Glossary entry for
Billie Holiday (1915? - 1959) was born Eleanora Fagan Gough in Baltimore in either 1912 or 1915.
Her parents were in their early teens. Her father (Clarence Holiday) left when she was a baby and
her mother (Sally Fagan) left the child with relatives. Eleanora ran errands for a brothel in
Philadelphia and in 1927 moved to New York, where for the next 3 years she earned a living as
Inspired by her love of singing, she talked the manager of a club into letting
her sing a few tunes with the house band - she made $57.00 in tips. She used the
name "Billie Holiday" because of her admiration for film star Billie Dove. She
was discovered by John Hammond, who organized her first recording session in 1933
with Benny Goodman.
She joined the Count Basie band in 1937 and established a lifelong relationship
with Lester Young (Prez). Basie eventually let her go for being too independent
During her second marriage (to trumpeter Joe Guy) she became a heroin addict.
Despite her addictions, she sang well and earned as much as $1000/week. In 1947
she was arrested on a drug charge and served 8 months in prison She toured Europe
succesfully in 1954 but was arrested again in 1956 and entered a clinic. Her
recovery was temporary - her lifestyle claimed her life on July 17, 1959.
More information available at:
Van references in:
Part of the van-the-man.info unofficial website