The musicians: Billie’s companions and friends

This section is devoted to the musicians who accompanied Billie throughout her career. It’s a personal selection that include her closest friends, those who participated in more recording sessions, and some of the most respected musicians of the time. I’m sure that they all shared her passion for music. As you can hear in the recordings or see in the few videos available, Bille has always shown great respect for their talent, allowing time for their solos were they could exhibit their extraordinary talent.

The stars try to represent the artistic evaluation found in the common jazz literature. ‘Tk’ column shows the number of tracks they took part.

    years tk stars
Trumpet Roy Eldridge 1935-44, 1956-57 44 ***
Sweets Edison 1939, 1954-59 60 *
Charlie Shavers 1939, 1944, 1952-58 35 *
Buck Clayton 1937-39, 1946-49, 1956-58 62 *
Alto Sax Benny Carter 1938-40, 1955-58 39 *
Johnny Hodges 1935-37, 1945 17 ***
Tenor Sax Lester Young 1935-46, 1955-57 67 ****
Ben Webster 1935-37, 1944,1956-57 48 **
Paul Quinichette 1952-57 15 *
Stan Getz 1951 4 *****
Baritone Sax Gerry Mulligan 1957-58 12 *****
Harry Carney 1935-37, 1945 10 ***
Clarinet Benny Goodman 1933-1939 14 ****
Artie Shaw 1936-1938 5 ***
Tony Scott 1952-1956 41 ***
Trombone Benny Morton 1938-1944 23  
Piano Teddy Wilson 1935-1942 95 *
Jimmy Rowles 1942, 1949, 1955-57 54 *
Count Basie 1937, 1950, 1955 6 *****
Oscar Peterson 1952-54 24 ***
Eddie Heywood 1941, 1944 23  
Guitar  Barney Kessel 1952 -1957 62  
Freddie Green 1937-40, 1950-54 48  
Bass  Milt Hinton 1936-39, 1957-59 35 *
Ray Brown 1952-54 23 *
Walter Page 1937-1940 48  
Drums  Jo Jones 1937-39, 1957 37 *
Cozy Cole 1935-39, 1945, 1954 72 *
Kenny Clarke 1940-1946 11 *
J.C. Heard 1940-1946 19 *


Roy Eldridge



David Roy “Little Jazz” Eldridge Recording years 1935-44, 1956-7
Pittsburgh 1911 – NY 1989 Number of tracks 44

Roy Eldridge was a long time partner to Billie, having recorded 44 tracks in 22 years.

Selected tracks:

MT 5 Miss Brown To You (1935)

MT 108 What Shall I Say? (1939)

MT 136 Time On My Hands (1940)

LR 162 Lady Sings The Blues (1956)



Sweets Edison



Harry Edison Recording years 1939, 1954-9
Columbus 1915 – 1999 Number of tracks 60

Sweets Edison recorded most of his tracks with Billie in the later years, including her last studio session. An exception was a sole session where he shared the trumpets with Buck Clayton (see) still in the Vocalion years. He was at the time with Count Basie Orchestra (see), where Lester Young (see) that nicknamed him “Sweets”.

Selected tracks:

MT 126 The Man I Love (1939) together with Buck Clayton

MT 243 Love Me Or Leave Me (1954)

MT 281 Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me (1956)

MT 330 Baby Won’t You Please Come Home (1959)



Charlie Shavers



Charlie James Shavers Recording years 1939, 1944, 1952-58
NYC 1920 – 1971 Number of tracks 35

Charlie Shavers recorded most of the tracks in the 50s, and only exceptionally in live sessions.

Selected Tracks:

MT 106 That’s All I Ask Of You (1939)

MT 219 East Of The Sun (1952)

MT 230 Tenderly (1952)

MT 252 I Wished On The Moon (1955)



Buck Clayton



Wilbur Dorsey Clayton Recording years 1937-9, 1946-9, 1956-8
Kansas 1911 – NYC 1991 Number of tracks 62

Buck Clayton followed Billie along her career, with few intervals. From 1955 on, only in live sessions. He was a close friend to Billie and she always referred to Buck as one of the most handsome men she knew, although, it seems, they never had an affair.

