PIERCE Billie 1950's

Billie Pierce was born Wilhelmina Goodson in Marianna, Florida, June 8 1907. While she was still a baby, the family moved to Pensacola, where New Orleans bands appeared as far back as Billie can remember. The piano at their house was seldom still, for the whole family played –Billie's father, mother, six sisters, and even her nieces and nephews were all pianists.
When Billie was only fifteen she accompanied Bessie Smith at the Belmont Theater in Pensacola for a week during an illness of Clarence Williams, Bessie's regular accompanist. This brief association with the great blues singer had a decisive effect on Billie's vocal style.

After playing in West Florida and Alabama, in 1929 she came to New Orleans temporarily to take her sister Sadie's place playing on the Steamer Madison with Buddy Petit, a great New Orleans trumpet player who never appeared on records. In 1930 she came to New Orleans permanently to play with Alphonse Picou. Later she played at other spots around Ursuline and Decatur Streets –one of the famous "hot corners" of New Orleans during the 1930's. She had her own band at Luthjen's which included George Lewis on clarinet. Billie also appeared at the Absinthe House with Armand J. Piron, the famous band leader and composer of "Sister Kate". Both she and De De accompanied Ida Cox, the noted blues singer. After a courtship of a few weeks, Billie and De De were married in 1935.

Preservation Hall 1966

De De (Joseph LaCroix) Pierce was born February 18, 1904 in New Orleans in a French –speaking family. Local New Orleans legend has it that De De once beat out the mayor of Bayou Pom Pom in a Louisiana French speaking contest by knowing the word for monkey-wrench.
Today, in 1971, Billie and De De are experiencing what is perhaps their greatest success with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band which has not only toured all over the U.S. but in Europe and Japan. Just off busy touristy Bourbon Street, Preservation Hall on St. Peter Street employs the best of New Orleans traditional musicians nightly, giving not only joy and dignity to the players, but attracting New Orleans jazz fans from around the world.
With Chris Strachwitz liner notes.
Let me share with you this much lesser known album, and much better in my opinion. I'm not sure this one came out on CD. Recorded by Harry Oster & Richard Allen in New Orleans in late 1950's. Originally issued as Folklyric LP110. Re-issue produced in 1971 by Chris Strachwitz for Arhoolie as LP2016. We have Billie Pierce piano & vocal, De De Pierce cornet & vocal, Brother Randolph washboard on some tracks, Lucius Bridges tom tom & vocal on "John Henry". Here we go to New Orleans… Enjoy!


This is the Arhoolie cd from the above lp, plus three tracks as bonus.

Other recordings you'll find easily (I hope) on cd's.
Billie Pierce with Raymond Burke

The four groups -recorded in 1950 and 1954- on this album represent New Orleans jazz at its finest and most diverse. George Lewis had a natural facility for the clarinet, relying on simple, straightforward melodic lines. Featured in his band is the fine trumpeter Percy Humphrey, who, with his brother Willie Humphrey, would become part of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. "At a Georgia Camp Meeting" is raw revivalism, while "Chimes Blues" conjures up a more sedate meeting place. Bunk Johnson was enjoying much popularity during this period of the New Orleans jazz music revival. He teams with "sanctified" gospel singer Sister Ernestine Washington, who, like Johnson, did virtually all of her recordings during these years. With her strident delivery and a very strong vibrato, Washington came from a similar mold as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Marion Williams. Playing some of his own compositions, Richard M. Jones made these sides about a year before his death, and they are somewhat more relaxed than others on this album, demonstrating that New Orleans jazz need not always be played in a fast-paced frenetic manner. This incarnation of his Jazz Wizards featured clarinetist Darnell Howard and drummer Baby Dodds. From the Creole school of New Orleans jazz, the least-known but the most entertaining of all those on the album are Billie DeDe Pierce. Although they had been entertaining for more than 40 years, they weren't brought into the recording studio until the early '60s. DeDe Pierce lives up to his reputation as a powerful trumpeter on all the cuts. His wife Billie Pierce was at one time Bessie Smith's pianist, and her association with the great blues singer influenced her singing style. She belts out the tunes with a deep throaty vibrato, heard to good effect on such cuts as "Every Woman's Blues." DeDe Pierce's trumpet teases as he slowly drags out the melody on this tune written by Clara Smith. The trumpet player shows off his considerable singing skills as he and his wife go at it back and forth on "Eh La Bas." The six cuts by these two are well worth the price of the album.

