|A Book of Caricatures||Bix, Rogue or Hero?||Iowans To Be Proud Of||Bix in "The Palimpsest"||Bix and the Down Beat Hall of Fame|
|The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival on Public Television.||An Incident in Princeton||Dances||Riverwalk||Bix's First Recording and the Gennett Richmond Studio|
A Photograph of Bix in the New York Times
|The Lincoln C. Selleck "Bix Lives" Jazz Award||A Poem for Bix||A Poem About Bix's Piano Music||Five Poems About Bix|
|Ode to Bix||A Tribute to Bix in Ascona||Hoagy, Bix, and Wolfgang Beethoven Bunkhaus||The Hoagy and Bix Company||Bix Beiderbecke Legacy Stage Show|
|A German Radio Play About Bix||The Original Bixography||Two Best Seller Victor Records||The First Discography of Bix's Recordings||Bix Played at Gertrude Seiffert Beiderbecke's Wedding|
|Bix Beiderbecke Lithograph Print||The Keeley Institute||Bix and the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity||The Re-opening of the Blue Lantern||A Fictional Story About the Last Days of Bix|
|Singin' the Blues on the Allen GW319-EX Theatre Organ||swedish band and goldkette||Vince Giordano|
Yo Bix, tu Bix, el Bix by Hermenegildo Sabat, Editorial Airene, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1972. The title of the book translates as I Bix, You Bix, He Bix, of course, a tongue in cheek conjugation of the word Bix as a verb, but perhaps more deeply, a subtle way of identifying I, You, and He with Bix. The book consists of 19 caricatures, 19 photographs of record labels from records by the Wolverine Orchestra, Bix and his Gang, the Frankie Trumbauer Orchestra, the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, and Hoagy Carmichael and his Orchestra, and a one-page introduction. The caricatures are excellent from a technical point of view, but somewhat surrealistic. This is clearly a labor of love. The author obviously adores Bix's music and listens to it regularly. In fact, as he states in the introduction "los necesito", meaning that he needs to listen to the recordings.
According to the Library of Congress, reference numbers VXA 2923 (master copy) and VAE 0642 (viewing copy), on October 7, 1973 CBS-TV broadcast the program Camera Three entitled "The Bix Pieces". This is a ballet choreographed by the dancer/choreographer Twyla Tharp to the music of Bix Beiderbecke. The program was produced and directed by Merrill Brockway and featured five dancers. Marian Hailey was the commentator. The video cassette is 28 minutes long.
Unfortunately, I have been unable to obtain, borrow, or view a video tape of the program. I would be grateful for a copy of a video tape of the program and/or any detailed information about its contents.
Addendum (10/8/00) The premiere of "The Bix Pieces" took place in Paris on November 1971 at the IX International Festival of Dance. Costumes: Kermit Love; Lighting: Jennifer Tipton; Music: Bix Beiderbecke, performed by Paul Whiteman's Orchestra; "Abide with Me" by Thelonious Monk.
Twyla Tharp wrote an autobiography entitled "Push Comes to Shove", Bantam Books, New York, 1992. She writes the following about how she developed "The Bix Pieces". "Dancing continuously in the studio, I never stopped to mourn my father, but plunged daily back into working, where I could address his death without feeling I would break apart. Perhaps I felt that I could keep him with me in my dancing.I began to work on a piece to the music of trumpeteer Bix Beiderbecke. Coming from the same period as Jelly Roll Morton, the Beiderbecke music was as light and airy as the other was rough-edged and earthy, as sophisticated in his arrangements as the Morton was raw and close to the belt, as white as the other was black. Part One of "The Bix Pieces" was five songs - first me alone (twirling clear batons), then Sara and me swooping and swooning to Beiderbecke's arrangement of "Tain't So, Honey, Tain't So" sung by Bing Crosby, then Sara and me backing up Rose, then the three of us behind Isabel, then finally Ken joining the women to Crosby's "Because My Baby Don't Mean Maybe Now." I began to sense that the dark subtext behind the movement would never come through in the sprightly dancing, and I wrote in a narrator to account for the reservoir of emotion that prompted "The Bix Pieces." "I hated to tap dance when I was a kid," says she, and I proceeded to do just that. "But this dance is about remembering. My tap dancing lessons, my baton twirling lessons, my acrobatics, the hula-hula. My father." As the Adagio fromthe third quartet of Haydn's Opus 76 begins, she explains that much of the dancing was made to this adagio, because I did not want to be too literal in following the Bix music. You can begin to see as Ken dances in the vernacular and Rose in ballet style, "chassee is really slap ball change: Exactly and not all the same." All things are related, and as the Haydn winds down, she observes its theme was a folk melody existing long before Haydn. There is continuity and development in all things, "for while my father died this spring my son was born." And then comes Part Three, a very short revision of the dancing in "Because My Baby Don't Mean Maybe Now," this time reset to the John Coltrane "Abide with Me".
I am grateful to Joe Giordano for a gift of Twyla Tharp's biography.
Rogue or Hero?
In the book "Rogues and Heroes from Iowa's Amazing Past" (Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, 1972), the author, George Mills, provides brief biographies of important or notorious people born in Iowa. The book consists of 18 chapters, each chapter dedicated to one town. Chapter 18 focuses on Davenport. One of the entries in the chapter is, as expected, Colonel Davenport. Another entry is entitled "If that Boy Had Lived..."The boy is Bix and there is ashort account of his life illustrated with Bix's famous picture from 1921. The title of the entry is taken from Louis Armstrong's quotation, "If that boy had lived, he'd be the greatest".
To Be Proud Of
In the book "Iowa Pride" (Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, 1996), the author, Duane A. Schmidt, celebrates the accomplishments of famous Iowans. The book is divided in three parts: Iowans Who Made It Here, Iowans Who Made It Elsewhere, and Iowa Firsts. We find, in the second group, an entry entitled "Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931), Renowned Cornet Jazz Stylist". The two-page biography is preceded and followed by quotes from Louis Armstrong. "All I've ever called the dear boy was Bix... just that name alone will make one stand up." "And when he played - why, the ears did the same thing." The author provides a short phrase summarizing the achievement for each famous Iowan. In the case of Bix, this reads "Created a unique cornet jazz style".
There are many other famous Iowans included in the book. I only cite a few, in subjects that are of special interest to me. John Vincent Atanasoff ("invented the digital computer"); Walter A. Sheaffer ("invented the first practical self-filling fountain pen"); Frank H. Spedding ("co-invented the production process for pure uranium"); James Van Allen ("discovered earth-encircling radiation belt"); Lee Deforest ("father of the wireless, commercial radio, and talking pictures"); Glenn Miller ("invented the big band sound"); John Wayne ("Academy Award-winning actor").
in "The Palimpsest".
"The Palimpsest" was a publication of the Division of the State Historical Society of the Iowa State Historical Departement. The magazine was published from 1921 to 1995 under the Palimpsest name, but was changed to "Iowa Heritage Illustrated" in 1995. The July/August 1978 (Volume 54, Number 4) issue has a 12-page article entitled "In a Mist: The Story of Bix Beiderbecke" by Darold J. Brown. The article is a brief biographical account and contains several well-known photographs.
The content page of the magazine explains the meaning of the Palimpsest. "In early times a palimpsest was a parchment or other material which one or more writings had been erased to give room for later records. The history of Iowa may be likened to a palimpsest whcih holds the record of sucessive generations."
and The Down Beat Hall of Fame.
In 1962, Bix was elected by the readers into the Down Beat Hall of Fame. A list of all the awardees, beginning in 1952 with Louis Armstrong, is available. An article about Bix as a Jazz Hall of Fame artist is available in the Down Beat Jazz Magazine web site. Also available in the Down Beat web site is an article by Gilbert Erskine from the August 1961 issue of the magazine. Erskine provides an interesting account of the activities of Bix and other members of the Jean Goldkette Orchestra at the Blue Lantern Inn at Hudson Lake in the summer of 1926.
"Best Seller" Records.
The August 1927 Victor Catalogue lists in p. 5 the Twenty "Best Sellers". Record number 13 has "Hoosier Sweetheart" by Jean Goldkette and His Orchestra on one side and "What Does It Matter?" by The Victor Orchestra on the other. Record number 19 "Im Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover by Jean Goldkette and His Orchestra on one side and Roger Wolfe Kahn's "Yankee Rose" on the other. Two best sellers with Bix in them!
I am grateful to Rob Rothberg for making available to me a copy of the pertinent page of the Victor Catalogue.
The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival on Public Television.
C. Selleck "Bix Lives" Jazz Award.
The purpose of the Award is to encourage students under the age of 21 to "explore early American jazz, particularly that of the legendary jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke by awarding a $400 First Place Award and a $100 Second Place Award annually to young musicians who demonstrate talent in playing Bix’s music." Lincoln C. Selleck was a jazz enthusiast, writer, and naturalist. He was one of the founders circa 1945 (together with Dick Hallock and Howard Linley) of the low-profile "W. O. B." (Worshippers of Bix club). The distinguished panel of judges consists of Dick Hallock, jazz critic and author; James Lincoln Collier, jazz historian and author; Dave Robinson, traditional jazz educator and musician; and Jon Milan and Howard Linley, traditional jazz musicians.
Applications for the current year's award, to be presented in January of 2001, are invited from all young musicians up to age 21.Students of traditional jazz age 21 or under who play a traditional jazz instrument are invited to apply for the 2000 Lincoln C. Selleck "Bix Lives" Jazz Award.. There are no entry fees. For application details, please see http://hometown.aol.com/yogi108/music1/index.htm.
The deadline for receipt of completed applications is October 1, 2000; the
award winners will be announced by December 31, 2000 and the award presented in late January 2001.
Jazz Youth Group Leaders or Educators may request application kits for the
award for distribution to their students. An audio cassette of selections of
the music of Bix Beiderbecke, as well as lead sheets for a number of Bix's
tunes are available to jazz educators or youth group leaders on receipt of a
written request and $5 in stamps to help cover mailing and duplication costs.
Requests for the application materials should be addressed to Thomas Selleck,
Lincoln C. Selleck "Bix Lives" Jazz Award, P.O. Box 541, Fairfield, IA 52556.
For more information, please call Thomas Selleck or Marilyn Ungaro at 515 472 6003.
1998 Award. The two award winners were announced on December 15, 1998. The first-place award was won by 17-year old Russell Baker, a trumpet player and a physics freshman at Columbia University. The second-place award was won by another 17-year old youngster, Joseph Howell of Porterville, California.
1999 Award. Three
Teens Win Prizes In Lincoln C. Selleck "Bix Lives" Jazz Award
Gordon Au, a trumpet and cornet-playing sophomore at U.C. Berkeley, has taken top honors in the second annual Lincoln C. Selleck "Bix Lives" Jazz Award Competition. His brother Brandon, a 16-year-old trombone player from Carmichael, California, tied for second place with 13-year-old Jazz Pianist David Hull from Fresno California. The annual competition encourages
traditional jazz in young musicians and awards a $400 First Place Prize and a
$100 Second Place Prize.
The award was established in memory of jazz enthusiast and writer Lincoln C. Selleck in order to perpetuate his passion for the classic jazz of the 1920's
First-Place Winner Gordon Au, has been playing traditional jazz trumpet and
cornet since age eight. He credits his early exposure to trad jazz to his
uncle Howard Miyata who currently plays trombone with the High Sierra Jazz
Band. A former leader and performer with the Sacramento Jazz Society's
official youth band, the New Traditionalist Jazz Band, Gordon has played at
numerous jazz jubilees and in May of this year he will play at the Sacramento
Jazz Jubilee as a featured 'Jazz apprentice' performing with a professional
Second Place Winner pianist David Hull, age fourteen, was guided into the
world of jazz at a young age by his father Ed. David has appeared at many
jazz festivals including the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, the Suncoast Jazz
Festival and the Gateway Jazz Festival. He currently plays with the trad jazz
Hull's Angels Band and attends the Bullard T.A.L.E.N.T. Middle School in
Tied for Second Place, Brandon Au has played trombone with his brother Gordon in the New Traditionalists Jazz Band since 1993. His trad jazz training
started at age 12 and under the tutelage of musicians such as Bill Allred,
leader of his Classic Jazz Band, Brandon continues to polish his skills.
Incident in Princeton.
James Stewart and Jose Ferrer were undergraduate students at Princeton University during the late 'twenties and early 'thirties. They belonged to the Charter Club. In his book "James Stewart, A Biography", Turner Publishing, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, 1996, Donald Dewey relates a visit of Bix to the Club. "If the Charter Club did not have one defining characteristic, it helped for members to like music. When Stewart wasn't entertaining with his accordion, he was swapping musical notes in the club's quarters with Jose Ferrer, the future actor, then preoccupied with leading a dance band.He also had a hand in planning the club's elaborate jazz weekends for which some of the biggest names in the business were hired. On May 2, 1931, for instance, Charter sponsored a weekend party bill that included Bix Beiderbecke, Bud Freeman, Jimmy Dorsey and Charlie Teagarden. The weekend gained a footnote in the Beiderbecke story when the trumpeter, already oiled by a flask from which he had been sipping all evening, wandered off to another house, where he sat down at a piano and began to play a series of original, mesmerizing compositions that were never written down, let alone recorded. Later that Sunday morning, he had to be pulled off the street for flashing his flask in front of scandalized Princetonians on their way to church. It was partly because of this incident that a campus periodical admonished Charter a few weeks later for its spending on the weekend parties. "Just when the time will come when the clugs realize that they do not have to vie with New York debutante parties in elaborateness and splendor, is problematic, but it is bound to come", warned the Prince."
Michael Longley is an Irish poet, born in 1939, who has written poems (such as Cease Fire and Peace) about the problems in Northern Ireland. In 1992, he received the prestigious Whitbred Poetry Prize for his work Gorse Fires. Michael Longleywrote the poem "To Bix Beiderbecke", a short (ten-line) poem honoring Bix's genius for composition and improvisation.
A Poem About Bix's Piano Music.
On Sunday, August 1, 1999, at the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in Davenport, Iowa, David Jellema, Archivist at the Center for Popular Music, Middle Tennessee State University, cornet player, and member of the New Traditional Jazz Band, read a poem written by his father, the poet Rod Jellema. The poem has not been published yet. Through the courtesy of David and Rod, I am providing the complete text of the poem below.
Some aura, thin and far ago,
the flutter of lights that plays
off the side of the eye
and darts away just when a child
will quickly turn the head to catch it.
He feels for keys and the chords shiver
like that, a mist of light
that catches Eden's first breath.
Maybe it startled the first time he saw
lights in the distance at night,
empty factories, houses lit low
and lonely down the river
from the docks of Davenport while boats
cried their horns all over black water.
Or was it candlelights one starless night,
nodding off one by one in the glass
of the dining room window, small tongues
of fire down a twisting road
that he looked for years later, outside,
taking Vera for a drive in his father's
1920 Davis 8. The road never appeared.
Ivory keys in hollow rooms. If only
his fingers will see the sounds to take.
To him it's a matter of spaces,
he dares to know the spaces in his head
but some days it's cloudy. And anyway
he has to find with his fingers
those notes the spaces mean, touch them
as though they've never before existed.
Too late to learn Ravel's way there
on paper. Twenty eight and dying of booze.
Through eight fogged years of bandstands
and jams, he caught his music in flashes,
blew instant recompositions of themes
that he bent through silver, mixing colors
quick, before the phrases could die
by hanging themselves in clouds of smoke
and ash over the seas of laughing faces
deaf and adrift on a thousand lost dance floors.
When even that holy agitation of the flashes
clouded in, he worked anyway to lengthen
their glints through a whole piano suite
of broken light, bad gin and the shakes
on any borrowed pianos he could find.
Shaded from morning stabs of light,
he got back to where he was going all along,
the dreaming mind, the diamond-making dark.
copyright 1999 Rod Jellema
I am grateful to Rod and David Jellema for providing me with a copy of the poem and for their generosity in allowing me to include it here.
Gunnar Harding (b. 1940), a well-known Swedish modernistic poet, has written a very nice poem (in Swedish) about Bix, called "Davenport Blues, BIX BEIDERBECKE (1903-1931)". It was published in his book "Gasljus" (1983). Gunnar Harding is especially famous for his tours, where he has been reading his poetry accompanied by a jazz band.
Ben Mazer is a well-known poet, a former student of Seamus Heaney at Harvard University, widely published in American and British periodicals, and the author of one published collection of poems, White Cities (Ben Mazer, Frank Parker (Illustrator) / Paperback / Barbara Matteau Editions / February 1995). Mr. Mazer has written a sequence of five poems about Bix Beiderbecke, all of which have been published in well-known British and American literary periodicals. The pertinent references follow.
FIVE POEMS ABOUT BIX BEIDERBECKE
Mazer, Ben. "Bix
(1903-1931)." The Dark Horse (Scotland), No. 5,
Summer 1997; pp. 16-17.
Mazer, Ben. "Davenport." Press (New York, NY), Issue 6, 1997; p. 43.
Mazer, Ben. "White
(Williamsburg, VA & Scotland), Volume 14,
Number 3, 1998; p. 2.
Mazer, Ben. "Bix in
(Williamsburg, VA & Scotland), Volume
14, Number 3, 1998; p. 3.
Mazer, Ben. "Royal
(Newcastle upon Tyne, UK), Volume 39,
Number 3, Summer 1998; p. 36.
Ben kindly gave me permission to reproduce here an excerpt from his poem "Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931)."
My Wolverines – we were the
the idiom of jazz was universal.
I led the young men with my silver horn
improvising records; as archetypal as
the first ice skater on a frozen lake
I was Hans Brinker at the brink of jazz –
modern, yet somehow cold and dark as winter;
almost anonymously at life's center.
I am grateful to Ben Mazer for the detailed
references about his poems.
by Earl A. Rohlf is, as described in the sheet music published by
Records, "A Collection of Piano Music written in the style of Bix
piano music." Earl A. Rohlf was born in Davenport, Iowa in 1907. His
brother, Wayne, was one of Bix's classmates and played trumpet.
to the liners for the sheet music, Earl was a talented pianist who
the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. Later on he was a staff
pianist, arranger, and composer for several radio and TV stations in
and taught both piano and organ." "Ode to Bix" was composed around 1974
and consists of four parts.
Ode to Bix
Rhapsody for Bix.
The sheet music for Ode to Bix was published on December 9, 1995 by Polecat Records, 3730 Fairlawn Drive, Minnetonka, Minnesota 55345
Tribute to Bix in Ascona.
The yearly Ascona New Orleans Jazz Festival will take place this year from June 25 to July 4, 1999. This is the 15th year that jazz musicians and fans from all over the world will converge in this exclusive resort town in Switzerland. There will be tributes to three giants of jazz, Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton. The tribute to Bix will feature Lino Patruno and the Red Pellini Gang with a special appearance by the amazing Spiegle Willcox.
First Recording and the Gennett Richmond Studio.
Bix's first recording was made on February 18, 1924 in the Richmond, Indiana studio of Gennett Records, a subsidiary of the Starr Piano Company. The Wolverines recorded four sides - "Fidgety Feet", "Lazy Daddy", "Sensation Rag", and "Jazz Me Blues". The band made several takes of "Lazy Daddy" and "Sensation Rag", but all were rejected. On the other hand, "Fidgety Feet" and "Jazz Me Blues" were pressed and released in May 1924 in the blue Gennett label. Although this date must be viewed as a "first" for Bix's jazz legacy, by 1924 a series of legendary jazz figures and bands already had recorded for Gennett Records: the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band (with a young Louis Armstrong), Jelly Roll Morton, and Doc Cook and His Dreamland Orchestra (featuring Freddie Keppard and Jimmy Noone).
A very interesting and comprehensive account of the history and activities of the Gennett Studios is given by Rick Kennedy in his book "Jelly Roll, Bix, and Hoagy." A briefer but quite useful account can be found in a web site entitled "The Cradle of Recorded Jazz".
Fictional Story About the Last Days of Bix.
Sheryl Smith has written a fictional short story about the last days of Bix's life. The complete story -entitled "Bix: To What End?"- is available on the internet at http://www.testdesigns.com/bixstory.htm
Bix and Wolfgang Beethoven Bunkhaus.
The Mark Taper Forum Theater, located in the Los Angeles Music Center,opened in 1967. The productions staged in the Forum range from the classics to the avant-garde. In the 1980-81 season, the musical production "Hoagy, Bix and Wolfgang Beethoven Bunkhaus" was presented. The musical drama was written by Adrian Mitchell and was produced by Steve Robman. Richard M. Sudhalter was the musical director. The band he assembled for the show included Dave Frishberg, the author of "Dear Bix".
The following is an almost verbatim transcription of an account kindly provided to me by Richard M. Sudhalter.
Beethoven Bunkhaus" was the pseudonym under which the
cellist, pianist and composition student William Ernest Moenkhaus wrote
satires, nonsense plays, and neo-dadaist poetry for The
University's student literary magazine of the 1920s. Son of an IU
professor, he did part of his education at a Gymnasium in Germany,
to Switzerland in autumn, 1914, after the Great War began. He was
exposed to the Dadaist movement then taking shape in Zurich
- or at least its intellectual fallout - and brought its principles
with him when he returned to study music in Bloomington.
As can be read in Carmichael's memoirs, Moenkhaus became intellectual mentor for a circle of students who hung out at the campus soda shopand luncheonette, the Book Nook. His rather fey manner, flair for mock-sententious aphorisms and aperÁus, and above all his obvious depthand brilliance, proved irresistible to the half-formed Carmichael. In an intriguing way he was the exact antithesis of Bix: "Monk" the creature of intellect, all left-brain domination, Bix was one of intuition. Moenkhaus learned music, understood theory (he notated several of Hoagy's first pieces for him); Bix came to it almost entirely by instinct.
Together they formed a sort of yin and yang for Hoagy's awakening consciousness. Hot music fascinated Monk (though his efforts to play it were ineffectual at best), especially its intuitive character. Bix, for his part, had a flair for the kind of imaginative reordering of the world of appearances, the fatalistic view of the universe, at the heart of Monk's thinking.
The British poet and playwright Adrian Mitchell found this constellation fascinating. He linked Moenkhaus's wit, moreover, to the surreal (and very British) humor of Edward Lear, the musical high-jinks of Gerard Hoffnung, and even (a bit of a reach, it always seemed to me) the zanier side of the Beatles. His idea in writing the Bunkhaus play was to use Moenkhaus's work as a counterpoint to both the high seriousness of Bix music and Monk's intellectual life, and the world of fancy that each, in its way, also embodied. Both, remember, were essentially dark spirits, haunted - even tormented - by heaven knew what inner forces. Behind the Book Nook carryings on, behind Dadaism itself, was a profound despair at the human condition. Bix, of course, was no intellectual; if he was aware of this kind of thing at all, it was something of an abstraction for him. But consider the emotional mix of his playing: sunlight breaks through its darkest moments: his basic optimism burned long after his aspirations faltered. But it is also no accident that in all Beiderbecke's records there is not one moment of whoop-de-do fun, or unalloyed happiness. I think it well to pay heed here to Ralph Berton, when he talks about Bix's shadowed obsession with music. I thought then, and still think, he was on to something.
The "drama with music" concept of Adrian's play required jazz: not the denatured product used in Ain't Misbehavin', Jelly's Last Jam, and other Broadway items, but real hot music. That meant a six-piece band onstage throughout most of the play, performing mostly Carmichael songs and a few jazz band numbers associated with Bix. Its first productionwas in a small pub theatre in London's East End. The first U.S. production was at the Indiana Repertory Theatre - actually the remodelled Indiana Theatre, the very building in which Bix and Tram had joined Paul Whiteman in October 1927. I was arranger and musical director, but did not play in this production, which ran for some three weeks. All the bandsmen were Indianapolis musicians. A few of the actors - Jamey Sheridan, Armin Shimerman - turn up now and then on TV.
The Taper production in Los Angeles came some months later. The stage band was myself on cornet, Dave Frishberg singing and playing piano, Bob Reitmeier on clarinet and alto, Howard Alden (age 22) on banjo and guitar, Putter Smith (younger brother of Carson Smith) on bass, and Dick Berk on drums. The cast included the singer-cabaret artist Amanda McBroom. Mark Robman worked out an interesting idea for staging the musical sequences: every time the Bix character, played by Harry Groener, had to play some cornet, he would stand, horn at mouth, in the spotlight, facing the audience; I would stand, in darkness, back-to-back with him, but costumed identically. Then we would simply revolve, as if on a pedestal, bringing me into the spotlight and him into shadow. I'd play the solo - I remember doing "Singin' the Blues" and "I'm Comin' Virginia," among others - then we'd revolve back, and I'd melt into the darkness off stage while Groener carried on with his lines.
The musical side of the show got mostly rave reviews, but Mitchell's play took a critical pasting. Unfairly, I thought: he'd tried, very imaginatively, to bring off a difficult concept, blending the Weltschmerz of the Bunkhaus humor (even casting some of the episodes as puppet-show plays within the play) with the Beiderbecke tragedy, all against the Carmichael coming-of-age motif. There were things that didn't work, sure - but I thought then, and still do, that it was a very ambitious undertaking and deserved better treatment than it got."
to point out the connection betwen this show and the CD Dick
Sudhalter and His Friends "With Pleasure". According to
Feather who wrote the liners for the original album included in the CD:
"Before the show closed, it became apparent to Sudhalter that the combo
he had assembled was too good not to be preserved. With the exception
Dan Barrett and Daryl Sherman, all the participants here were his
in the show. Instead of confining himself to Carmichael songs for this
album, he dipped into the vast reserve of early jazz/pop standards
in his capacious memory. Several of the selections are clearly a nod to
Bix Beiderbecke." Thus, we can hear interesting renditions of "From
Monday On", "Blue River", "Waiting at the End of the Road",
and "I'll Be A Friend "With Pleasure"".
Finally, it is noteworthy, that almost twenty years after his involvement with the show centered around Hoagy, Dick Sudhalter is currently writing a biography of Hoagy's. I quote form Hoagy's web site: "Trumpeter-historian Richard M. Sudhalter has signed with Oxford University Press to write a full-length biography, Star Dust: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael, to be published in late 1999. Mr. Sudhalter's research will draw on interviews, archival material, recorded music, and the composer's own personal papers. The book will also include more than three dozen photographs, and careful analysis of Hoagy Carmichael's music and methods." The publication of the book is part of the centennial celebrationof Hoagy Carmichael's birth. As another part of the celebration, Dick Sudhalter with singer Barbara Lea and an all-star band of European Jazz musicians will present, in late 1999, a new show, "Along the Stardust Road", in Hamburg, Berlin and other major cities in Germany, Austria, and the Benelux countries.
I acknowledge with gratitude Richard M. Sudhalter's contribution. Without his help, this section could not have been included here.
Enrico Borsetti kindly sent me scans of the program for the English production of the play. They follow here.
Hoagy and Bix Company.
This item is taken from Hoagy's centennial celebration web site.
"Columbia Artists Management Inc., Concert Productions, and The Hoagy & Bix Company will present a big band centennial celebration tour featuring the music of Hoagy Carmichael. This tour will play in at least 45 cities in the United States and will begin in Los Angeles in January 2000."
In the early 1940's, the Canadian Bixophile Edward Moogk organized "The Bix Beiderbecke Club". The Club was "Dedicated to the Memory and Works of Bix Beiderbecke". Wayne Rohlf, who had attended high school at the same time as Bix, was the first Honorary President. The membership was small (22 members in February 1943). One of the members at that time was Joe Giordano, Bixophile extraordinaire, collector, and writer.
The club published a monthly newsletter entitled "BIXOGRAPHY"! The name had been coined 56 years before I launched the "Bixography" web site! I hope this is not viewed as plagiarism or copyright infrigement. I plead innocent! It is only this week (May 19, 2000) that I learned of the existence of the"Original Bixography" through the courtesy of Joe Giordano who sent me copies of two issues of the newsletter.
The newsletter consisted of original contributions and reprints of articles published in magazines. As an example, the contents of the February 1943 issue was: Club News and Members; A List of Available Bix Records; High School Days with Bix, by Wayne H. Rohlf; Bix Stories, by Eddie Condon and Frank Norris; Beiderbecke Discography, by George Hoefer, Jr.
I am grateful to Joe Giordano for sending me copies of the "Bixography".
The above account is an almost verbatim transcription of an e-mail (7/8/99) from Trevor Rippingale. I am grateful to Trevor for providing the information.
Ror Wolf: Leben und Tod des
Bix Beiderbecke aus Nord-Amerika.
(Schöffling & Co., Frankfurt/Main 2000, 285 pp., ISBN 3-89561-317-7).
This book contains radio plays from 1969 to 1997 by the German author Ror Wolf (b. 1932). One of the plays (pp. 155-203) bears the same title as the book. The Bix radio play was written in 1985/86 and first broadcast on February 12, 1987. Here we meet people like Tram, Hoagy, Mezz Mezzrow, Jimmy Mc Partland, Pee Wee Russell, Paul Whiteman - and of course Bix himself - telling the story of Bix Beiderbecke. This is a very nice radio play, in great part because the author is familiar with the literature about Bix, and consequently there is little if any fiction in it. As a matter of fact, parts of what the characters say are recognizable as quotes from books.
A CD is included in the book - unfortunately it does not contain the play about Bix. The play is available on a separate CD from another publisher: Leben und Tod des Kornettisten Bix Beiderbecke aus Nord-Amerika (Der Audio Verlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-89813-108-4).
In 1988, Ror Wolf was awarded the prize "Hörspielpreis der Kriegsblinden" for this radio play.
The above account is an almost verbatim transcription of an e-mail (9/2/01) from Anders Gustafsson. I am grateful to Anders for providing the information.
The First Discography of Bix's Recordings.
"When Vince Giordano's Nighthawks are playing, it's easy to
lose track of time: not just minutes, or hours,
but whole decades. For most people who listened to jazz during its first
golden age, roughly 1924 to 1934, it meant a dozen-odd white guys in
waiter suits, reading music off stands while the patrons ate, drank and
Cajun, the slightly down-at-the-heels Creole restaurant in the Chelsea
section of Manhattan, where Mr. Giordano's band (essentially white guys in
tuxes) holds forth two nights a week, sells its liquor legally and has no dance
floor, but it's otherwise exceedingly easy to mislay 70 years there —
especially when the Nighthawks, all 11 of them, rip through an old
barn-burner like the Casa Loma Orchestra's "Casa Loma Stomp" from
1930, or ease into the Jean Goldkette Orchestra's lovely 1927 arrangement
of "Clementine From New Orleans." In their hands, jazz is young again, full
of ginger and pep and still possessed of a certain innocence. It's difficult not
to agree with the film critic Leonard Maltin, a fan, when he says: "Their music
makes me feel good. It lifts my spirits."
By rights Mr. Giordano, 49, should be a star. Not because very few
play the bass as well as he does (or the tuba, or the bass saxophone; he
plays seven instruments that he'll admit to). Not because after 30- odd years
onstage he knows as much about leading a jazz band as any man alive.
Not even because he can keep a topnotch band together, no easy task in
best of circumstances and an almost heroic one when you factor in the
Nighthawks' low pay and other commitments — these are professional
musicians who are very much in demand (and then there's Mr. Giordano's
day job, as an archivist at BMG Records, and the other bands he plays in).
Nor is it because he has many prominent fans, although on any given night at
Cajun you might see Mr. Maltin or the cartoonist R. Crumb or the director
Mel Brooks or any one of the number of jazz writers, filmmakers, actors,
radio personalities and other time-travelers who make up much of the
Nighthawks' regular clientele.
Mr. Giordano should be a star because he is a star. He has the charm,
confidence and bearing of a star, a star's sense of mission and purpose. He
even looks like a star, at least by the standards of, say, 1931.
But it's not 1931, and, in the modern world of jazz, Mr. Giordano has
strikes against him. First off, the Nighthawks are a revival band. According
to jazz orthodoxy, the revival band stands somewhere in between the circus
band and the society orchestra: a novelty outfit made up of amateurs,
has-beens and never-wases, good only for amusing tourists and titillating
retirees with a whiff of their long-past youth. For some reason, it's
acceptable to live within the musical territory carved out by Thelonious
Monk and Miles Davis and John Coltrane a generation or two ago, but not
that of the generations before them.
Yet a repertory band can still thrive, if not always with the critics.
Marsalis has led the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, unabashedly modeled on
Duke Ellington's great band of the 1940's, to such heights of acclaim that
Jazz at Lincoln Center, its parent organization, is building it a
100,000-square-foot, $115-million concert hall, which is scheduled to open
This success has had a certain trickle-down effect, as Mr. Giordano
acknowledges: "Wynton has made my life much easier." When he assembled
the current "herd," as he calls it, of Nighthawks, at the end of 1998, he hadn't
had a band together in four years.
But Mr. Marsalis's idea of a repertory band and Mr. Giordano's are two
different animals, and that's not just because the center of the Lincoln Center
band's sound is in the late 1930's, a decade later than that of the
Nighthawks. For one thing, the Lincoln Center players enjoy a generous
latitude in bringing modern techniques and ideas into the old music, ensuring
a good deal more solo pyrotechnics than you would have heard in the
music's day. The Nighthawks do not. "I prefer sticking closer to the score,"
Mr. Giordano said. In fact, when the director Terry Zwigoff needed
somebody to create precise renditions of a few classic jazz 78's for the
soundtrack of his new film, "Ghost World," he turned to Mr. Giordano.
To be a Nighthawk isn't easy. As Dan Levinson, the band's principal
soloist, pointed out: "It's very hard to play that music accurately and to
disregard all of the changes in music that have taken place since it was
originally performed. You really have to forget about swing and be-bop and
all the subsequent permutations of post-1934 jazz."
In fact, many of the arrangements the Nighthawks play are straight
transcriptions from the original records, solos and all. Others, however, are
not — and it's a mark of the band's command of the idiom that you find it
hard to tell which solos are old and which are new. "I have no doubt this
would have been one of the best bands in the 20's," said Sherwin Dunner,
the producer of Yazoo Records' well-received "Jazz the World Forgot"
Yet paradoxically, given the Nighthawks' concern for authenticity,
is in practice entirely free from the eat-your-vegetables quality that
sometimes colors the Lincoln Center band's efforts. Partly this is because
you can experience it sitting at a table with a drink in your hand (if you can
get a reservation, that is; space at the Cajun is limited, and they fill it).
Mostly, however, it has to do with the Nighthawks' repertory.
When the Lincoln Center band chooses an old piece to revive, you can be
sure it will be a classic: this season the group will be playing music of Duke
Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, Woody Herman, and John Coltrane, among
others. Pretty safe ground. The Nighthawks are up to something different.
Mr. Giordano is a dedicated, even obsessive, collector of old music. The
basement of his house in Brooklyn is packed with more than 30,000 fully
indexed band arrangements. As a result, his band book runs to four fat
volumes, more than a thousand items, with plenty of surprises.
The jazz establishment would have no problem with many of these items.
Nighthawks play plenty of Ellington, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and
so forth. But then there's the other stuff. Take "The Moon and You," their
theme song, a bright, catchy fox trot composed by Leroy Shield for the 1931
Laurel and Hardy short "One Good Turn." It's precisely the kind of
confection that jazz critics consider lightweight — "dance music," not jazz.
Yet in the Nighthawks' rendition, there's a surprising amount of power
the music's sunny exterior; it's as if you opened the hood of one of those cute
new Volkswagens and found a V-8 engine. "I like to mix it up — I don't like
to be a jazz elitist," Mr. Giordano said. "Everybody had their degree of
jazzness." Listening to 1920's pop records, that jazzness is often not
immediately apparent. Live, the Nighthawks bring it out. (You'll never hear
Rudy Vallee the same way again.) The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra
confirms, often gloriously, what we know about jazz's history; the
Nighthawks challenge it.
Jazz tradition dictates that there is only one way to settle such
differences: a battle of the bands. I've long nurtured a fantasy of Vince
Giordano and his crew and Wynton Marsalis and his going toe-to-toe
onstage. Whether this (admittedly improbable) contest were to be held at
Lincoln Center or, better yet, at Cajun, it could run all night as far as I'm
David Wondrich is the author of ``Torrid Rhythm: the First
Rock and Roll, 1843-1950,'' to be published next year by A Cappella
On August 13, 2001 I sent in the following letter to the editor of the New York Times. The letter was not published.
I was very pleased to
laudatory comments of Mr. David Wondrich about Vince
Giordano's Nighthawks. The praise is highly deserved. For the last thirty years, Vince, a
talented musician/collector/historian, has labored mightily for the preservation and
dissemination of the jazz legacy of the 1920s. I am also glad to see that Mr. Wondrich
refers to "Jazz" in the title of the article.
In the 1920s there was a continuum of styles going from hot jazz to bland dance band
music. Hot dance bands were somewhere in between. But, jazz was a strong component of
almost all styles of popular music. Both black and white musicians played hot jazz and
dance music. Examples of hot jazz bands are Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives (black) and the
Original Memphis Five (white). Examples of dance bands are the Fletcher Henderson (black) and Jean Goldkette (white) orchestras. As a matter of fact, these two orchestras played in a"Battle of the Bands" in the Roseland Ballroom in New York in October 1926. Jean Goldkette, by all accounts, was the decisive winner, in great part because of the "hot"
musicians in the orchestra. The four bands had very different styles, but they all played
Some critics and historians take the position that only black musicians played "real" jazz in
the 1920s, whereas white musicians, with the possible exception of a small portion of the
output of the legendary cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, played a pale imitation of jazz, or mostly
pop music. Ken Burns' recent PBS program about jazz has, unfortunately, reinforced the
myth that jazz is an art form cultivated almost exclusively by black musicians.
I strongly disagree with this widely accepted notion. Bands of white musicians such as Red
Nichols and His Five Pennies, the Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra, the California Ramblers and the smaller groups derived from it, and last, but not least, the Jean Goldkette Orchestra, played a style of hot music which contained most of the elements of jazz, but derived more from the European musical tradition, and less from the blues. For various reasons, many jazz historians and scholars are reluctant to admit that a great portion of the music played by many white musicians in the 1920s was indeed a form of jazz.
The repertoire of the Nighthawks includes many tunes played by white dance bands from
the 1920s. I view the Vince Giordano Nighthawks as the 21st century equivalent of the
1920s Jean Goldkette Orchestra. Make no mistake: as beautifully articulated by Mr.
Wondrich, what the Nighthawks play at the Cajun on Mondays and Thursdays is most
Addendum, December 21,
The "Goings On" section of the December 23 & 30, 2002 edition of the New Yorker includes
the following item.
129 Eighth Ave., at 16th St. (691-6174)
It's not as if Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks are obsessed with the music of the
twenties and thirties—they've even been known to slip in a number or two from the forties
as well. Manning the most unwieldy of instruments (bass, tuba, bass saxophone) as well as
a bulbous vintage Kellogg microphone, Giordano leads a tuxedo-clad twelve-piece band
whose ease with early jazz and swing breathes life into an overlookedera. Authenticity and
affection, rather than nostalgia and affectation, are what power this valuable and enjoyable
ensemble. They're here on Mondays and Thursdays. The rest of the week features combos
fluent in Dixieland jazz and other improvisational sounds of New Orleans.
A cartoon depiction of Vince Giordano with his instruments illustrates the column.
I think that the reporter hit the nail right on the head when he/she wrote,
Authenticity and affection, rather than nostalgia and affectation
Indeed, it is abundantly
anyone who goes to the Cajun any Monday or Thursday
evening -and you should when you are in town or nearby -that Vince and his fellow
musicians are driven by their love for the jazz and the hot dance music of the 1920s and
1930s and that they bring back the sound of "that overlooked era" in the most authentic
manner. The performance by the band is not an excuse for a "back to the past" sentimental
journey, but a living, dynamic demonstration that this music can be current and timely in
the 21st century. Vince and his fellow musicians understand the spirit and the historical
context of the music from the 1920s and 1930s and, thus, render it as a breathing,
flourishing presence for today's audiences.
Links of interest about Vince Giordano are the following.
I am grateful too Rich Johnson for a copy of the newspaper article.
Beiderbecke Lithograph Print
"Rehearsing Davenport Blues" by Ben Denison (Denison Jazz Art) is a painting based on the recording session at the Gennett Studio's in Richmond, Indiana 1925 when "Davenport Blues" was recorded. The musicians in the session were Bix Beiderbecke, Tommy Dorsey, Tommy Gargano, Paul Mertz, Don Murray, and Howdy Quicksell. Unfortunately for Howdy Quicksell, he arrived late and did not get to record Davenport Blues. Bix, Tommy Dorsey, Paul Mertz, Don Murray, and Howdie Quicksell are included in the painting. The back cover of "Bix: The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story" by Philip R. and Linda K. Evans displays a photograph of the painting.
For an image of the painting
A print (28" x 49") of this painting is available. $75.00 plus shipping ($10.00 - rolled in tube; $25.00 - flat in box). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am grateful to Daniel Kutsko for providing the information about the painting.
Bix Beiderbecke broke down during the September 13, 1929 recording session of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Bix spent September 14 in his room at the 44th Street Hotel. Paul Whiteman went to see Bix and told him in no uncertain terms that he had to straighten out. The next day, Paul and Kurt Dieterle took Bix to Grand Central Station and put him on the train to Davenport. Once in Davenport, Bix spent several weeks at home trying to recuperate. He was weak and had pains in his legs. As Bix's health was not returning, the family doctor advised that Bix hospitalized in a sanitarium. On October 14, 1929, Bix was taken to Dwight, Illinois for admission to the Keeley Institute, an alcohol recovery organization well-known throughout the midwest. Bix stayed in the Institute for four weeks and returned to Davenport on November 14. Except for brief trips, Bix stayed in Davenport until April 17, 1930 when he went to Chicago and a few days later to New York.
The following information about the Keeley Institute is from the Chrysalis website.
"From Rush, Keeley, and Smith: Three Physicians’ Roles in Alcoholism Treatment
Dr. Leslie E. Keeley, 1834-1900
Dr. Leslie E. Keeley was
Ireland, raised in New York, and served as a surgeon in the Union Army
during the Civil War following his medical education at Rush Medical
in Chicago (named after Benjamin Rush) (22,23).
Through the earlier influence of Benjamin Rush, many in Post-Bellum America considered alcoholism an illness—and alcoholics as persons needing treatment. Alcoholics sought relief through reform clubs and religious movements.
Wealthier addicts received treatment in the nation’s various inebriate asylums—special hospitals for treating alcohol and drug addicts. Numerous alcoholics and their families also experimented with mail order "miracle cures," which were widely promoted and often promised permanent sobriety from alcoholism in as little as one day (24). In all classes of treatment -- religious, psychological, and medical -- results varied widely.
In 1879, Keeley, who had developed an interest in drug addiction during his wartime service, announced he had a discovered a specific remedy for alcohol and drug addictions (25). That same year, he opened his first clinic, the Keeley Institute, in Dwight, Illinois and began treating patients with his "Double Chloride of Gold Cure" (26). In accordance with the wishes of its creator, the exact formula of the cure (Keeley hinted only at gold salts in combination with other compounds) was never revealed -- a mystery that remains part of the Keeley legacy (27).
The "Keeley Cure" was praised as a miraculous intervention by Keeley’s first patients and later by the popular press (28). White documents Keeley’s uncanny savvy in promoting his cure. In 1891 he issued the following challenge to Joseph Medhill, publisher of the Chicago Tribune : "send me six of the worst drunkards you can find, and in three days, I will sober them up, and in four weeks I will send them back to Chicago sober men." Medhill responded by sending confirmed alcoholics to the Institute for treatment. When Medhill reported that "they [the men treated] went away sots and returned gentlemen," news of Keeley’s cure spread throughout the nation and farther. Books by former patients lauding Keeley’s treatment, high profile work with alcoholic veterans of the Civil and Mexican Wars, and aggressive advertising sent patients flocking to the Keeley Institute. Keeley began to franchise and by mid-1893 there were 118 Keeley Institutes in America. Institutes were founded in England, Finland, Denmark, and Sweden as well (29).
Above: post card of the Keeley Institute, circa 1930.
Patients in the Keeley
underwent a four week treatment course. The atmosphere in the clinics
largely informal, with minimal direct supervision of patients. There
a strong mutual support among patients, and patients maintained contact
with each other after leaving treatment, often through post-treatment
groups called Keeley Leagues. During the first few days of their
new arrivals were provided with as much liquor as they requested. In
the only strictly enforced treatment routines were the four times a day
injections of Keeley Cure. At 8 a.m., 12 noon, 5 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.
received injections drawn in varying amounts from three bottles with
white, and blue liquids. Independent laboratory tests published in
journals and the press reported widely different formulas, including
such as alcohol, strychnine, aloe, coca, morphine, atropine, and
Keeley required all of his employees and franchisees to sign a pledge to never reveal the formula of the cure. He received harsh criticism from the scientific establishment (and competitors) for withholding the formula. Keeley’s secrecy prevented scientific peer review and independent replication studies; it gave the Keeley Institutes a monopoly on a potentially important drug. Thus many in medicine viewed Keeley’s secrecy as a serious breach of medical ethics, to which Keeley responded:"…my cure is the result of a system, and cannot be accomplished by the administration of a sovereign remedy. It involves he intelligent use of powerful drugs, gradations to suit the physical condition of particular patients, changes in immediate agents employed at different stages of the cure, and an exact knowledge of the pathologic conditions of drunkenness and their results" (31). Keeley argued that release of the general formula would lead to its gross misuse (32).
Controversy continued to follow Keeley until the end of his life. The Keeley claim of an unprecedented 95% success rate for treatment of alcoholics (later modified to 51%) was hotly challenged. Competitors moved in with other gold cures."
I am grateful to Chris Smith for kindly
me the photo of the Institute and the information about Dr. Keeley.
and the Beta Theta Fraternity.
The University of Iowa was founded on February 25, 1847. Almost 78 years later, on February 2, 1925, Bix Beiderbecke enrolled at the University as an "unclassified student." Within a few days, Bix pledged the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity (Alpha Beta Chapter), the same fraternity that his older brother Burnie had joined while he was a student at the Iowa State University. Bix's career as a student was short-lived: on February 20, 1925, Bix withdrew from the university. Because of his short stay, Bix was never initiated in the fraternity.
This information is available in Philip and Linda Evans' book, "Bix: The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story." We now have tangible proof of Bix's pledging. It turns out that Bix, together with the other fourteen pledges in his class, signed his name in the paddle that was presented to the pledge master, Carlyle Fairfax "Andy" Anderson. The paddle signed by Bix is, through a generous gift from Robert G. Anderson, the son of Carlyle Anderson, in the hands of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society. In his letter accompanying the gift, Robert writes, "Both my mother and father were at the University of Iowa at this time, and both remember hearing Bix play. They said they never heard anything so beautiful in their lives as the sound that Bix made. My mother remembers him playing on the back of a flat-bed truck that toured around the campus. It is also interesting that she went to summer camp with Bix's sister. My mother was from Cedar Rapids."
In p. 183 of Evans and Evans' "Bix: The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story", we read, "Those later Blue Goose dances in the Burkley Hotel were the idea of the center and captain of the team, "Tubby" Griffin. Tubby promoted these dances with another fellow, leasing the ballroom from the hotel and booking the band." Robert speculates that this "other fellow" might have been his father. Robert writes, "It is entirely possible that this [other fellow] was my father, as I do remember him saying that he put on dances as a way to pay his way thorugh the university. He was also caprtain of the Mason City football team, and although he didn't play at Iowa, he had some friends on the team, and this woulld fit."
The Beta Theta Pi Fraternity was founded on August 8, 1839, at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. Little did Bix know when he pledged Beta Theta Pi, that in May 1971, James Robert Grover would submit "A Creative Aural History Thesis" to the Department of Speech of Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts. The title of the thesis is "A Series of Nineteen One-Half-Hour Original Tape-Recorded Radio Programs on the Life and Music of Leon Bix Beiderbecke."
I am grateful to Rich Johnson for kindly
me photographs of the paddle and a copy of Robert Anderson's letter.
Reopening of the Blue Lantern
GRAND RE-OPENING OF THE "BLUE LANTERN" ballroom in the former Hudson Lake Casino, Hudson Lake, Indiana. The same place where Bix played in the summer of 1926 with the Jean Goldkette unit. Enjoy live 20s & 30s-style jazz with the hot & sweet dance music of the West End Jazz Band, Mike Bezin, leader. Further info will follow on the "re-opening date."
This announcement was included in a message that Fred Smith kindly sent me a few days ago. The Blue Lantern in Hudson Lake was the ballroom where Bix and his fellow musicians spent the "happy summer" of 1926. For information and images about the summer of 1926, go to the following two links. Blue Lantern. Images.
Mike Bezin provided the following information. "I'm committed to helping to make the re-opening event and the Blue Lantern a success, and I really appreciate your interest. I would like to see the idea of musical performances become a reality at Hudson Lake again, not only with our group but others as well.
Our group, the West End Jazz Band, has been active since 1975. In the past two years we have focused on building a repetoire of the arranged hot and sweet dance styles of the late 20s and early 30s. In addition to our interest in Bix, we also have drawn on selections from recordings by the California Ramblers, Coon-Sanders, the early Guy Lombardo, Jelly Roll Morton, Isham Jones, Russ Carlson, and a number of other lesser known groups.
Our current personnel is:
Mike Bezin - cornet, vocals, leader
Leah Bezin - tenor banjo, tenor guitar, vocals
Frank Gualtieri - trombone
John Otto - alto sax & clarinet, vocals
Mike Waldridge - tuba
Wayne Jones - drums
We're scheduled for several days of recording in October and November that should produce a CD, so that should be available soon. Thanks for your interest and help in making the Blue Lantern's return to business a success."
Fred adds the following fact. The musicians "have played several times at Phil Pospychala's annual March "Tribute to Bix Fest," under Leah's direction as "Leah LaBrea and her Flexo Boys." (Phil seems to like that name!)"
The owners of the Blue Lantern Ballroom plan to have, in about a month, a possible web site for information regarding activities. Look here from time to time for additional information.
I am grateful to Fred Smith for the information he provided and for acting as a liaison to Mike Bezin.
Addendum, 10/5/01. Mike provided the following additional information.
The new incarnation of the Blue Lantern is called "The Whistle Stop." Already an ice cream parlor is in operation. The website will be launched in a few weeks.
A ten-minute television spot will be aired on the South Bend, Indiana public television station. The spot was produced by Bill Warrick and provides an account of the history of the Blue Lantern, mostly as it relates to Bix.
Mike plans on having a Victor phonograph available at the ballroom to play 78s during the band's breaks. He also hopes to coordinate concerts with Phil Pospychala's tribute to Bix in Kenosha, and with convention of the International Association of Jazz Records Collectors which will take place in June in Indianapolis.
Mike writes, "While I realize your website reaches around the world, there may be only a handful of people who can actually attend. However, with several advertising options that we are undertaking, we might might get enough people to at least look like a comfortable-sized crowd. Even if no one shows up, I'll have the thrill of playing on the same stage as Bix."
As soon as I know the opening date, I will post.
Mike kindly sent some photos of what "The Whistle Stop" (ex Casino, ex Blue Lantern) looks like today.
To see the photographs, click here.
February 27, 2002. Mike Bezin kindly sent me additional information
the reopening of the Former Hudson Lake Casino (The Blue Lantern in
Lake in the summer of 1926). "On May 5, the ballroom at the Hudson Lake
Casino will again come alive with music and dancing. To help celebrate
this historic rebirth of the ballroom, a special grand openeing is
planned. Live entertainment will be provided by the West End Jazz
Band, a Chicago-based group that specializes in early jazz and dance
A special chartered train car to the Hudson Lake Casino will leave from
the Randolph Street Station, Chicago, on May 5, 2002 at 10 am. You will
ride with the West End Jazz Band.
See scans of the announcements of the re-opening and of the special ride.
