Monday, August 23, 2010

Letter from Julian Davidson (1900 - 1988)

Today, August 23rd, is my Father's birthday--if he had lived he would be 111 today. I doubt I am the only one who plays these mind games. This is the letter he wrote to his Ohio State fraternity on 1-25-88; he died on 10.15.88. No matter, this letter is pure Julian Davidson, chronicling his life and ending, almost, with "So it goes." Here's how it went, sort of. If my Mother had lived, she would have edited it; I did not:

To Rocky Frost (Ohio Delta '18)
Dear George,
Yes, I'm sure as hell living to a ripe old age, and I'll be 88 this coming August 23rd. Of course, if I make it! So, let's try to give you a few facts.
I took violin and a few piano lessons way back when. Our first orchestra was a three piece affair, age 15, first dance at our Indianola home. One of us would go outside to hear how the orchestra sounded. Pretty good!
I went to Indianola Jr. Hi and from there to North High School. We had a 4 piece orchestra by then - very popular - and we played every weekend at various sororities and Ohio State fraternities. After a siege of scarlet fever, 7 weeks in bed, I came out the best banjo player - they told me - in the USA. I invented my own method, using my thumb on the C string. That was like an extra finger. I had my own group of five at the Columbus Athletic Club at 17.

Went to OSU in 1918. Still had the best orchestra and played all the fraternities and sororities. My piano player, Charlie Mobley, 4 years older, was a Phi Psi, so naturally I was pledged. They were a great bunch and although Thurber, Nugent, Duffy, etc. were all friends of mine, in my spare time I was more taken back by all the girls, especially one -Lucille Scott. She was a fine jazz player and a good or better brain. So in 1922 we were married, yes, for 54 years we were still in love. She died in 1979. So when we were married I took my banjo, my wife, several bags, and headed for Chicago.

I played for Charlie Straight and he hired me - one of the best bands in the 20's. We played the Green Mile, and later the Rendezvous. After about 5 years I had a wire from London. Charlie let me out of my contract and we soon sailed for London. I was there about 2 years playing the Savoy and Clarige. By the way, we went over on the Leviathon and came back on the same ship.

When I got back to Chicago I went, of course as a guest, to the Rendezvous. The first thing Charlie Straight send to me was, "I've got a good job for you!" Well, that was with Arnold Johnson. So off we went to Florida. We played the country clubs and tha lasted for about 1 1/2 years.
Then, my next big break came when I went back to Chicago. I played with Paul Ash who was the biggest thing in the stage band era. That lasted about 5 years. Then I went with Ben Bernie, who was king of radio in those days. We played the College Inn every winter and then, on the road for the balance of the year. I was with him approximately 5 years. By that time we had acquired a son. So after an engagement with Ben at the last hotel, and several movies, we broke off and went to CBS as a guitar player for 15 years. Long run, that!
Then I contacted Desi Arnaz at CBS. He hired me for the I Love Lucy show and I stayed on for 23 years. I wrote the theme for The Lucy Show and the Here's Lucy Show. Wilbur Hatch was the music leader on all those shows. Since I had written a hit, "Wistful & Blue" back in the 20's, and several other near hits, I sugggested that we both write 3 themes, take them to Lucy and Desi - later Morton - with just the numbers 1,2,and 3 on the themes and let them pick. They picked mine! Eliot Daniels wrote the I Love Lucy theme, and it's a good one.
So that's enough! I've always been most lucky - right place and the right time. I still walk about 3 or 4 miles a day, eat light lightly, and watch TV. So it goes.


Besides a son I also have a beautiful daughter. They are both nearing 50. He is a computer expert, she a writer, and they both live in Washington, D.C. Both do well. 


In CHAPTER ETERNAL, when I wrote a eulogy with my brother for the Winter 1989, issue of The Buckeye Phi Psi, we corrected some of our Father's chronology and added a couple things:

He was guest guitarist for an album by Kid Ory's Creole Jazz Band in 1953. Julian and Lucille were happily maried for 57 years when she passed away in 1979. Davidson is survived by his two children, Kay Davidson Weeks and Scott Davidson, both of whom live in Maryland.

Blog content: Kay Weeks
Photo of Lucy, Julian, Desi: Desilu
Kid Ory album cover: Scan

August 23, 2010...updated August 22, 2011

I will add this--my Father's life was so much broader than the Lucy and Desi period. But that is a photo that we all like, and "so it goes."  This is now a year later, 2011, and as time goes on, I remember more and more of the real Father (Daddy) and less of the passing. 

He was funny, smart, confident, always making people laugh, loved to travel, carried the guitar short, thinking about him makes me smile.


Caroline Gill said...

Thank you. Really enjoyed this wonderful post, Kay. What a fine tribute to a remarkable man - your father.

Wildman said...

It would appear that your father had a full and interesting life, so unlike so many today that don't paint, or write, or play music. A life without some kind of hobby or reason for living will be a short one. http;//

Anonymous said...

Nice memories. The photograph was great with your Dad's more formal
outward appearance and the two obvious comedians leaning on him. An extremely articulate letter for his age with a touch of defining one's life in such a short text.

I enjoyed reading it; thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

How fortunate that you have the letter your father wrote. I do not have anything from my father because I was only 20 when he died.

Trudy Babchak said...

He would be very proud of you. Thank you for sharing him with us on your blog.

Denee Barr Art News and More said...

What a very wonderful tribute to treasure now that we are in the digital age, this new millennium and to take stock of past accomplishments that brought so much joy to others. Makes one think about what we can aspire to achieve today!

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Anonymous said...

Hi Aunt Kay, I think I learned more about my grandfather from that letter than I ever knew about him. Thanks!

Paula in Cabot, VT

rex "steveo" mojo said...

Dear Kay,
I knew your Dad...he was a wonderful man, and I used to go to Paramount to meet with him about music...he was kind of a musical mentor..I was like in my late 20's.. I would visit with him at the apartment in
Glenale(ca 1979, not too long after Lucille died...he was a wonderful man, and a great talent!
We lost touch, but Ill always remember him as an inspirational human being!
Steve Owen