'em up with
Bill 'Willie Jopling' Marshall
Bill Marshall might be one of the better-kept secrets in the pool world. Everybody knows Willie Jopling, but not many know the real person that is behind the trick shots, and just how big a fan of One Pocket he's been all these years. But then again, fans of Willie Jopling can't help but notice the many One Pocket stories and tips that slip into his trick shot columns, and his trick shot book includes a whole special section on One Pocket. More recently Bill Marshall, AKA Willie Jopling, has produced two comprehensive One Pocket instructional videos. Most of this interview took place January 2005, at the Derby City Classic.
© 2006 Steve Booth, OnePocket.org
1P: Bill Marshall might be one of the better-kept secrets in the pool world. Everybody knows Willie Jopling, but not many know the real person that is behind the trick shots.
BM: I don’t know about that. I’m not a real good player. I played pretty good pool when I was younger, just not consistent. You’ve got to be a real consistent player to be a champion. You have to play with champions. They are so consistent it is unbelievable. When you hold two balls up and look at that contact point, what a small little point you have to hit on those balls, it’s amazing how accurate they are. I didn’t start playing until I was 21. I had to teach myself to play. Back in those days, nobody wanted to tell you much of anything and I was just banging balls around. I didn’t know anything about position; I was just trying to make a shot. I thought a shot-maker was a good pool player. So I was just a shot-maker, until a few hustlers came into town. In a small town, the local hotshot thinks he can beat anybody and the people who back him think he can beat anybody too, until they see somebody come through who can really play. We had a guy in our town who made good money, and he loved pool. He was a railway mail clerk. I don’t know if you know but back in our day they used to sort mail on the train. The train would go from Lynchburg to Washington and back to Atlanta and get the mailbags. In the little towns they would put the mail in a sack and this arm on the train would catch it.
1P: So the train doesn’t even stop.
BM: Doesn’t stop. The only time it stops is if you have somebody to ride it. That’s the way it was. Bedford was a little tiny place.
1P: And that was in Virginia?
BM: Yes. The mark in our town loved pool and he made a lot of money on the railroad. He was working two weeks on, two weeks off, two weeks work, two weeks off. The hustlers would come through Lynchburg and try to catch him. A lot of times he would be on the road and couldn’t play them. Grady came through and set up his camper right beside the poolroom so as not to miss him. The mark owned the poolroom by that time; finally he retired and was at the poolroom all the time. After Grady was there, Mike Carella -- the player that got killed – came by. He parked his trailer right beside the poolroom, too, and stayed until he won some money. But until those guys got to beating on the mark, he didn’t think he could lose. I took him down to the US Open in Norfolk one time and on the way down, he said ‘If anybody down there wants to spot me 8 to 6, they got it. Nobody can beat me 8 to 6.’ I was a friend so I tried to tell him, ‘There’s a lot of guys down there who could play you 8 to 6.’ I said, ‘There’s Hopkins and Carella.’ I said, ‘Those guys could spot me 8 to 4 and they could spot you 8 to 5 or more than that.’ But he played them anyway and he lost. But what I was getting at is, the local player can get a stake against anybody like that who comes through a small town. The locals think that they can’t lose.
1P: For guys on the road, that’s their bread and butter, local hot shots like that.
BM: They think they are world beaters, there’s no way somebody like that can win, because most them are just shot makers and they don’t know how to control the cue ball. Every now and then you run into one that can, but most of them are just shot makers; they just think they can really play.
1P: So, you said you started playing when you were about 21?
BM: Yeah, I came out of the service at 21 and that’s when I started playing because I had never been in a poolroom except for this little town Lowry, between Bedford and Lynchburg. It had a pool table in the grocery store and I watched pool but I wasn’t allowed to play because of my age. I would roll balls on it and whenever somebody would pull up outside I would just back off until everybody was gone again. My father didn’t play pool, but we would sit down and watch other people play. The guy who owned the store played pool and he knew a lot of propositions and that’s where I got some of my propositions.
1P: So that’s where you first got introduced to proposition shots?
BM: Right. And then we moved to Bedford from Lowry and I didn’t play any pool, we lived on a farm. None of my friends played pool. We played jazz; we were jazz fans.
1P: What instrument did you play?