Blues and Tonks from the Delta & Blues in the Classic Tradition 1961

In 1961, cornetist De De Pierce and pianist/singer Billie Pierce recorded 23 titles in a trio with drummer Albert Jiles. The charming Pierces, who performed blues, vintage melodies, and Dixieland with spirit, warmth, and sincerity, rarely sounded better than on this marathon session. Fourteen of the numbers (including three selections only previously available on a sampler) are included on this CD reissue. Highlights include "St. James Infirmary," "Milenberg Joys," "You Tell Me Your Dream," and "Billie's Gumbo Blues." The companion disc, Blues in the Classic Tradition, is also recommended, although this release, due to having 14 (as opposed to nine) numbers, gets the edge.
Billie & De De Pierce & Kid Thomas Valentin 1960

The first time I heard Dee Dee & Billie Pierce on record - unfortunately I never heard them live -was on that famous Riverside LP, part of the series New Orleans The Living Legends and I was immediately struck with admiration. Billie was singing in the grand old Bessie Smith tradition and De De was playing a kind of cornet I never heard before. I've been collecting all of their recordings ever since. De De became one of my all time favourite trumpet players and I'm not alone. Recently he has been the subject of two fascinating articles, the first one by editor Doug Landau in New Orleans Music magazine of June 2005, the second in the same magazine of March 2006 by Dutch contributor Adam Olivier. If you're not a subscriber yet to this magazine, please change your evil ways and subscribe. You can reach them at louislince@neworleansmusic.demon.uk 

De De deserves the praise accorded to him in both articles. He was without a shadow of a doubt one of the most creative and fascinating musicians of the New Orleans revival. His wife Billie was one of the great barrelhouse pianists of New Orleans. Esteem came late in life for both of them. Their careers started in the period when legends like Buddy Petit, Chris Kelly and Kid Rena were at the height of their powers. Dee Dee, like most New Orleans musicians had a day job -he was a brick mason- and played music at night and in the weekends.

At the time when most of the tracks of this CD were recorded the future didn't look too bright for the Pierces. De De had become blind and had to stop his day job. Both suffered from ill health. On top of that Luthjen's burned down in January 1960. Fortunately things were about to change for the better. They got some financial help from Tommy Woods who bought an upright piano for Billie and a new cornet for De De. He also booked them both for the Tulane Arts Festival in April 1960. They also had become regulars at Larry Borenstein's art gallery where informal sessions took place. In the spring of 1961 the art gallery had become Preservation Hall. Billie & Dee Dee worked there until the end of their lives. They became symbols of the pure, unadulterated New Orleans music. The last two tracks were recorded after the opening of the Hall when NBC had sent a camera crew to New Orleans to make a documentary.
On these recordings De De sounds rougher than on the later Riverside LP's, but just as exciting. It is generally accepted that his style, just like Kid Howard's, is close to that of the blues master Chris Kelly who, unfortunately never recorded. Billie's robust, basic piano style never changed and she sings with all the vigour of a youngster. De De also sings in his very individual way. On "All Of Me" he sings the lyrics both in English and in Creole French. On four tracks another trumpet legend from New Orleans, Kid Thomas Valentine, joins the couple.
This is as pure New Orleans jazz as you'll ever find. It is raw, exciting, honest music, music from the heart. If you don't like this, you don't like New Orleans music.
Marcel Joly

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