he was right by me, but behind the curtain. At that time I was mostly playing rhythm. That was my job, just to bang away rhythm. While we were playing, all of a sudden out came a big fist from behind the wing. Zeb banged his fist right on my seat, and then he went backwards off-stage, shook his fist at me and said, ‘You’re stronger than me!’ I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Woody said, ‘Never bring him back again!’

“He played a week or two at Kelly’s Stable, and that was the hottest place at the time. Coleman Hawkins had just come back from Europe, and did ‘Body and Soul,’ and they had Billie (Holiday)…they had everybody in Kelly’s Stable. They hired Zeb to play all alone. Now we have a few guys doing that, like Joe Pass, but this was at the end of the 40’s. To go out there all alone, it was a sort of big deal. But he didn’t last too long. A week or two, and that was the end of Zeb (on the New York jazz scene).

“I did hear from some other musicians that they had tried to fix him up with Benny Goodman, who gave him the gig for a week or so. But he fired him, because while Benny was playing, Zeb would play stuff like ‘Yankee Doodle’ behind him.

“I don’t know too much more about Zeb. He had everything! Oh, about his fingers being cut off, I knew him then, right after the accident. He actually did sit down and play. I couldn’t look at him. [Julian lost parts of some fingers while working in a factory in New Jersey during World War II. — B.C.]

“One time I was talking with Zeb about different voicings and everything, and I said, ‘You know, some of the guys tune their guitars different.’ He said, ‘Billy, I’ve tuned it every way I’ve heard of, and when it’s easy to get one voicing one way, you try to make another voicing and it’s hard. So I went back to the original way.’”

Herb Gardner passed along a story that Charlie Carenicas told him: The maitre d’ at a posh New York hotel complained to Vince Giordano that two of the musicians in his band had been helping themselves to food in the kitchen. Vince stormed after the offenders and angrily waved a finger in their faces while he said softly, “Don’t either of you guys smile, because I’m supposed to be scolding you. Just tell me one thing…where’s the food?”

Al Hood passed along an email he received from Dick Langenbach:

The generation gap proved glaringly obvious at a mail-order music company recently. A college student, working part-time inputting customer information, wrote the following note: Customer is looking for two song titles: “Shovel Off Two Buffaloes” and “Honey Suck A Rose.”

Here’s a baseball question: Who played at Shea Stadium for 22 years? No ballplayer. The answer: Al Madison, who had a dixieland band there for that long. Al is now living in Florida, and calls every now and then to remind me that he is alive and well.