BM: I don’t mean that. I mean jazz records. I liked hillbilly music early on. The Wabash Cannonball and stuff like that. When I met these guys, they introduced me to Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and those big bands and I fell in love with jazz. So we used to go by different guys’ houses that had record collections and I got real interested in jazz. I played the drums a little. I worked in a funeral home when I was in high school and when one of my buddies that had a set of drums went in the service, I set the drums up at the funeral home. I slept there at night to answer the phone, then I would go to school. My buddy left the drum set and I started playing along with records.
1P: So you were fairly young when you first started watching pool but you still hadn’t started playing yourself?
BM: When I got out of the service, my father said, ‘Your brother has picked up a bad habit.’ He said, ‘I wish you would go by the poolroom and pick him up.’ I went by the poolroom and I saw him win $600 in one night and I didn’t think it was such a bad habit.
1P: Is he younger or older than you?
BM: Younger. He was still in high school. I got out of the service in ’46.
1P: What year were you born, Bill?
BM: 1926. I started playing then, in ’47, I believe.
1P: So of course at first your younger brother was beating you?
BM: He would have, but we never even played. He would show me a trick or two that he had learned and of course I liked tricks. I was into magic before pool, so tricking people was fun.
1P: So that’s another reason why you got into trick shots – they were like magic tricks on a pool table?
BM: I think so. The magic, along with the guy that did proposition shots on that old country store pool table.
1P: Bill, I think I’ve heard you say that there are two kinds of proposition shots.
BM: There are the kind that you shoot yourself, and there are the kind that you proposition the other guy to shoot. The ones that you shoot yourself look hard but if you learn them they’re easy, and the ones you let the other guy shoot look easy but they’re actually near impossible. Like where you put the cue ball froze against the rail and you put an object ball frozen against the same rail and you’re going to make that ball in one corner and draw the cue ball back in the other corner. It looks real easy until you try to do it. You’ve got to hit it perfect.
Bill -- Willie Jopling -- entertained the guests at the Derby City Classic in the AZBilliards/OnePocket.org room in January, 2006
Examples of Willie Jopling's two kinds of proposition shots
1P: So you developed your basic pool skills and you collected trick shots and propositions along the way, because you had an interest in them right from the beginning.
BM: Yeah. Most of the stuff about pool I learned from trick shots. How to throw a ball, how balls kiss off at a right angle, I learned stuff like that from trick shots. People can learn a lot from trick shots.
1P: What pool games were being played around home when you first started?
BM: Back then in my town they played five ball. You’d rack six, which would make a triangle, and you’d break the balls and throw the six off and the five was the money ball, only the five ball. It’s a real fast game.
1P: So it was a rotation game, like playing 6-ball but even quicker?
BM: Yeah, rotation. Then they also played 5, 7, and 9, which was a rotation game. Like 9-Ball but each one of those balls was a money ball.
1P: We used to play 3, 6, 9 up in New England.
BM: Same idea, except 5, 7, and 9 were the money balls. I’ve counted up the number of pool games and I’ve got to over 60 different pool games. There’s so many different games that people don’t even play anymore, like Cribbage and Near Ball.
1P: And then there are some, like Golf, where within Golf there are quite a few variations.
BM: Even 8-Ball; there’s a lot of different ways to play 8-Ball. Last pocket, one in the side, fifteen in the other side. You have nine ball one pocket and one pocket nine ball.
1P: When you say one pocket nine ball, are your talking about where you rack like 9-Ball but you play One Pocket?
BM: No, you play it just like you play 9-Ball but you’ve got to make the nine in your pocket and he has to make the nine in his pocket.
1P: Oh, you mean like Back Pocket 9-Ball?
BM: Well, Back Pocket is up this way. Back pocket is a different game, too.
1P: Oh, so that’s kind of like Back Pocket but it’s in the front pockets?
1P: I hadn’t heard that. So if that’s One Pocket 9-Ball, what’s nine ball One Pocket?
BM: That’s when you play One Pocket with only nine balls.
1P: Okay. That’s the one where you use a soft break going two rails up into the bottom of the pack?
BM: If you come off the bottom rail just right the back ball will go in the pocket. I hustled a guy in Washington, D.C. at that game, a real good player named Jackie Robinson.
1P: Jackie Robinson, like the baseball player?
BM: Real good player and he had beat me playing regular One Pocket so I said, ‘Well, if you give me the break I’ll play you some nine ball One Pocket.’ He thought about it and he said okay. Now I had been practicing to make sure which diamond I had to hit to hit that back ball just right. I had been doing that on that particular table, which was up at Beenie’s room, Jack ‘N Jill’s. So I beat him playing that game by making the back ball on my break.