Selected Tracks

MT 43 Why Was I Born (1937)

LR 2 They Can’t Take That From Me (1937)

MT 93 I Can´t Get Started (1938) in a duet with Lester

LR 203 When Your Lover Has Gone (1958)



Benny Carter


Alto Sax

Bennett Lester Carter Recording years 1938-40, 1955-8
NYC 1907 – LA 2003 Number of tracks 39

(exceptionally, he played also tenor sax and clarinet)

Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges (see below) were considered the best sax players by the time they were playing with Billie in the early 30s. By the end of his long career he was composing scores for the movies and for television series.

Selected tracks:

MT 141 St. Louis Blues (1940) listen to the clarinet solo in the bridge

MT 268 A Fine Romance (1955) listen to the obbligati

MT 272 Isn’t It A Lovely Day (1955)



Johnny Hodges


Alto Sax

John Cornelius Hodges Recording years 1935-7, 1945
Cambridge 1906 – NYC 1970 Number of tracks 17

Johnny spent almost 40 years of his glorious career playing with Duke Ellington.

Selected tracks

MT 14 These ‘n’ That ‘n’ Those (1935)

MT 19 These Foolish Things (1935)



Lester Young


Tenor Sax

Lester Willis Young (“Prez”) Recording years 1935-46, 1955-7
Mississippi 1909 – NYC 1959 Number of tracks 67

(exceptionally, he played also clarinet)

Lester is generally considered to be one of the greatest masters in saxophone. He worked with Count Basie from 1936 to 1940. Im 1934 he came to New York and lived some time by Sadie, Billie’s mother. At the time, all the musicians got a nickname, like for instance Duke (Ellington) and Count (Basie). Billie, celebrating their friendship, would soon call him Pres (from president) and he, in turn , would call her Lady Day. They were great friends for life and he passed away a couple of weeks before her. Sixty-seven tracks with Billie is a record.

Selected tracks

MT 44 I Must Have That Man (1937) an historical session, where a wonderful team of musicians were gathered together.

MT 92 I The Very Thought Of You (1938) an opportunity to hear Lester playing clarinet.

MT 126 The Man I Love (1939)

MT 147 All Of Me (1941) this track is generally considered an alternate take because it was too long for a 78rpm and then not selected as the master take at the time. However, due to this particularity, I chose it as an master take – an opportunity to hear two Lester solos.

LR 192 Fine And Mellow (1957) once again, this fine tune is selected in this work. This time, to commemorate Lester solos. This was actually a rehearsal for the TV presentation that took place a couple of days later – his last track with Billie.



Ben Webster


Tenor Sax

Benjamin Francis Webster Recording years 1935-7, 1944,1956-7
Missouri 1909 – Amsterdam 1973 Number of tracks 48

Ben Webster was close to Billie from the very beginning. He was considered the first tenor soloist of Duke Ellington Orchestra in early fourties.In 1964 he moved to Europe.

Selected tracks

MT 281 Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me (1956)

MT 285 We’ll Be Together Again (1956)

MT 289 I Wished On The Moon (1956)

LR 192 Fine And Mellow (1957)

MT 294 Comes Love (1957)

MT 299 Stars Fell On Alabama (1957)



Paul Quinichette


Tenor Sax

“Vice-Prez” Recording years 1952-57
Denver 1916 – NYC 1983 Number of tracks 15

Paul Quinichette was known as “vice-prez” due to his style, similar to Lester Young, who he replaced in the Count Basie band.

Selected Tracks

MT 235 Lover Come Back To Me (1952)

MT 279 Good Morning Heartache (1956)



Stan Getz


Tenor Sax

Stanley Gayetzky Recording years 1951
Philadelphia 1927 – California 1991 Number of tracks 4

Getz was undoubtely one of the greatest tenor saxophone players of all time. Unfortunately, this genious had just a sole session with Billie, live. What a pitty.

Selected Track

LR 74 Lover Come Back To Me (1951)



Monterey Jazz Festival 1963

Gerry Mulligan


Baritone Sax

Gerald Joseph Mulligan Recording years 1957-58
NYC 1927 – Connecticut 1996 Number of tracks 12

Mulligan was one of the world’s most famous sax players. Unfortunately, he took part in only two sessions with Billie, but one of them was memorable, a special live TV presentation with many other stars. The session was also videotaped (see discography).

