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  1. #1

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    When I was a teenager, back in the late 1960s, I began taking what turned out to be jazz guitar lessons on Long Island from a cat named Ziggy Allen. He arrived at my house every week driving a beat-up old black Cadillac, wearing a rumpled suit, and reeking of cigarette smoke, and we worked through chords and chord melodies and some simple lines. But I was 15 years old, it was the year Jimi played Woodstock, and chord melodies to tunes from "The Music Man" were the last thing on my mind. So there went Ziggy Allen in his old Caddy, never to be seen or heard from again.

    After playing guitar for the intervening 45 years, and only lately returning to jazz (from decades of classical), I've managed to at least reduce the frequency of self-flagellation for quitting jazz at 15. (As my current teacher says, "Don't beat yourself up. Jazz guys lives in boxes and eat ramen three times a week.") But I've always wondered about Ziggy Allen, as he sure emitted that "gigging jazz guitarist" vibe. Or maybe it was just the stink of cigarettes. But in retrospect, he certainly seemed to know his stuff, so I'm wondering if anyone else here has ever heard of him? Or, even better, began their jazz guitar careers studying with him?

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  3. #2

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    I see him mentioned on a website called AlanGilman.com and that he played with Jimmy Dorsey I think.

  4. #3

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    Thanks, Sharon. (Am I getting the name right? I seem to remember you from Jimmy Bruno's lesson site a few years back.) I happened to come across that same reference a couple of years ago -- thanks, Google! -- when I first started wondering about Ziggy Allen, and in fact communicated with Alan Gilman, now a doctor in Florida, who grew up on Long Island around the time I did. But Alan didn't have any further info beyond what his dad told him about Jimmy Dorsey (or was it Tommy), and that struck me as somewhat apocryphal. So I was hoping for some more definitive info. But I appreciate you taking the time to look him up.

  5. #4

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    Yes you got the name right. Good memory!
    Your story got me curious, because of an experience with a first jazz guitar teacher.. Couldn't understand a word he said, cause he was generally talking way above my knowledge-base. It would go something like: "Well you know, you just take your sharp 9 and flat the fifth then play it like this and then move over here, etc. etc. he kind of had the vibe of the guy you described.
    Yeah. I don't know if it was Tommy or Jimmy either. Lol

  6. #5

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    Was he a nervous, little guy who lived on the south shore of Nassau County (East Meadow, I think) and he worked for some tire company?
    The guy I'm thinking of had a teaching studio down in his basement, and always talked to himself saying, "oh misery, oh misery".
    If that's the guy, I've got a great story about him.

  7. #6

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    Well, it was the south shore of Nassau County, but he used to come to my home in Bellmore, so I don't know where he lived or worked. But your teacher doesn't sound like Ziggy; I don't recall him being a nervous, little guy (that, actually, better described me as a 15-year-old struggling guitarist), and I seriously doubt he worked in a tire company. If I recall, he was late middle-aged and always looked as if he'd slept in his clothes (which, come to think of it, as a gigging musician he might have). Nor did he talk to himself, though he did comment, every week, "Close enough for jazz" when I tuned my guitar (a Guild Starfire III single cutaway with Bigsby!). First time I'd ever heard that phrase.

    Upon further reflection, I think Ziggy might have had some connection to an outfit called the Hal Darnell Orchestra. Right around the time I quit with Ziggy, he hooked me up with Hal Darnell -- I was a long-haired, love-bead wearing teenager, and I knew enough chords to be able to strum and sing the rock-n'-roll hits of the day -- who trotted me out for the kids at weddings and bar mitzvahs when the adults got tired of dancing Hal's versions of the foxtrot, waltzes, and Bunny Hop. I recall playing the New Years Eve gig at Lefrak City in Queens around 1969-1970. Possibly the most depressing night I've ever spent. But I did make $75, which seemed like big bucks back then.

    I'd love to hear your story, though.

  8. #7

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    The Hal Darnell Orchestra- ahh... that brings back memories of terms the young players here will never know, like club dates, pre-heats, a continuous, Phantom Bass Players(!), Screamers, etc...

    Anyway, this guy I'm thinking of had a name like Ziggy (he was definitely Jewish) and I'm pretty sure he lived in Bellmore or East Meadow.
    His daughter was getting married, so he wanted a great guitarist to play for her wedding, so I was the heavy club date guitarist on LI back then (I knew a lot of tunes and could play jazz well), and they called me.

    He calls me on the phone and tells me I have to go over his house and play for him if I want the gig, so I lived in Wantagh, and Bellmore or East Meadow were one town over so I drove right over.

    I played a few chord melodies on his guitar, and he seemed very impressed. I asked him if he wanted to play something, but he said he was too tired from his day gig, but he tells me, "Here's a little something me and the boys played when were on a break during a big studio session were playing."

    He turned on his reel-to-reel tape recorder and he plays Buddy Fite doing "They Can't Take That Away From Me".

    I said, "That's not you, that's Buddy Fite".

    He gets all nervous and says, "Oh, I meant to play this one", and he plays Howard Roberts playing "ATTYA".

    I said, "That's not you, that's Howard Roberts from the Great Guitars of Jazz LP."

    He gets all nervous again, and plays Lloyd Ellis playing "Topsy".

    I said, "That's not you, that's the Lloyd Ellis "Fastest Guitar Player In the World" album."

    Finally he gives up and says, "Let's go upstairs."

    I wound up playing the gig, which was at the Oscar Hammerstein mansion in Whitestone, Queens, and it went pretty good, till he comes up to me all drunk and says he wants to play my guitar to dedicate a tune to his daughter, the bride.