1P: How did you first get introduced to the game of One Pocket? Where did you first start seeing it?
BM: When I got out of the service. It’s real funny, a guy that was in the service with me, but I had never seen before, until the night before we left. He was throwing dice against my footlocker. When I got out of the service that same guy had opened a poolroom here in Lynchburg. I walked in and thought to myself, ‘I’ve seen this guy before.’ I knew I had seen him before.
1P: So you started playing after you got out of the service?
BM: I started playing in that room and there was a doctor that lived out in the country. I don’t know if you know who Snuffy Smith is but he had a big black fedora with a big floppy brim and black suit and vest. He would come in once a month to play One Pocket with the guy that owned the poolroom and I had never seen One Pocket before. I started playing One Pocket with a friend of mine and after a while I got so I could beat the houseman. And I played it a whole lot until I wasn’t playing anything but One Pocket.
1P: So you discovered the game after playing pool for only about a year, and you became hooked on it?
BM: By ’48, I started playing nothing but One Pocket. I just liked the idea of the game, the playing safe and the creativity.
But a couple of times I stopped playing pool for a while when my children were born, like when my son was born. I would go right by the poolroom on my way home from my work so a lot of times I would stop at the poolroom to see what was going on, but when those children came along most of the time I used to go home. Then another thing that influenced me was, I had a friend named Harry Crabtree who was the only person in Lynchburg that became a genuine pool hustler. I mean he was like Puckett and all those guys.
1P: I’ve heard that name, Crabtree.
BM: You’re probably seen it in my writings because I’ve written about him two or three times. Well, Crabtree was a big influence on me. He never did show me a lot but he showed me a few things. He showed me a shot that he designed to trap Weenie Beenie. Everybody tried to trap Weenie Beenie. He showed me that shot and I said, ‘Well, did you ever get to pull it on Beenie?’ And he said, ‘No, Beenie and I became good friends and I couldn’t pull it on him.’ But a few shots like that he showed me. Most of the things, either I created them myself or saw them in a pool game.
Crabtree would go out of town for five years at a time. He went to the west coast and stayed for ten years one time. His whole life he was a pool hustler. Later life, he worked for the carnival. A guy came through Lynchburg with the carnival and he took Harry Crabtree on the road with the carnival. The guy told me later that Crabtree didn’t have enough larceny in him to be a carnival hustler.
Photo courtesy Bill Marshall
1P: So he had enough larceny to be a pool hustler but not enough to be a carnival hustler -- that's pretty funny! I guess Grady spent time in the carnival, too.
BM: Yeah, Grady did that and Ronnie Allen’s father was a carnival hustler too. It’s a good chance for them to travel all over the country and then when it rains or something, they play pool. I’ve been beat by a couple of carnival hustlers. So ‘Tree’ would go away and I might lay off, but when he’d come back I’d get really into pool again. And we’d stay up all night long telling stories, drinking coffee and eating desserts. One night my wife pushed a dresser in front of the door so I couldn’t get in!
1P: Oh, she was mad at you because you out so late?
BM: I was out until 4:00 a.m. talking to Crabtree. I don’t know what she thought I might be doing. But I was lucky I had a key to get into the basement.
1P: Did Crabtree play One Pocket?
BM: He was a Bank Pool player. He liked Bank Pool, which helped his One Pocket game. After I started playing One Pocket, all these people came through town -- this is what I was getting at when I was talking about the mark -- they all came through town to beat him, they were looking for him. Back in ’47 and ’48 in Lynchburg, we had $100 One Pocket games, $200 One Pocket games where these hustlers come through trying to beat him out of money. That was a lot of money for a small town player to be playing for in those days.
Before I even started playing pool, all of these people like Wimpy, Fats and U.J. Puckett -- all of them had been through. I had heard about them but I didn’t see them because they came through before I started playing.
1P: One of the things that attracted me to One Pocket was that you get to use every little bit of pool knowledge that you have up your sleeve – every little trick. I know one of the things you like about One Pocket is that you get to play shots that are almost like trick shots, yet they are actually a real shot in the game.
BM: That’s true. You get a lot of things out of the stack sometimes that you learn from trick shots. Certain ways the balls kiss. You get those things in the stack sometimes, or even after the balls get broken up. You can just see where the balls will kiss in. It’s such a fascinating game. There’s no other game like it. Of course, there’s some luck to One Pocket but not as much as other games like 9-Ball.