Selected track:

LR 193 Fine And Mellow (1957)




Harry Carney


Baritone Sax

Harry Howell Carney Recording years 1935-7, 1945
Boston 1910 – NYC 1974 Number of tracks 10

Harry Carney was an essential element in Duke Ellington Orchestra. He first recorded with Billie in a very early stage, in 1935, when they appear in the film “Symphony in Black”, shot in Paramount Studios, Long Island. The last was in LA at the Esquire Magazine’s Second Annual Jazz Concert. Other two studio sessions were with Teddy Wilson band.

Selected track:

MT 19 These Foolish Things (1936)



Benny Goodman



Benö Guttman, “the Professor” Recording years 1933-1939
Chicago 1909 – NYC 1986 Number of tracks 14

Benny Goodman was the son of a Jewish immigrant from Hungary. He deserves an special place in this hall of fame. He formed his own band in 1932 and, in the next year, it was with his band that Billie performed her first two recording sessions (see selected tracks). He also joined Teddy Wilson Band as a clarinet player for other 10 tracks in early thirties.

Selected tracks

MT 1 Your Mother´s Son-in-law (1933) this was Billie’s first recording session. The record was issued under the Columbia label, having in the other side a Goodman’s instrumental track, Tappin’ The Barrel (see discography)

MT 3 I Wished On The Moon (1935) an historical session, the first one with Teedy Wilson under Brunswick label. This seven-men band has several componentes mentioned in this work: Eldridge, Webster, Teddy Wilson, Cozy Cole, besides Goodman.

MT 43 Why Was I Born (1937) Goodman plays with the great rhythm section: Walter Page, Freddie Green and Jo Jones.

MT 44 I Must Have That Man (1937) with a memorable solo shared with Buck and Lester Young.



Artie Shaw



Arthur Jacob Arshawsky Recording years 1936-1938
Boston 1910 – NYC 1974 Number of tracks 5

Shaw did a sole session with Billie, in the beginning of her career. This was the first session under the Vocalion label and four tracks have been recorded. He loved Billie, though, and in 1938 he was the first white bandleader to hire a black vocalist. However, the audiences and the record executives rejected such arrangement and that was probably the reason why only one track has been recorded.

Selected tracks

MT 25 Billie’s Blues (1936) an all-white band, except Cozy Cole, was the only Shaw’s collaboration with Billie. A curiosity about this song was that Billie wrote it on the spot, as nobody liked the song previously chosen as the fourth track

MT 91 Any Old Time (1938) as mentioned above, this was her only recording with Shaw’s band.


Tony Scott



Anthony Joseph Sciacca Recording years 1952-1956
New Jersey 1921 – Rome 2007 Number of tracks 41

Scott played with Billie in her late years, and the two sessions where he conducted his own Orchestra are specially memorable. He was also a composer, but unfortunately we only have fragments of one of his tunes in a rehearsal session (where he actually played piano).

Selected tracks

MT 250 Say It Isn’t So (1955) where we can hear his obbligatos in the first part

MT 255 Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me (1955) a delicious recording where we can hear Tony in the bridge



Benny Morton


Henry Sterling Morton Recording years 1938-1944
New York City 1907-1985 Number of tracks 23

Benny Morton worked in his early times with Clarence Holiday, Billie’s father.

Selected Tracks

MT 76 When You’re Smiling (1938)

MT 141 St Louis Blues (1940)



Teddy Wilson



Theodore Shaw Wilson Recording years 1935-1942
Austin 1912 – Connecticut 1986 Number of tracks 95

Teddy Wilson made history by playing in 95 tracks in her classical period, that some people consider her best. He was married for some time to Irene Wilson, a close friend from Billie.

Selected tracks

MT 5 Miss Brown To You (1935) one of the songs of his first session with Billie; in 1935, they recorded 14 songs together!

MT 19 These Foolish Things (1936)

MT 51 Moanin’ Low (1937)

MT 58 I’ll Get By (1938)



Jimmy Rowles



James George Rowles Recording years 1942, 1949, 1955-7
Spokane 1918 – L.A. 1996 Number of tracks 54

Jimmy Rowles met Billie in 1942, when they first recorded together. They got close for life, one of her few white friends. Most of their collaboration took place in late fifties, and all tracks have been recorded in Los Angeles.

