Sideman: The Autobiography of Billy Bauer

The Autobiography of Billy Bauer

as told to Thea Luba

Billy Bauer's autobiography is not merely a recitation of the musical events of his life, although there are plenty of these anecdotes. The more important aspect of it is the revelation of his role as an instructor of guitar, of music, and thus of life itself. Students of his have commented on his influence, as in the following two examples:

BB: "A student decided he was gonna make it in jazz. He went to college to study arranging and won a composition contest. He invited my wife and me to the concert. His girlfriend came over and gave me the program. He had written a composition for guitar, flute and cello. The program also listed the teachers of students. By his name was "Instructor - Billy Bauer," which I liked very much. (I don't know why the young people have to have so much amplification but it was loud.) He played good. The band sounded nice. It was jazz but modern jazz, I guess. They all took choruses.

"He came to our table and I said, 'thank you very much for writing that.' He said 'Do you know why I put your name there?' I said, 'cause you studied with me.' He said, 'No, it isn't that I studied with just you. It was that you're the only one who taught me how to learn.' I thought that was very good! That's what I try to do: Teach the person how they can teach themselves. That's my whole premise. That was the compliment he paid to me. He couldn't have said it too much better." (p. 151)

J: Did Billy ever ask you "Do you know...something?" For example, "Do you know a certain tune?" or "Do you know the F# diminished scale?" or "Do you know a particular chord?" Well, early on I answered "Yes" to a few of his questions. Now if you answer "Yes" to a "Do you know?" from Billy Bauer you'd better be ready. He'll take the subject at hand and ask you to play it up an octave or in another key or at half-speed or in a minor mode, backwards, upside-down and then he'll do it! Needless to say, there were times when I thought I knew and he pointed out that I really didn't know completely. Now this can deflate your ego in a heartbeat but it's not a bad thing. His job as an instructor is to find your weaknesses and hold the mirror in front of your face. In the long run it is a very healthy part of the learning experience, and can only make you a better player and a better person. He's an experienced instructor, a great storyteller and musician. I'm still having lots of fun. I look forward every week to our little sit-down. He makes me look truthfully at my guitar playing. He's also helped me to look at my life and myself more truthfully. (p. 148)

Sideman is in 8-1/2 x 11 format, has 215 pages of text and illustrations, and includes a discography of Billy Bauer's recordings and an index. The book is listed on, but with the indication that it must be ordered specially from the publisher. To order the book (ISBN 0-9657237-0-4) directly from Billy Bauer, send your check for $19.95 plus $3.20 postage to:

William H. Bauer, Inc.
Post Office Box #270
Albertson, NY  11507-0270