1P: But there’s definitely some luck.
BM: There’s good and bad luck in all games. I think the game that there’s less luck in and more skill in than any other game is probably Bank Pool, where you have to completely call the shot, with no kisses or anything.
1P: Right. About the only luck you have there is position, the final few inches of the roll of the balls.
BM: Right, position, that’s it. You can luck out and get a real good roll on position but that’s about it. One Pocket has always been my game. I’ve created a few shots. I’ll have to show you a couple of them. I bet you George Rood doesn’t even know. Well, you’ve seen them on my tape, you just don’t know which ones they are. That one I was talking about with Beenie is on my tape.
1P: That one where Crabtree was going to trap Beenie. What shot was that?
BM: Well, Joyner used it last night. He must have got it from my tape or he got it from my book. I put it in my book. It’s the shot where two balls are on the spot. You can make the front ball in the pocket a certain way but you can also hit it and go around this way, back down here. The back ball will bank to your pocket and the front ball will roll over there near your pocket. So you either got a real good safety or you make a ball. If you make a ball you can get out because the other ball is right there too.
1P: When I have seen that kind of shot, you set the cue ball up just to one side of the middle of the table and then you pretty much just draw straight back.
BM: We’re talking about two different shots. You’re forcing the front ball to the pocket.
1P: Yeah, from the other side of the table.
BM: I’m banking the back ball two rails to the pocket.
1P: And you’re sending the cue ball three rails around the table?
BM: For safety, yes.
1P: And it’s not a kiss?
BM: It’ll kiss if you hit it bad, yeah. You can hit it bad and lose the game. But a top player is not going to hit that ball bad enough to kiss. You’ll see it on my tape. You’ll see it twice on my tape.
Willie Jopling's two balls on the spot shot
(click to enlarge diagram)
1P: Now when Cliff played it –
BM: He played it twice in one match. One time he didn’t quite hit it right. The balls came around, he didn’t get a kiss, but the cue ball didn’t get hardly any way up the table. The next time he hit it, he moved the cue ball over just a little bit further and it went all the way around and he hung the ball in his pocket. It didn’t go, but it almost did.
1P: When Cliff played it, he had ball in hand, so he chose to play the shot that way instead of playing it the other way, with just draw?
BM: Yeah, he did it twice. And he made the guy straighten the balls up; you need to make sure the balls are spotted straight. Froze and straight.
1P: So once you started playing and really got into it, right from the beginning you got a chance to see a high level of play?
BM: Yes. People like Eddie Taylor, he came through town to drive the guy he was working for. I think I told you about that.
1P: Well I’d like to hear it again.
BM: Eddie was working for Charlie Brooks in Knoxville, Tennessee. Charlie was from Lynchburg, so every summer he would come to Lynchburg to see his family. But Charlie didn’t drive, so on several occasions, two years in a row, Eddie drove back to Lynchburg with him. I could look out the window and here’s the street and over here’s the poolroom and I’m working over here. I’m working right across the street from the poolroom so I could see Eddie Taylor walking up and down the street.
1P: So you got to know Eddie Taylor way back then?
BM: Crabtree had already told me about Taylor and Weenie Beenie, before I had ever seen them. Crabtree told me about all those players. Beenie’s always been my idol, and Taylor too. Well, hero.
1P: Bill, I think you’ve told me before about one time when Weenie Beenie came to Lynchburg.
BM: Yeah, he came down after we had a One Pocket tournament. He came down because he heard about all this One Pocket going on in Lynchburg. So he came down and got a room at Howard Johnson for four or five days and he showed the guys a lot of stuff. Tricks out of the phone book even. Throw up a certain amount of coins and tell you how many are going to be heads and how many are going to be tails, stuff like that. He’d beat them out of money, not a lot, because they wouldn’t bet a lot. But Beenie had a lot of tricks. He told these guys in Lynchburg, ‘If you get busted I’ll give you half your money back.’ Well, Beenie broke them three times that night and gave them half their money back three times.
1P: So you organized a One Pocket tournament there right in the poolroom at Lynchburg?
BM: Yeah, in Lynchburg in the middle 60’s after Johnston City had started. I told them if we advertise in the Billiard News and put a flyer in it we’d get a lot of response. Well, I didn’t expect to get people from California, but Cole Dixon came. In fact two or three guys from California that I had never seen before came, and of course a lot of people from Texas came. Billy Stroud came. You know who he is?
