By Teddy Wilson
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Additional resources for Teddy Wilson Talks Jazz: The Autobiography of Teddy Wilson
But Ella had no father or mother at all; she was just an orphan. Misfortunes never come singly, they say. Billie died a few days after that Ella Fitzgerald performance at the Savoy which was so successful, and Lester Young died shortly after Billie. But, as I say, I'll never know whether there was any connection, because I wasn't aware there was any love Lady Day 29 relationship between them, although I suppose the occurrences of those times will continue to give rise to jazz legends. I did a recording session with Lester, in January 1956 I believe, when he'd just come out of a month's stay in hospital, drying out from drink.
I can't really make any useful comment on them myself because I was only around Billie for the recordings. We never played together in public, except for a short period at the old Famous Door. In June 1959, before Billie Holiday died, I played with a small band at Newport, in the Jazz Festival series there, with people like Gerry Mulligan, Lester Young, Jo Jones, Buck Clayton and Milt Hinton. This was in the days before they 26 Teddy Wilson Talks Jazz moved the whole thing to New York. There might have been some odd occasions when Billie and I were on the same session, but I can't speak of steady work with Billie at that time, so I was removed a lot from her personal life and was not on the scene when the use of drugs and excessive drinking occurred.
Public enthusiasm was so great that the ballroom was just not big enough for the crowd. That whole area of Harlem was roped off and traffic was stopped. All the windows of the Savoy were open and the people in the streets were listening to the two bands. The ballroom itself was completely sold out. Everything was fine, but a turning point came when Chick Webb played his theme song, Get Together, one of his great numbers. After he played that I think the crowd liked Chick Webb even better than the Benny Goodman band.