Selected Tracks:

LR 59 Maybe You’ll Be There (1949) this song, with a classical jazz trio, was part of a broadcast presentation. Billie rendering is unforgettable.

MT 268 A Fine Romance (1955)

MT 270 I Get A Kick Out Of You (1955)

MT 284 Speak Low (1956)

MT 293 Just One Of Those Things (1957)



Count Basie



William Basie Recording years 1937, 1950, 1955
New Jersey 1904 – Hollywood 1984 Number of tracks 6

(exceptionally, he played also organ)

Count Basie is one of the greatest musicians in jazz history, leading his famous Count Basie Orchestra from 1934 and based in New York from 1936 on. Billie participated in very few recordings with Basie, all of them in four live sessions. The most curious as partners in a short film in Hollywood (see live recordings).

Selected tracks

LR 2 They Can’t Take That Away From Me (1937)

LR 144 Stormy Weather (1955) where he plays organ



Oscar Peterson



Oscar Emmanuel Peterson Recording years 1952-54
Montreal 1925 – Number of tracks 24

(exceptionally, he also played organ)

Another jazz icon, Peterson is one of the few contemporaries of Billie still alive. They had precious moments together, later in her career.

Selected tracks

MT 219 East Of The Sun (1952)

MT 222 You Turned The Tables On Me (1952)

MT 228 Love For Sale (1952)

MT 235 Lover Come Back To Me (1952)



Eddie Heywood


Edward Heywood Jr. Recording years 1941, 1944
Atlanta 1915 – Miami Beach 1989 Number of tracks 23

Always with his band, Eddie recorded 23 tracks with Billie, in 5 studio sessions.

Selected Tracks:

MT 146 All Of Me (1941) in his first session with Billie.

MT 170 Lover Come Back To Me (1944) with a classic jazz trio.



Barney Kessel


Barney Kessel Recording years 1952 -1957
Oklahoma 1923 – San Diego 2004 Number of tracks 62

Kessel was the most frequent guitar man in Billie recordings, although he has played only in the fifties.

Selected tracks

MT 223 Easy To Love (1952)

MT 266 I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues (1955)

MT 282 Cheek To Cheek (1956)



Freddie Green


Frederick William Green Recording years 1937-40, 1950-4
Charleston 1911 – Las Vegas 1987 Number of tracks 48

Freddie Green worked with Count Basie for 45 years; he was one of Billie’s many lovers – for a short time – that Billie said was one of the three men she loved; a member of the greatest rhythm section, together with Walter Page on bass and Jo Jones on drums.

Selected tracks

MT 80 On The Sentimental Side (1938) listen to his solos

MT 238 He’s Funny That Way (1952)



Milt Hinton



Milton John Hilton Recording years 1936-9, 1957-9
Mississippi 1910 – NYC 2000 Number of tracks 35

Milt was raised in Chicago where, in 1936 he joined the Cab Calloway band, where he worked with some of his colleagues in these first recordings with Billie, like Ben Webester and Chu Berry.

Selected tracks

MT 32 Easy To Love (1936)

MT 152 What Shall I Say (1939)

LR 193 Fine And Mellow (1957) apres. Na TV

LR 720 Lover Man (1958) Wallingford, Connecticut

MT 316 You’ve Changed (1958) this song is in the album “Lady In Satin” that Milt referred as a “commercial album”.



Ray Brown



Raymond Matthews Brown Recording years 1952-54
Pittsburgh 1926 – Indianapolis 2002 Number of tracks 23

Ray Brown showed up in Billie recordings at a late stage. Nevertheless, he recorded 23 studio tracks with her. He was married to Ella Fitzgerald from 1947 to 1952, same period he joined Dizzy Gillespie band.

Selected tracks

MT 224 These Foolish Things (1952)

MT 240 How Deep is the Ocean (1954)



Walter Page


Walter Sylvester Page Recording years 1937-1940
Missouri 1900 – NYC 1957 Number of tracks 48

Walter Page was in that period a member of the Count Basie’s band, where he formed the amazing rhythm section with the Freddie Green’s guitar (see) and Jo Jones’ drums (see). Almost all the 48 tracks he recorded with Billie were studio takes.