1P: Yeah, a cue maker.
BM: And Danny Janes came with Billy, that’s before they went in business together. They went to work for Muecci to learn that business. Did you know that?
BM: Both of them worked for Meucci a little while. Billy Stroud was a pool hustler for a little while. And I never heard of Danny Janes until that time. I guess he was a hustler of some kind. Anyway, they all fell out with the guy that owned the poolroom after they got here. They all wanted to play right away. He had it set up to play on a certain date. He didn’t have bleachers or anything for spectators, he was just going to have a tournament, he didn’t care about spectators. But all those road players just wanted to get back on the road and go, so they wanted to get it over with. Finally he said, ‘To hell with you. We’ll just play it off tonight. We’ll play all night long.’
When I went in the poolroom the next day, I said, ‘When are you going to start the tournament?’ And he said, ‘We already had it.’
1P: So you weren’t actually there for the tournament? You ended up missing it.
BM: Yeah. But a bunch of those guys stayed around. Lisciotti was one of them. That’s when I played him some Kiss Pool and he beat me. He was the first guy that ever beat me playing Kiss Pool; Larry was a great all-around player.
Bill demonstrates the opening break in Kiss Pool.
1P: I noticed that when we were talking to George Rood he mentioned Kiss Pool too. So it’s an old game.
BM: Well, I started playing it back in the 40’s. I took it up to D.C. to Beenie’s place and I took it up to New York and showed it to everybody. I played a bunch of guys in New York. I didn’t show it, I just played and everyone just gathered round to watch that game. And I played it in New York at one of the straight pool tournaments. I played it with Joe Russo.
|1P: Did you create the game?
BM: Not really. They must have been playing that game somewhere else because here in Lynchburg two older fellows used to come in every lunch hour to play what they called Kiss Pool and they would just kiss the balls off the cue ball and you didn’t have to hit a rail or anything like that. The only rule they had was if the cue ball went in the pocket that’s a scratch. So, after one of them died I started playing with the other one on my lunch hour and I said, ‘You need some rules for this game.’ So I wrote them and had them published in the Digest. I even put a diagram in there and showed them how to break.
BILLIARD POOL, KISS POOL or LOOP
Billiard Pool is played on a pocket billiard table and should not be confused with Billiards. Its common name is Kiss Pool. This game may be played like straight pool to fifty or one-hundred points or like one pocket with the winner making eight balls out of a rack of fifteen. Loop is pool spelled backwards.
Object of Game: To strike an object ball with your cue stick and carom it off the cue ball and into a pocket. You must call the pocket for each shot. The numbered ball you strike with your cue stick is the only ball you can score with. You may shoot any numbered ball on the table.
Setup: The cue ball and fourteen numbered balls are racked at the foot of the table with the cue ball in the rack on the foot spot. The fifteenth ball is then placed on the head spot and used as a break ball. When playing a point game such as fifty or one-hundred points, all fifteen balls are pocketed. Then the balls are re-racked as before and the shooter has the break shot to continue his run. Each break shot is always off the head spot. The total of the scores in each rack add up to fifteen.
Break: The break is to the advantage and the breaker caroms the break ball off the cue ball into one of the comer pockets at the foot of the table. The breaker continues to carom numbered balls off the cue ball until he either misses or scratches. Then it is your turn at the table and you may shoot any numbered ball calling the pocket for each shot.
Scratches: Generally, Straight Pool rules apply, You scratch if you: pocket the cue ball; do not hit the cue ball; fail to hit a rail or pocket the object ball; jump the cue ball off the table. If you scratch and make a ball on the same shot you spot the one you made and you lose one for the scratch. When your opponent scratches the cue ball into the pocket it is spotted and you may shoot any numbered ball on the table.
Additional Rules: The cue ball is always spotted on or behind the foot spot. All numbered balls are spotted on or ahead of the head spot. The numbered ball you strike with your cue stick is the only ball you can score with. All shots must go in clean as in Bank Pool. Kisses or combinations do not count. However, double kisses on the cue ball are allowed only if they are called. Any stray balls pocketed from the force of the cue ball are spotted after each inning. Each ball legally pocketed is one point.
