Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Billie Holiday microphone

There were many beautiful black and white photographs taken of Billie Holiday during her career, but the one photo that immortalized both the singer and her microphone was taken by Herman Leonard, the greatest photographer of jazz artists there ever was. He is famous for taking memorable pictures of singers and musicians such as Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan Count Basie, Miles Davis, and many others. This particular photo of Billie Holiday and the Shure 730 became so notorious that it's on the front cover of one of the books on Herman Leonard's work. It was taken in New York, in 1949, with two elements that became a mark in some of Mr. Leonard's photographs, backlighting and cigarette smoke. Ten years earlier, she did have a picture taken with the same mic, at the Off Beat Club, in Chicago. Although not as famous, the photo ended up on the cover of the compilation CD Musical Romance, along with Lester Young.

The Shure 730 Uniplex Crystal microphone started being manufactured in the late 30's, and was advertised at the time as a low cost uni-directional mic. It was cheaper than the Shure 55 Unidyne, but it still had a higher price than a lot of mics produced by other companies. Although it had openings on the back, it was heralded as an efficient mic for enviroments with a lot of background noise and reverberation. You can download the spec sheet here.
The DS rarity scale: 8.5/10.


  1. A really pretty one Billie photo!
    About the mic I wanna have one "low cost" like that one of these days ,ehehe.

  2. I wish they were cheap today as well!!!
    And to think that in the 50's, this mic was around $25!

  3. I'm about to buy a 730A for $380..

    Note: The 730A is the first edition released around 1940

    The 730B was released around 1945 with the Shure-logo in
    the center of the microphone...

    I believe the "A" model is more rare than the "B" model...

    1. Good to know, METRO!

      But are you sure about the logo? I have 3 730B models and none of them have the Shure logo at the center.

      Is the one you're going to buy working? I can't get anything but a sliver of sound from 2 of them, and the third has a different element.