Billie Holiday

Tell Me More

In his book Billie Holiday: Wishing on the Moon, Donald Clarke quotes songwriter Arthur Herzog. Herzog is recalling the encounter between Billie Holiday, himself, and his songwriting partner Danny Mendelsohn which led to the writing of the ‘new’ song:
“Tell Me More” is credited to Lady herself. And on the subject of this song Herzog was grumpily funny in 1971. One evening, Danny Mendelsohn was at his house. “The house was two blocks below 14th and 8th Avenue. And we were four or five blocks away from Café Society. She used to come over sometimes Monday nights, which were her nights off.

I forget where she was living at the time. It made no difference to her because she lived all over the place. She popped up once living a floor under my younger son. He had an apartment on the west 80′s and discovered one day he was living above Billie.

She came rushing in to Danny. She was a great artist. Creative? No. She said to Danny, “Danny, I’ve got a great tune. Take it down for me.”

And she sings da-daing St. James Infirmary. So Danny says, “Yes Billie it’s a great tune but it’s St. James Infirmary.”

“Oh Danny bend it a little for me. Bend it.”

So Danny took out his pencil. Put it in blues time 4:4. Attached a bridge to it and said, “Alright Arthur, give me some words.”

So I popped the first thing that came into my mind “Tell Me More And More And Then Some.” Inane kind of thing. So we scratched this underneath and forgot about it completely.

Six months went by and there’s a record out. “Tell Me More” words and music by Billie Holiday, sung by Billie Holiday, accompanied by the Billie Holiday Orchestra, of which there was no such thing of course. There it was.

“Danny what are we gonna do about this?” This idiot friend has done this to us, and the song isn’t worth a goddamn. I mean St. James Infirmary.”

After she dies Herbie Marks [probably Herzog's employer/publisher of the Edward B. Marks Music Company] called me up and said, “I seem to remember that you had something to do with this song?” And I’d like to do something with it.

And I said, “Herbie, I can’t prove anything but this song was written by yours truly and the late Danny Mendelsohn.” That’s how it happened. It never made any money.

Herzog is being unfair to their own “hack work.” To say nothing of using the word creative in a very limited sense. Lady had commissioned the song and even told them how to write it. Of course they should’ve got some credit. The song has a strong blues feeling and its lingering resemblance to St. James Infirmary doesn’t hurt a bit — so that it sounds as if you’ve heard it before, but you can’t remember where.

The way the words fall is pleasing and with the arrangements stop time movements and solo from Teddy (Wilson on piano), it’s an unusual love song and a nice record.

- Donald C. Clarke’s “Wishing On The Moon” (1996), additional thanks to Robert W. Harwood.

Roy Eldridge (trumpet) Bill Bowen, Joe Eldridge (alto saxophone) Kermit Scott, Lester Young (tenor saxophone) Teddy Wilson (piano) Freddie Green (guitar) Walter Page (bass) J.C. Heard (drums) Billie Holiday (vocals)

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LYRICS ::

Tell me more and more and then some
You know what I long to hear
I want more and more and then some
Of that “I love you only dear”

Tell me more and more and then some
The way that you feel and then
When you’ve told that old sweet story
And you’re through, start right in again
I’ve made that old mistake
Know the awful ache
Of a heart that’s double crossed
The waitin’s been so long
Hard to believ’in
If I’ve missed my guess, happiness is lost

Tell me more and more and then some
You know how I love that stuff
Whisper on from now
’til doomsday
But I never will hear enough

Tell me more and more and then some
The way that you feel and then
When you’ve told that old sweet story
And you’re through, start right in again
I’ve made that old mistake
Know the awful ache
Of a heart that’s double crossed
The waitin’s been so long
Hard to believ’in
If I’ve missed my guess, happiness is lost

Tell me more and more and then some
You know how I love that stuff
Whisper on from now
’til doomsday
But I never will hear enough