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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Julian Lee, performing in the 4YA studio, Dunedin, 1953. 
Photo credit: RNZ archive
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
Julian Lee, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and mentor
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 and Frank Gibson Sr, on tour with Epi Shalfoon's Melody Boys, Bay of Plenty, 1947. 
Photo credit: Shalfoon family collection
Julian Lee Big Band
Bon mots from Julian Lee on a return visit to Dunedin, 1969
Photo credit: Ross Somerville collection
Dale Alderton, Crombie Murdoch, Julian Lee.
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
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
Don Burrows Band: L-R Don Burrows, Frank Gibson Jr, Julian Lee, Andy Brown, George Golla
Julian Lee at his ham radio
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
Epi Shalfoon, Julian Lee, and Frank Gibson Sr, on tour with Epi Shalfoon's Melody Boys, Bay of Plenty, 1947.