Julian Lee Profile

Chris Bourke
Published: 20 May 2013
Updated: 3 Dec 2020

Julian Lee was nicknamed "Golden Ears" for good reason. Blind since birth, he had acute listening skills that helped him become an internationally acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger.

His ears didn’t just help him spot a flat note coming from the back row of the brass section, they also helped him recognise people saying hello in the street, decades after they had last met.

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Dale Alderton, Crombie Murdoch, Julian Lee.
Julian Lee and Frank Gibson Sr, on tour with Epi Shalfoon's Melody Boys, Bay of Plenty, 1947. 
Photo credit: Shalfoon family collection
Julian Lee, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and mentor
Sunday jam session, Epi Shalfoon band, early 1950s: Jack Clague (trombone), Julian Lee (trumpet), Frank Gibson (drums), Bob Ewing (bass), Allen Posley (piano), Ray Gunter (guitar)
Photo credit: Frank Gibson Jr. Collection
Julian Lee, performing in the 4YA studio, Dunedin, 1953. 
Photo credit: RNZ archive
Julian Lee at his ham radio
Esme Stevens on vocals, George Campbell on bass, Frank Gibson Sr on drums. Back row: Bob Davis, Dale Alderton, Murray Tanner, Neil Bruce, Heck Dainty, Front row: Norm Powell, Colin Martin, Julian Lee, Pem Sheppard, Jim Watters. Standing: Bob Leach. 1ZB Radio Theatre, early 1950s
Photo credit: Bernie Allen collection
Julian Lee on saxophone at the Auckland Swing Club, late 1940s, with dummer Neil Dunningham, bassist Thomson Yandall, and pianist Crombie Murdoch.  
Photo credit: Dennis Huggard collection
Don Burrows Band: L-R Don Burrows, Frank Gibson Jr, Julian Lee, Andy Brown, George Golla
The Piano Styles Of Julian Lee - a 7" EP of standards by Carmichael, Berlin, Kern, and Mercer, released on Columbia Australia in 1958 
Ricky May and The Julian Lee Orchestra, 1988
Bon mots from Julian Lee on a return visit to Dunedin, 1969
Photo credit: Ross Somerville collection
Julian Lee, c. 1995. 
Photo credit: Dennis Huggard
Julian Lee, 'I Surrender' acetate, recorded at the Peter Pan cabaret, Auckland, 14 December 1947. 
Photo credit: Dennis Huggard archive, MS-Group-0954, Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington
Julian Lee Big Band
Epi Shalfoon, Julian Lee, and Frank Gibson Sr, on tour with Epi Shalfoon's Melody Boys, Bay of Plenty, 1947.