Selected tracks

MT 44 I Must Have That Man (1937) a good opportunity to hear that famous rhythm section.

MT 73 My Man (1937)



Jo Jones



Jonathan Jones (“Papa Jo Jones”) Recording years 1937-9, 1957
Chicago 1911 – NYC 1985 Number of tracks 37

Jo Jones took part in Count Basie band where he formed one of the most famous rhythm section in jazz, together with Walter Page and Freddie Green (see).

Selected tracks

MT 76 When You’re Smiling (1938)

LR 182 My Man (1957) Newport Jazz Festival

LR 192 Fine And Mellow (1957) rehearsal for TV presentation



Cozy Cole



Recording years 1935-39, 1945, 1954
New Jersey 1909 – Columbus 1981 Number of tracks 72

Cole was one of the most constant musicians in Billie’s sessions: altogether, 72 tracks along her career, most of them between 1935 and 1939. All of them studio recordings!

Selected tracks

MT 18 It’s Like Reaching For The Moon (1936)

MT 89 I Wish I Had You ( 1938)



Kenny Clarke



Kenneth Clarke Spearman Recording years 1940-1946
Pittsburgh 1914 – France 1985 Number of tracks 11

Kenny Clarke was a member of the famous Modern Jazz Quartet.

Selected tracks

MT 139 It’s The Same Old Story (1940)

MT 147 All Of Me (1941)



J. C. Heard



James Charles Heard Recording years 1940-1946
Dayton, Ohio 1917 – Michigan 1988 Number of tracks 19

JC started in 1939 with Teddy Wilson. Most of JC recordings with Billie were in his band.

Selected tracks

MT 133 I’m Pulling Through (1940)

LR 32 All Of Me (1946) at JATP in Carnegie Hall


© 2005-2017 (rev. October 2014)

8 thoughts on “Musicians

  1. I am roy gaines and I don’t know why the TV series jazz party isn’t mentioned with Mal Waldron piano,vinnie Burke bass, guitarist, roy gaines . The information is found : the time life magazine jazz giants.
    I am just saying, get the facts on the (1) one. Best regards, Roy gaines and his orchestra tuxedo blues.

    • Dear Mr. Gaines
      First of all, it was an honor to receive your personal message, thank you for your attention.
      But actually, the session you refer is indeed described in the site. I also have to say that your name is not mentioned in most of discographies that I have seen, they normally mention another guitar player. But in the site your name is appropriately mentioned. Please visit the site in the menu “RECORDING SESSIONS” open “1958” and go to “Live Session #58”. There you may see an image of this session – tell me if it is correct.
      The address is
      All the best

  2. Paulo…..I just discovered your Billie website an hour ago. What a remarkable,wonderful and through undertaking! The first Billie song I ever heard was Lover Man back in the 1940’s. Martin Block was the DJ on the radio at WNEW in New York City and his show was the Make Believe Ballroom. I instantly became a Billie fan. Saw her at the Esquire Magazine Concert at the Met Opera, both concerts at Carnegie Hall after her release from prison and also several other club and concert appearances. But the most memorable encounter was on the A train at 125th street station when she got on the car and sat at a seat next to me. Could tell you more but space is short. Thank you.

    • Dear Henry
      Thank you for your comments, I appreciated.
      BUT, yes – tell me more, I will love to hear it. Where are you from?
      Best Regards,

  3. There are so many great recordings of Billie’s. However can you tell me the musicians on ”

    Who were the musicians on Billie’s recording of
    “Somebody’s On My Mind”? The duet on the horns is so far out of sight. I never tire of listening. Thanks.

    • Dear Joyce
      go to 1949 sessions, then look for session #64. There you have all the info regarding date, local and the musicians for that particular recording session. If you want, then, go a bit down to MT 212 – Somebody´s on my Mind. There are some comments and you can also hear the original sound of the 78rpm disc.
      Enjoy, Paulo

  4. Thanks for creating this wonderful site. It’s really a labor of love. One addition: Benny Carter played also a brillant, a very tastefully swingin’ trumpet.

    • Thanks for your comments. As regard of Benny Carter w/ BH, in most tracks he plays AS. I have one register playing also clarinet, but none playing trumpet. Could you tell me where did you find that?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *