Wilhelmina Goodson, known professionally as Billie Pierce (June 8, 1907 – September 29, 1974), was an American jazz pianist and singer.
Wilhelmina (Billie) Goodson was born on June 8, 1907 in her mother’s hometown of Marianna, Florida, United States, and grew up in Pensacola, Florida. She was one of six piano-playing sisters (including Ida Goodson and Sadie Goodson) whose mother and father (Madison H. Goodson and Sarah Jenkins Goodson) also played the piano. There was a seventh daughter, Maggie, who died young. Billie was the second youngest of the girls; the order of the sisters from oldest to youngest went Mabel (b. 1899), Della (1901), Sadie (1903), Edna (1904), Billie (1907), and Ida (1909).
Goodson was never formally trained to read music. Both of her parents musicians, they played hymns and sang in the choir at the Baptist church where Madison Goodson was a Deacon. According to Billie, she was about two years old when she first started to play the piano.
Though her parents disapproved of ragtime, blues, and jazz, only playing religious music, Billie and her sisters were drawn to it. When Ms. Pierce was about ten years old, she and her sisters would go down to the Belmont Theater to listen to Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, and Bessie Smith when they passed through Pensacola, Florida. In 1922, when Ms. Pierce was almost thirteen, Bessie Smith passed through town again. Bessie’s pianist, Clarence Williams, suffered a heart attack and Ms. Pierce subbed in to played piano with Bessie Smith for two weeks at the Belmont Theater.