Remembering ELEANORA FAGAN + WBEE (Chicago style) JAZZ RADIO……..

AKA Billie Holiday, or “Lady Day” (April 7, 1915-July 17, 1959) She would have been 100yrs old last year.
Billie Holiday, born Eleanora Fagan, (childhood photo, 2yrs old, in 1917, below) the illegitimate child of Sadie Fagan and Clarence Holiday, in Philadelphia.

Holiday aged 2 in 1917

Both of her parents were still in their teens when she was born. Soon after her birth, Sadie Fagan returned to Fells Point to raise her child alone.
Billie’s childhood in Baltimore was rough, she was in and out of the Catholic run House of Good Shepherd (reform school) for Colored Girls several times. First in 1925 for constantly playing hooky; then later that year, held under protective custody after being raped on Christmas Eve, by a neighbor, Wilbur Rich. Rich was arrested.
After being released from the House of Good Shepherd in 1927, (Nearly 12 yrs old) Eleanora began running errands and rolling johns at Alice Dean’s bordello and clip joint. There, she listens to Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith on the Victrola. Those seminal figures will become two of her most significant influences.
After singing in various dives in Baltimore as an early teenager, Eleanora moves to New York in 1929 to live with her mother, Sadie. The following year, Eleanora changes her name to Billie Holiday, based on the first name of an actress, Billie Dove, and the last name of her estranged father, Clarence Holiday. She began singing in clubs around Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and Harlem.

Early photo of Billie Holiday.
Record producer and talent scout John Hammond discovers Holiday in 1932, singing in Harlem’s Monette Moore’s club. A year later, he produces an 18-year-old Holiday’s first recording with Benny Goodman Orchestra for Columbia records. She sings “Your Mother’s Son-In-Law.”
John Hammond
Billie meets tenor saxophonist Lester Young in March 1935, while he was playing in Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra at the Cotton Club. Billie’s partnership with Lester originally nicknaming her “The Duchess” and her mother “Lady.” But Holiday preferred adopted “Lady” name for herself and nicknamed Lester “Prez”….The President of jazz musicians.
Billy Lester
Lester Young and Billie Holiday.
Duke Ellington employs Billie holiday to sing “Big City Blues” (Saddest Tale) in his 1935 film vignette “Symphony in Black.” She also makes an appearance in the film.
On July 2, 1935, Billie records her first batch of her signature tunes with pianist Teddy Wilson. The songs include chestnuts as “What A Little Moonlight Can Do,” “These Foolish Things” and “The Way You Look Tonight.
On Jan. 25, 1937, Billie makes her first recordings with Count Basie Orchestra members: trumpeter Buck Clayton, guitarist Freddy Green, drummer Jo Jones, bassist Walter Page and saxaphonist Lester Young. Two months later, she and the Basie band play at the Apollo for one week. Then the following month, she and Basie’s band opens up at the Savoy Ballroom.
Count Basie

Count Basie

Full Name – William James Basie
After several critically acclaimed engagements with Count Basie, Billie joins forces with Artie Shaw on March 9, 1938 in Madison Square Gardens. It was with Shaw that Billie tours the South for the first time. It proved devastating for her being a black woman touring an all-white band as she constantly confronted racism. She left his band in December 1938.Four months after being a star attraction at Barney Josephson’s Cafe Society in Greenwich Village, Billie sings the timeless protest song, “Strange Fruit” for the first time in March 1939. Originally a poem, written by Abel Meeropol, the song dealt with the lynching of black men in the south.
On April 20, 1939, Billie began recording for Commodore Records, which marked her profile middle period. She recorded future classics as “Strange Fruit,” “Billies Blues,” “Yesterdays” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” She recorded for Commodore for five years.Lady Day marries Jimmy Monroe, the brother of Clark Monroe, who owned the Uptown House, on Aug. 25, 1941. The marriage was short-lived as she begins seeing trumpeter Joe Guy, even becoming his common-law wife in 1945 while still wedded to Monroe. She split with both in 1947, and later marries Louis McKay, a mafia enforcer in 1957. He, too, was abusive like her previous two husbands. But it’s noted that McKay was the one who tried to get her off drugs.
Billie and Louis McKay (Great casting in “Lady Sings The Blues”….As Billy Dee Williams and Louis favor each other.)
On Oct. 4, 1944, Milt Gabler, who owned Commodore Records, signs Lady Day to Decca Records with which she recorded until 1950. With Decca, she recorded more signature classics such as “Don’t Explain,” “Solitude,” “God Bless The Child” and “Good Morning Heartache.”
Billie joins Norman Granz’s famous Jazz at the Philharmonic Orchestra in Los Angeles on Feb. 2, 1945.
Billie Holiday goes to Los Angeles in September 1946 to perform in the film, “NEW ORLEANS” with her idol, Louis Armstrong. She sings “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” and “Blues are Brewin’.”
On May 27, 1947, Billie is sentenced to a year in the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson, W. Va. for posession of narcotics and drugs in her New York apartment. She was released on parole on March 16, 1948, because of good behavior.
After being released from prison and being banned from playing clubs that served liquor, Billie performed at Broadway’s Mansfield Theater and Club Ebony, respectively. She nailed a major comeback on March 27, 1948 at Carnegie Hall, which sold out immediately.
Billie Holiday makes her first Carnegie Hall appearance as a headliner on March 27.
While in San Francisco on Jan. 22, 1949, Billie, along with her Manager, John Levy, is busted inside her room at the Mark Twain Hotel for possession of opium. This charge caused her to lose her cabaret card, preventing her from performing in New York City. But on June 3, 1949, she was acquitted.
On Nov. 14, 1952, Holiday joined Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, Ahmad Jamal, and Stan Getz at Carnegie Hall to celebrate Duke Ellington’s 25th Anniversary in the music business……
 (note the incorrect spelling of the young Ahmad Jamal’s name).
Doubleday publishing releases Holiday’s autobiography, “Lady Sings the Blues,” in 1956. The book is ghostwritten by New York Post writer and editor William Duffy and is filled with erroneous accounts of her life.
Sixteen years later, Diana Ross portrays Billie Holiday in the movie “Lady Sings the Blues,” earning five Academy nominations, including for Best Actress in a Lead Role.
On Dec. 8, 1957, Billie reunites with Lester Young on “The Sound of Jazz.” The memorable performance that also included trumpeter Roy Eldridge, baritone saxaphonist Gerry Muligan, and alto saxaphonist Coleman Hawkins, was the last time she performed with Lester. It became the GREATEST jazz performance in television history.
In this video tribute of the CBS television special “The Sound of Jazz” you can clearly see Billie Holiday’s facial expressions while Lester Young plays his solo (the second, after Ben Webster) displays a little bit of the musical (as well as personal. You can only guess what’s going on between them, and her possible flashbacks of their past personal relationship.) intimacy in the relationship between the two.
“Love is like a faucet….it turns off and on…..sometimes when you think it’s on, baby…….it has turned off…..and GONE!!”
(The song was written by Billie Holiday, who first recorded it on April 20, 1939 on the Commodore label.) Could it be that it was inspired by past relationships??