Scoring: Playing a point game like Straight Pool you are penalized a ball for each scratch or foul. Should you make a ball and scratch you spot the ball you made and take one off your score for the scratch. If you scratch without making a ball you just take one off your score. In the first rack you must keep track of your scratches and take them off your score at the end of that rack. When playing by the rack like One Pocket and you scratch you must spot the ball you made (if you made one) plus a ball for the scratch. This keeps the total scores at fifteen.
© 1978-1995 Willie Jopling
Reprinted with permission from Willie Jopling’s Book on Pocket Billiards
Then I started playing different people. Like in Lynchburg, I beat everybody I played, including the top player, the mark; I could beat him at that game. Then I went up to Beenie’s and I beat a bunch of people up there. A guy they called Pittsburgh John and another player called Youngblood.
1P: There’s two or three Youngbloods.
BM: This was a young guy. They called him Youngblood. He came up to me and wanted to play me something. I said, ‘Well I’ll play you some kiss pool.’ He said, ‘How does that game go?’ I said, ‘Well, they play it in the colored poolrooms down south,’ out loud. He said, ‘Listen to this jive turkey. Colored, man, you colored.’ He didn’t like me calling him colored. Calling black people colored, at that time was a no-no.
Anyway, he said, ‘How does that game go?’ And I told him how to play it. He said, ‘Alright, let’s get it on.’ I just wanted to play for $20 because I didn’t know whether this guy was putting me on or not. So I beat him out of $40 and that’s all he had. Then he wanted to borrow the $40 back. I said, ‘No, you can get the $40 from some of your friends, people you know, not from me. You won’t see me again.’
I played Lisciotti there, too. I beat him one time; he beat me twice. He was a real good billiards player and a real good straight pool player. He knew as much about the game as anybody.
1P: And he also had a real classic stroke where he could do about anything with the cue ball.
BM: Yeah, Larry was a good player. He’d give people great big spots playing Straight Pool because he’d run so many balls. I was up there when he beat Mizerak.
1P: When he won that big tournament?
BM: The first big PPPA tournament in Asbury Park; I bet on him.
1P: So Kiss Pool is probably good for building up your skills for some of the safety play in One Pocket because of all that caroming off a ball.
BM: Yeah. You can put the cue ball most anywhere you want to if you know kiss pool.
1P: Because one of the things we talk about in One Pocket is, ‘Are you playing the object ball or the cue ball?’
BM: In kiss pool that is like the cue ball, you’re shooting with the stick. You’re shooting the object ball with the stick, which normally you do with the cue ball. That’s why they call it ‘loop’ because it’s pool spelled backwards.
1P: So who have been some of your favorite One Pocket players to watch?
BM: Larry Lisciotti was one of them. Even though he would get beat by people that didn’t play as good as he did, he could play good One Pocket. I also like to watch Keith [McCready].
1P: I’ve seen Lisciotti play One Pocket, but my impression was -- and I’ve heard other people say this -- he would come up with these tremendous shots, but he didn’t know when to stop being creative, so sometimes he got caught trying to do a little too much.
BM: But he was fun to watch. McCready is always fun to watch, too. He used to wear a t-shirt that said ‘The whole world’s got the 8’ on it.
1P: A very entertaining personality, too.
BM: But he’s not the best One Pocket player though. I enjoyed watching Eddie Taylor and Efren. You can’t beat watching Efren.
1P: Efren is such a tremendous all-around player, three-cushion billiards and everything.
BM: I like to watch Parica because he goes around with his cue stick and shows you what he’s going to do.
1P: I’ve noticed he often puts his hand on the table to kind of mark where he plans on having the cue ball go.
BM: It’s very informative to watch somebody like Parica because they show you what they are thinking about doing. You can almost visualize the shot before they shoot it.
1P: I know you told me once how you got to know Eddie Taylor. You also have mentioned meeting Fats when you went with Eddie down to Shreveport.
BM: I’d been doing a book on Eddie Taylor with Crabtree. I was going to do a book on Crabtree and he had a title for it and everything. A lot of times he was a broke pool hustler so he had a title, “Coast to Coast on Buttered Toast.” He said, ‘We’re not going to sell that book. We ought to write about Eddie Taylor. He’s done some things on pool tables that I don’t think anybody else has done.’ So I started going down to the Carolinas where they both were working for a guy down there just to get social security. I think Eddie’s wife made real good money. Eddie just needed walk around money. So they were both working for Charlie Backer who was a pool player and a guy who backed pool players. He owned a whole street then. But he had a used car lot and Crabtree slept in back of the office. Eddie would come over from his house and they both would trade off working selling cars. That’s how Crabtree got social security. All the guys that came in to play pool, Crabtree and Taylor beat them all. That’s how I got to know Taylor a little better. Because I would go down and pick up the stuff for Crabtree, he’d go over with it to put in the book that we were writing.