    I'm a little worried, cause he's completely wrecked, but I said okay, and he played some godawful version of "Malaguena" where he turned my amp up to eleven and just moved an E chord up and down one fret.

    After he finished, he just left my guitar on the floor like it was a POS.

    I still thought of myself as an "artiste" back then, so I wanted to beat his head in, but the gig paid pretty good, and I needed the bread.

  9. #8

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    Wow, that's a terrific story! Thanks for sharing, but it couldn't have been Ziggy Allen, who seemed, at least from what I can remember, to have better chops than to try to get away with playing a dumbed-down version of Malaguena. And you remember Hal Darnell? That definitely is too trippy! (All of a sudden I feel a thousand years old. But it's gratifying to know that wasn't just an extended teenaged hallucination.)

    Are you still on Long Island? My folks are still in Bellmore, but it's been a few years since I've been back.

    And so the search for Ziggy Allen continues . . . .

  10. #9

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    I guess there was another Ziggy guitarist on LI.
    My folks passed in their 90s recently, and we had to sell their house, but since I live in Queens, I still do gigs on LI.
    Recently played a gig at the Millleridge Inn and a small club in Bethpage.
    We'll always be Lon Guylanders!

  11. #10

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    Yes. Yes, we will. For better or worse.

  12. #11

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    I studied a brief time with Ziggy Allen as did my friend. We lived in Jericho.

    Anyway, Ziggy played with Tony Bennett from what I recall.
    I didn't stay with him long, as I wanted to be a rock star....
    so I learned "A day in the life of a fool," and "The Girl from Ipanema," and I was done.

  13. #12

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    We all wanted to be rock stars back then, Rik.

    How'd you happen to come across this thread? Were you searching for Ziggy Allen yourself? Ever get anywhere with the guitar? (I'm still playing "Girl from Ipanema," though on a nylon string guitar.)

  14. #13

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    haha-one of my friends on facebook was raving about Tony Bennett....one thing led to another...here we are!
    I played in a few bands, played a few small clubs, went to art school, worked as an illustrator/graphic designer, got fired for spending all my time designing Martial Arts logos for the "one day I'll have a school.." got fired...opened a Martial Arts school 30 yrs ago, picked up my guitar again, and now I like to play in blues jams.
    "My guitar playing is like sex. I'm at my best when I'm alone in my bedroom."
    (I really need to make this into a t-shirt...)

  15. #14

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    You design the T-shirt, I'll buy one. Maybe you can incorporate a logo for the Ziggy Allen Memorial Club for Wayward Guitarists into the shirt somewhere.

  16. #15

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    Few years late to the post but Ziggy was my grandfather and one of my favorite people in the world. He sadly passed away about 8 year ago. Thank you for sharing your stories on this thread - I’m glad people were able to enjoy his presence as much as myself and my family

  17. #16

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    Wow!! Well, that certainly was a response I never expected to be reading! How did you happen to come across this thread, JNB09? And if you've got more info on your grandpa, especially as regarding his musical career, I'd certainly love to hear them I have very, very few regrets in life, but about the biggest one is the fact I parted ways from Ziggy before I had the chance to tap into some of his expertise. Do tell! (And was I exaggerating about the cigarette smoke? That was my memory, anyway. Hopefully no offense taken.)

  18. #17

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    great resolution to an interesting thread!!

    milleredge inn reference cracked me up..that was my aunts fave place..she worked at d'addario!


    cheers

  19. #18

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    Wow! This takes me back! Ziggy was a friend of my uncle. Ziggy lived on Merrick Ave in North Merrick. I took guitar lessons from him for several years around 1978 to 1982. I played with him at a club called the White House on the south shore several times. He smoked and loved his "one" scotch before dinner. And yes, he was a sales rep at a tire company in Deer Park I believe. May have been Max Finklestein Tires. Great memories! Wonderful man!

  20. #19

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    Ziggy lives! (Well, at least this thread does.) I marvel that this once again has been resurrected by someone else with Ziggy memories. Many thanks for filling me in on some further details, Ramayr98. Slowly (very slowly) a fuller picture emerges. Interesting to know that he was still teaching as late as 1982; in 1969, he already seemed to me (an impressionable 15-year-old) to be 80 years old. (In truth, he probably was younger than I am now. But we don't like to imagine those scenarios.) Thanks for chiming in; that took me by quite the surprise this morning.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ramayr98
    Wow! This takes me back! Ziggy was a friend of my uncle. Ziggy lived on Merrick Ave in North Merrick. I took guitar lessons from him for several years around 1978 to 1982. I played with him at a club called the White House on the south shore several times. He smoked and loved his "one" scotch before dinner. And yes, he was a sales rep at a tire company in Deer Park I believe. May have been Max Finklestein Tires. Great memories! Wonderful man!
    Did the White House have a comedian there who used to imitate Richard Nixon?
    The guy I mentioned who might have been Ziggy Allen, lived on the South Shore in Nassau County, and taught students in his finished basement.
    I remember him as being about 5'7", skinny, balding, talked a lot, a smoker and drinker. I guess I played his daughter's wedding sometime in the mid to late 70s. The omni-present Vic Maffey was on accordion, and told me about when he played in the George Shearing Quintet with Dick Garcia in Alaska!
    Vic used to sell Fake Books that he kept in the trunk of his car, and dressed very seedy, but was actually pretty wealthy, with a big pool in his backyard.; a legendary LI music character!
    Stan Auld was on sax and vocals, Georgie Auld's nephew. Ziggy got totally smashed at his daughter's wedding, and performed a maniacal version of Malaguena where he worked the crowd into a frenzy, cranking my Twin up to eleven, and then leaving my Gibson BK on the floor, with the glass from his drink knocked over, and booze all over the top of my guitar!