HOLIDAY, Billie (born Eleanora Fagan. 1915-1959), jazz vocalist. An archive of 30 Autograph letters signed ("Billie Holiday," Bilie" etc). to Marilyn ("Marly") Moore, an aspiring signer; [Harlem], New York, 20 June 1939 to 19 August 1941. Together 30 letters totalling 60 pages, nearly all with original hand-addressed postmarked envelopes. All in superb condition. [With:] Tear-sheet for an event at the Apollo Theater, Harlem, featuring Holiday; and a portrait of Billie and musicians (whom she names in a letter).
LADY DAY AT THE APEX OF HER JAZZ CAREER. A unique and fascinating series of letters from the legendary jazz vocalist, advising and counseling Marilyn Moore (d.1992), a high-school-age admirer living in California. (Moore later had a brief career as vocalist; her singing was strongly reminiscent of that of her mentor, Billie Holiday.) Moore's first letter, Billie writes, made her "happy to know that you admire my work so much and I am sorry I am not there with Arties band...." [Holiday had one of the first black singers to perform with white bands--including Artie Shaw's--but had not joined the band's west coast tour.] "This life is a little tricky," Billie cautions, "but you being a white and if you got something to offer you might not have it so bad...and if you can hang out with Artie's Band you will get some good ide[a] about the whol[e] thing." But, "I would not advise you to come to New York unless you have mon[e]y and able to take care of yourself...." New York, she jokes, "is a tough spot if you ain't got the jack. Ha Ha." She is proud that "I never had a lesson in my life."
Referring to the photograph, she identifies some of her fellow musicians, several "from Benny Goodman's Band." Mentioned frquently in this good series of letters is the impresario John Hammond (1910-1987) who heard Holiday in a Harlem club in 1933 and arranged for her to make a number of well-known recordings with the Benny Goodman Band. She tells Moore, "John Hammond and Benny Goodman is the right people for you. John discovered me and he fine and a Blue Blood..."; "if he likes your work he will make you a big person." Rather bitterly she adds that "I know what it is to long to be a Big Star...." In the letter dated 14 December 1939, she notes that "I am making record tomorrow with Count Basie," and "Basie say[s] they are just anxious for me out California Way, but it seem they want to keep me here in the club..."
Also mentioned are musicians and band leaders including Cab Calloway, Cosy Cole, Lester Young, Duke Ellington, J.C. Higginbotham, Ed Sullivan, Charlie Christian, Louis Armstrong and Teddy Wilson (1912-1986) the jazz pianist with whom Billie made an important series of studio recordings. Here, there are frequent references to Billie's club gigs, at Cafe Society, Clark Moore's Uptown House, the Paramount, the Apollo and other well-known jazz venues in New York, Chicago and Washington DC. In several letters she strongly urges Moore to stay in school instead of coming to New York, and encourages Moore to listen to the best bands and soloists: "Did you see Count Basie," she asks, "when he was there?" Her manager, Glaser, may give Moore an audition, but Billie adds "I want to get you with the Big Band Artie Shaw...." "I am at Cafe Society again and John [Hammond] is there most every night. Did you hear my new Record?"
In the letter of June 7 1941 she reports on a concert she gave at the Modern Art Theater," singing 10 songs, and adds "those society people knowck me out because they aint supposed to like swing...." Moore sends Billie a demonstration recording, and in the letter of 4 January 1941 Billie writes: "My mother played your record for John Hammond and he told her you didn't keep good time...." Still, she writes encouragingly "I am sure you will make the grade...." Elsewhere she urges Marilyn to "practice up on your timing; that is the main thing in music and with your face and voice you will be a killer...."
Holiday wrote relatively few letters and this is the largest group ever to come onto the market. Later, Marilyn Moore recorded one LP entitled "Moody Marilyn Moore" with a small jazz ensemble in 1957, but does not seem to have made others.