Bill Marhall with his unusual 1973 Meucci cue in the
AZBilliards/OnePocket.org room -- January 2006
But then Taylor’s wife got a job as a head nurse down in Shreveport and so naturally Taylor’s got to move and he said, ‘Well, I’m going down to Shreveport. I’ve got Fats coming down to give an exhibition in the poolroom. Why don’t you come along with me?’ It was Red Box’s poolroom. I couldn’t go the day he was going, but I got a plane ticket and I met him down there. They came to the airport and picked me up. We had a real good time down there.
1P: Eddie sure must have, because he stayed for 30 years!
BM: At that time, I had never seen Fats, and I wanted to see him.
1P: That would have been about 1970?
BM: 1973. The same year I had Meucci make me a cue stick.
1P: Was that the cue stick that got stolen, but you ended up getting back?
BM: Yes, and I still have it.
1P: So it was Crabtree that introduced you to the inside world of pool hustlers?
BM: Yes. He steered quite a few players through Lynchburg; he and Eddie Taylor.
1P: Who would you say was the best hustler you ever saw; I mean as a hustler, not necessarily a player?
BM: The best hustler I ever saw was Sam Crotzer, and I played him. Sam was from Nashville and Eddie Taylor was from Knoxville and they were road partners. The Knoxville Bear and Nashville Sam, what a duo! Crotzer would deceive his opponent by dressing like someone he wasn’t. When he hustled me he was in a pinstriped suit with a briefcase. Taylor, on the other hand, would tell people in the poolroom he was the best player in the country, but then he would make a fool out of himself by missing balls and talking nonsense, like he ‘just beat Ralph Greenfield,’ mispronouncing Greenleaf on purpose.
1P: So when you played Crotzer, you think Eddie Taylor probably sent him?
BM: I think Taylor sent him because Taylor had been there for a couple of years and Sam Crotzer was his road partner. So then Sam Crotzer shows up and of course I don’t know who he is when he comes in the poolroom. He looked like Robert Ryan, the movie star. Looked exactly like him. He came in the poolroom with a hat on, a pin-stripe suit, wristwatch, diamond ring, wingtip shoes and sat on the bench during lunchtime. I finally asked him what the hell he did and he said, ‘I’m an accident insurance adjuster.’ So he did that for a week. What I didn’t know and nobody else knew was that he was playing pool in Roanoke and beating guys there, and then coming down and sleeping in Lynchburg and going back the next day, back and forth.
1P: So he was taking down the action in one town at the same time he was setting it up in another town!
BM: Right. So that week I happened to play somebody one-handed, because Eddie Taylor had beat some people one-handed and I found that in One Pocket you can play one-handed, especially if you rest your cue on the rail. So near the end of the week, this guy slips down the bench and says, ‘You play as good one-handed as some people do two-handed.’ He said, ‘If you play one-handed I’ll play you some.’ So I said, ‘What do you want to play for?’ He said $2 or something like that. So he beat me two games and then he let me get it back. And then he said, ‘I’m running late; I have to go for my appointment.’
So on Friday a friend of mine, a character like some of these characters, he said, ‘This guy wants to play you some One Pocket.’ I said ‘Yeah, who is he?’ He said ‘Well, I met him in the restaurant and he wants to play you. You played him one-handed the other day and he wants to play you some more One Pocket.’ So I said okay. Friday was payday, so I made my car payment, I went home, I paid my landlord and came back with $25, because I thought he wouldn’t play for anything. So when I got back he said, ‘Let’s play for $10 and you won’t have to shoot one-handed.’ Now that should have woke me up right there. That would wake up the dead! But I said okay. I had two barrels. So he won two games and I just said, ‘I’ve got to quit.’ Then the next day I go in the poolroom and he’s playing the best guy, playing the mark and beating him to death.
1P: You mean it was Crabtree that he was playing?
BM: No, Billy Palmer, the mark. Palmer was the mark in Lynchburg; Crabtree was a hustler himself.