  This shot was taken at a session for Verve (or Clef?) in June 1956. Since Billie has often been presented as an iconic figure of sadness, of self-destruction, I thought I would include this photograph where she looks unaffectedly happy, not posing at being happy for someone’s camera.  If you didn’t know she was the famous “doomed” artist, would you see it in her strong, amused face?
Lester Young made his final studio recordings and live performances in Paris in March 1959 with drummer Kenny Clark at the tail end of an abbreviated European tour during which he ate next to nothing and virtually drank himself to death. He died in the early morning hours of March 15, 1959, only hours after arriving back to New York, at the age of 49. He was buried at the Cemetary of the Evergreens in Brooklyn. According to jazz critic Leonard Feather, who rode with Holiday in a Taxi to Young’s funeral, she said, “I’LL BE THE NEXT ONE TO GO.” Holiday died four months later at age 44.
By early 1959 Holiday had cirrhosis of the liver. She stopped drinking on doctor’s orders, but soon relapsed. By May she had lost 20lbs.
On May 31, 1959, Holiday was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York with liver and heart disease. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics had been targeting Holiday since 1939. She was arrested and handcuffed for drug possession while she lay dying, and her hospital room was raided. Police guarded her room. Holiday continued staying under police guard.
On July 15, she received the last rites of the Roman Catholic Church, before dying two days later from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959 @ 3:10am.
In her final years, she had been progressively swindled out of her earnings, and she died with $0.70 in the bank and $750.00 (tabloid fee) on her person. Her funeral mass was at Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City on July 21, 1959. She was buried at St. Raymond’s Cemetery.
Gilbert Millstein of the New York Times wrote…”She had been strikingly beautiful, but she was wasted physically to a small grotesque caricature of herself. The worms of every kind of every kind of excess….drugs were only one….had eaten her…..”
Chicagoans!…….(Baby Boomers and older)……..Remember WBEE JAZZ Radio 1570 AM?…. They played “REAL JAZZ” stuff designed to strengthen your love and FEEL GOOD!! They signed off in 2003.
Well, Check out DJ Carl David, a former WBEE late night DJ (+ LTHS – ’69) go to….
(click on HOME)
Preview YouTube video Duke Ellington – Symphony In Black

Duke Ellington – Symphony In Black

Preview YouTube video Billie Holiday – What A Little Moonlight Can Do – 1958 LIVE.avi

Billie Holiday – What A Little Moonlight Can Do – 1958 LIVE.avi

Preview YouTube video Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit

Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit

Preview YouTube video Billie Holiday – Don’t Explain (Live 1958)

Billie Holiday – Don’t Explain (Live 1958)

Preview YouTube video BILLIE HOLIDAY all of her songs from the film NEW ORLEANS

BILLIE HOLIDAY all of her songs from the film NEW ORLEANS

Preview YouTube video Billie Holiday and Lester Young: Fine and Mellow (1957)

Billie Holiday and Lester Young: Fine and Mellow (1957)
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