Billie Holiday Inspiration

Social networking.  It works bitches.  Especially when you’re friends with people who really know their stuff.

Case in point, Rob Moreland, a Lindy DJ from North Carolina, posted one of my favorite Billie Holiday songs, “No Regrets” on his Facebook profile.  Rob said he heard it from Michael Gamble, a fellow southern DJ.  I first heard it played by Mike Marcotte here at a dance in DC.

I just think it’s a lovely, bittersweet tune which if you know anything about her life, seems to be Billie’s emotional default.

Rayned Wiles then inspired a few other fellow DJ’s to post their favorite Billie songs by offering this lovely gem, “Stars Fell on Alabama.”

I don’t think Billie Holiday really got that much play when I started dancing.  I’m not sure why that’s so because there is quite a bit out there that can be played at a dance.   It’s easy to overlook the earliest parts of her career especially compared to the quality and volume of everything that followed.  even the author of linear notes in the first CD I ever picked up of her debut work was not shy in his derision of this period.  But as you can hear, there’s a reason why she got noticed.

After Rayned posted his response, I took this as a challenge to post my favorite Billie song. It reminded of the times I used to DJ with Rayned, Mike, and others at the old K2 Dance Studios.  We would rotate in and out, sometimes alternating sets that lasted between an hour and sometimes as little as two songs.

Rayned would keep us on our toes by issuing little mini-challenges like only playing songs by musicians who played in the Savoy Ballroom, or something like that.  Rather than being just another shmoe pressing play, it really challenged me to get to know my music on a lot of different levels.

This is my current favorite Holiday tune, her version of “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.”  I haven’t heard a version of this song that I don’t like, and I’m pretty sure it was over played by the time she recorded this one. But I love the way Billie rips into your soul with the opening lyric; grabbing you by the collar and demanding your full attention with that voice and that signature phrasing that swings so hard it makes you dizzy just from sitting there and listening.

Luke Albao then chimed into the thread with this duet with Louis Armstrong of “Do You Know What It Means, To Miss New Orleans” from the aptly named 1947 movie, New Orleans.

The previously mentioned Mike Marcotte submitted this steamy number, “I Love My Man Blues.”  Mike is one of those few dedicated DJ’s that can play a killer set of either Swing songs or Blues.  Here he reminds us that Billie could too all by herself

Rayned then posted “Gettin’ Some Fun Out of Life.”  I play a lovely version by the now defunct New Orleans Jazz Vipers, but this is a good reminder of where they got their inspiration.

Rob Moreland then posted three in a row along with musician line ups for each song.  I’m a little envious since the box set that I have doesn’t have that information.  Those early sessions anchored by Teddy Wilson were veritable all star line ups of players who were are now considered jazz legends.  Rob’s post actually inspired me to hunt down, and buy a Teddy Wilson box set on the spot.

The first is “He Ain’t Got Rhythm” with Buck Clayton, t / Benny Goodman, cl / Lester Young, ts / Teddy Wilson, p / Freddy Green, g / Walter Page, sb / Joe Jones, d / Billie Holiday, v. New York, January 2…5, 1937

The title is ironic in relation to the personal as knowledgeable observers jazz nerds will note that the rhythm section is 3/4’s of Count Basie’s All American Rhythm Section.  The man himself is absent, but if anyone could fill his shoes, it was session leader Teddy Wilson.

“With Thee I Swing” with Irving Randolph, t / Vido Musso, cl / Ben Webster, ts / Teddy Wilson, p / Allan Reuss, g / Milton Hinton, sb / Gene Krupa, d / Billie Holiday, v. New York, October 21, 1936.

Finally, “Yankee Doodle Never Went To Town” with Roy Eldridge, t / Benny Morton, tb / Chu Berry, ts / Teddy Wilson, p / Dave Barbour, g / John Kirby, sb / Cozy Cole, d / Billie Holiday, v. New York, October 25, 1935.

Listen carefully to the lyrics of this irreverent send up of an old tune.

I then added a few that I got from other former DC DJ’s for The Jam Cellar’s Yehoodi Radio Show spot a couple of years ago.  “Spreadin’ Rhytm Around” is from Lee Tucker.

Then Naomi Uyama takes us back to slow and sultry with “Billie’s Blues.”  She’s a big Billie fan, and actually gave me my Billie box set as a gift.  If you’re lucky, she may break out a Billie Holiday inspired arrangement if you see her sing some where  with The Boilermaker Jazz Band.

Fittingly, Rob Moreland finished up this tour with an interesting post of back to back recordings of “Comes Love.”

So now you have a few tunes fit for Blues, Balboa, and/or Lindy Hop.  Go forth and spread the Gospel of Billie.


  1. Freddie said,

    October 28, 2010 at 4:23 am

    Miss Brown To You is one of my favourite low-tempo Balboa songs.

  2. Josephine said,

    October 28, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Spreadin’ Rhythm Around is probably my top Billie Holiday song for dancing–glad it made the list.

  3. Apache said,

    October 28, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I was lucky enough to see Naomi break out a Billie Holiday inspired arrangement of Without Your Love with the Boilermakers at ILHC.

    Skye and Naomi also taught a nice Lindy Hop class to that song at ILHC as well, it is a staple in my DJ sets these days.

    Lastly, great post!

    • Rayned said,

      October 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm

      If we’re talking danceable Lady Day, it would be remiss to leave out “Swing Brother Swing”, especially the version recorded live at the Savoy with Count Basie.

      Another version

      Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra – Swing! Brother, Swing! – Vocalion 5129
      Charlie Shavers, t / Tab Smith, ss, as / Kenneth Hollon, Stanley Payne, ts / Sonny White, p / Bernard Addison, g / John Williams, sb / Eddie
      Dougherty, d / Billie Holiday, v. New York, July 5, 1939.

      • Rob Moreland said,

        October 29, 2010 at 8:21 pm

        I’ve been thinking about adding the Basie “Swing Brother Swing” to this blog post or to the FB thread for a couple of days now. I first found it on Count Basie America’s #1 Band box set.

        The whole tune is great, but Jo Jones’ floor tom fills at 1:28 are the highlight of the song for me. They get me every time (

  4. Kevin said,

    October 28, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    • Kevin said,

      October 28, 2010 at 4:50 pm

      P.s. and BTW,

      No Regrets almost made me cry. For real. I haven’t heard a song so sweet and bitter and swing so hard…. ever.
      Quite wonderful.

  5. Robert said,

    October 29, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    I see the Spotted Cat has the Jazz Vipers on their schedule as well as the Cotton Mouth Kings. Perhaps they are not so defunct.

  6. July 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    […] Billie Holiday discussion online today, with DJs Rob Moreland (via Facebook) and Jerry Almonte (via blog) writing about danceable Billie Holiday tunes. Billie’s music is absolutely inspiring and so […]

  7. Rob Moreland said,

    April 13, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Every so often, I come back to this post to get my Billie Holiday on. Today, I was listening when I happened to see a post from a DJ friend about what appears to be a ridiculously thorough discography. I don’t know if it has everything she’s ever recorded, but it seems to have everything from her definitive box sets. I think there’s even a list of sidemen for every song. That’s the real value of that link for me.

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