There was another time, when Crabtree was in Lynchburg and he said, ‘Some guys called me up and said that there’s a guy coming through that wants to play some pool.’ I said, ‘Who is it?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know.’ Well, Crabtree and I hadn’t become friends yet; he was trying to set me up because we weren’t friends at that time. So this big guy comes in about 9:00 or 10:00 PM; it was late because the poolroom was about to close, and Crabtree is in the back talking to some guys and he says, ‘Hey Mr. Anderson.’ It was Jimmy Moore but I don’t know Jimmy Moore. In fact, if he said Jimmy Moore, I wouldn’t have known who Jimmy Moore was at that time. Anyway, Crabtree told him, ‘Just make the knife and fork off of Bill tonight and tomorrow all these pool detectives will tell everybody that you beat Bill,’ so the mark would play him. He won the first two games and then I won a game. So he only won $20 off of me.
The next day Crabtree invited me up to the hotel where Jimmy Moore and Don Willis were staying. And Crabtree told Jimmy Moore, ‘Come on down to the poolroom around 10:00 in the morning, Billy Palmer is always there.’ I had to work that morning and I didn’t see him when he got there but he came in and they played 9-Ball and Moore beat him playing 9-Ball. Then they played One Pocket and Moore beat him playing One Pocket and then he left, but he came back in the door and said, ‘I’ll give you 8 to 6.’ But Palmer told him to hit the road. He had won $800 off of Palmer, which was back in the 50’s. A little while later Don Willis came in and gave Crabtree 10%. He came in and got Crabtree’s attention and had a little matchbook slipped up behind the cue sticks on the wall. Crabtree went over and picked it up and it was $80.
I can tell you a funny tale about Eddie Taylor and Sam Crotzer. I already knew Crotzer from that time I played him in Lynchburg, but I heard this later, from Taylor. Well on that same trip, Crotzer had started out on a full 360 through Virginia, stopping at all those towns, and he beat everybody he played. He got down to Norfolk. Wimpy wasn’t around for some reason. Of course he knew better than to play Wimpy anyway.
1P: Yeah, he sure wouldn’t want to start with Wimpy.
BM: He got this guy that played just under Wimpy, named Lefty Lewis. And Lefty almost beat him but he finally beat Lefty. Well, five years later Lefty takes a road trip and he goes through Nashville. Lefty is in there practicing and you know a pool player, you might not recognize him, but when he gets down on the table, a lot of times you can recognize him by the way he plays, his mannerisms and everything. So Crotzer comes in and realizes this is Lefty Lewis, practicing. When it rained, Crotzer would wear a hunting outfit. He would say, ‘I would hunt today but I’m just going to knock the balls around.’ When he beat me he had a briefcase and a suit and everything on.
1P: So he had a few different gimmicks…
BM: Yeah. He was afraid Lefty would recognize him if he got down and played him, so he says, ‘No, I don’t play for money, but there’s a guy in the other poolroom around the corner that works for the newspaper. He’ll be dressed up in a suit and necktie. He plays high stakes.’ So Lefty went over there. It was Eddie Taylor of course, unbeknownst to Lefty. So the next day Crotzer was waiting out on the corner for Eddie to pick him up in his Cadillac when Lefty showed up. Eddie always drove a Cadillac and the plate always said JET, James Edward Taylor. Crotzer said he couldn’t shake the guy. The guy said, ‘You know that guy you sent me around to play pool with busted me.’ He was trying to hit Crotzer up for some money. About that time Eddie Taylor drove by in his Cadillac but he didn’t stop to pick him up because he didn’t want to blow the story if the guy saw them together. But Lefty saw him and said, ‘There goes the son-of-a-bitch now!’
Willie Jopling's two One Pocket instructional videos (VHS or DVD) can be purchased from him directly,
and he still has a few copies left of his original trick shots, propositions and One Pocket book,
Willie Jopling's Book on Pocket Billiards
Click here for ordering information
All photos © 2006 Steve Booth unless otherwise noted; all rights reserved.
If you would like to comment
on this interview, or share a Bill Marshall, AKA 'Willie Jopling' story of your own,
you can Contact Us, or you can visit the OnePocket.org Message
Board. If you haven't already registered, you will need to register
in order to post on the message board.
to the game of One Pocket
Register your support
for the game of One Pocket by signing up to join
It's free, it's easy, and your privacy is assured.
All you need is a valid email address.