2. May 11, 2002
Guest Column by Richard Johnson, Musical Director of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society
Hudson Lake Re-visited
Sunday, May 5, 2002, was a
for Bixophiles to spend one day at the Blue Lantern Casino in Hudson
Indiana, and reminisce about the summer of ’26 when Bix and other
of the Jean Goldkette Band played there. It has been 50 years since the
casino has entertained any live music, and 76 years since Bix was there.
This event, designed by Mike Bezin, leader of the West End Jazz Band, began Sunday morning 10 a.m. at Chicago’s Randolph Street Station. Two railroad cars, previously leased by Mike, were waiting and ready for the 100 plus Bixophiles to board. This was the same South Shore Line that Bix and other musicians often rode to and from Hudson Lake during the 1920s. The South Shore is America’s last interurban. As the train exited Chicago and moved down the tracks toward Indiana, excited Bix aficionados watched the passing landmarks and reminisced about Bix. Phonographs, positioned in each railroad car and playing Bix’s music, certainly augmented the temper. Later, Mike and his own gang treated the passengers to some live music. Conversations centered on Bix or Hudson Lake, and it was not uncommon for passerbys ( people seemed to move more freely on this trip), to stop and become participants. The train route included stops at Hegewisch, Hammond, East Chicago, Gary, Miller, Ogden Dunes, Beverly Shores, Michigan City, and Tee Lake before arriving at Hudson Lake around noon.
As the passengers disembarked from the train and walked toward the casino, sunny skies, warm temperatures, and a sign that read, “Jazz- Sold Out”, greeted them. (The significance of that sign will be explained later).
Since there was a two-hour wait until the music began, Mike arranged three options. First, you could remain at the Blue Lantern Casino, relax, and have lunch at the Whistle Stop Restaurant located in the front portion of the casino. Or you could journey to New Carlisle, about two miles away, and enjoy an “all-you-can-eat” smorgasbord at Miller’s Home Café. Volunteers from “Historic New Carlisle Inc.,” a not-for-profit group, provided transportation to and from downtown New Carlisle. Their organization is currently restoring a Civil War era house known as “The Old Republic,” which also was open for tours. Or finally, you could visit the former “Yellow Cottage” where Bix, Pee Wee Russell, “Itzey” Riskin, Sonny Lee, and Dan Gaebe, lived during that summer of ’26. Although rides were provided, we chose to walk to the cottage, now painted blue, located on a country road a mile from the casino. Phil Pospychala, the guru of the “Tribute to Bix Festival” held each March in Racine, Wisconsin, arranged with the owner to allow Bixophiles to tour the former cottage. Phil served as tour guide, answering questions about the cottage and that summer of ’26. Phil also recommended a place called “Happy Joe’s Roadside Inn,” just steps away from the cottage that specialized in serving Polish sausage and beer. Once inside the cottage it was difficult to imagine how five men plus a piano could survive in such a diminutive dwelling. Since 1926, an addition has been added to the back of the building to provide for a kitchen and bath, and partitions were added to the original structure to form two bedrooms.
We returned to the Blue Lantern and lunched at the Whistle Stop Restaurant. This is a cheerful place with excellent food, friendly waitresses, and scale-model trains that run on tracks affixed near the ceiling. Casino owners, Don and Barbara Davis, have retained many of the original artifacts found since purchasing the property including a wooden telephone booth, a soda fountain, and a poster advertising “Zez Confrey, America’s Foremost Novelty Pianist and his Victor Recording Orchestra.” Zez , a contemporary of Bix and Gershwin, wrote the tunes “Dizzy Fingers, “Kitten on the Keys,” and “Stumbling,”to name a few. Born Edward Elzear Confrey, April 3, 1895, Zez, in 1924, participated as a soloist and arranger, along with George Gershwin and Paul Whiteman and His Palais Royal Orchestra, in the historic concert at Aeolian Hall in New York City.
The owners, too, did a marvelous job refurbishing the casino while retaining much of the 1920’s atmosphere. They gussied up the stage and painted black silhouette musical figures onto a white back wall, replacing the former palm trees and lop-sided moon. Both sides of the building with continuous rows of windows are in tact but permenant wooden walls have been installed approximately 15 feet inside, away from the windows and toward the dance floor. That original, beautiful and spacious dance floor looks the same but new lighting fixtures have replaced the old blue-lantern style lamps that adorned the walls.
Using Bill Saunder’s map from his article on Hudson Lake in Joslin’s Jazz Journal, it is easy to cross the street from the casino to where the former Hotel Hudson stood. Not too far away is the original site of the famous yellow cottage. Young children play in the sand near the casino and out on the dock two men are fishing. The lake water is so clear that fish are visible swimming by. To fish in water so pure is almost irreverent. My thoughts go to Bix and that summer of ’26, and try to picture the beach with a sandpiper that inspired his piano composition, “In A Mist.” This is a special place for Bixophiles.
Let’s go back to that, “Jazz-Sold Out.” sign. Mike Bezin, with all his excellent planning and intentions, including several trips to Hudson Lake, never expected to experience a turn-away crowd situation, but that’s what happened. Those taking the train were all accounted for since everyone paid in advance. But others, who chose to drive to Hudson Lake, or those who lived nearby, came out in droves. Even by stretching the maximum number allowed inside the Blue Lantern there were still some who couldn’t get in. Considering that there were approximately 125 fans on the train and approximately 450 folks inside the casino … shall we just say, “Bix Lives?” No one regrets what happened more than Mike Bezin or owner’s, Don and Barbara Davis, and they sincerely apologize to all!
Last, but not least is the music. The West End Jazz Band was great. They played for dancing from 2 until 6 p.m., and man, did the people dance! The floor was crowded almost the entire afternoon and the band played many tunes associated with Bix during each set. I was especially interested in the room’s acoustics. I wanted to hear the music and how it might have sounded at the Blue Lantern Casino during that summer of ’26. Maybe I didn’t hear Bix, Tram, or the others, but now I know a bit more what it was like. Much credit for this epic “Return to Hudson Lake,” certainly goes to Mike Bezin and his West End Jazz Band. There was a lot of work involved. However, we must also journey back to 1956 when a young Tom Pletcher first made his pilgrimage to Hudson Lake. Later, there was Phil Pospychala, and Bill Saunders. Fred Turner, too, was up there and purchased the original stage step, and I am sure there are many more not named, that contributed to the legend of Hudson Lake.
To all of you, I say, Thank You! Bix does Live!
To see images of the
click on the following links. Be patient, the images are 150-280 kb in
Images 1. Clockwise. Sign for Hudson Lake. The West End Jazz Band in the train on their way to Hudson Lake. General view of the Blue Lantern. Bixophiles getting off the train on thier way to the Ble Lantern.
Images 2. Clockwise. The West End Jazz Band on the Blue Lantern stage. Entrance to the "Whistle Stop" in the casino. View of the ballroom with the band in the back. The beautiful "Blue Lantern" sign.
Image 3. The front page of the Quad City Times, Part B, issue of May 21, 2002. There is an article by Bill Wundram.
All photos by Rich Johnson. I am grateful to Rich for kindly sending me a copy of the Quad City Times.
the Blues on the Allen GW319-EX Theatre Organ
A live performance by Mark Renwick of Bix Beiderbecke's classic "Singin' the Blues." Mark transcribed note for note the Frankie Trumbauer recording of February 4, 1927 and played it in 1998 on an Allen MDS-317 electronic theatre organ in a private home in Noonan, Georgia for a meeting of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society. Mark transferred his live performance to his own theatre organ, an Allen GW319-EX theatre organ. For a description of Mark's organ, click here.
Listen to a streaming real audio file of Mark's performance of "Singin' the Blues" on his Allen GW319-EX theatre organ.
Download to your computer a real audio file of Mark's performance of "Singin' the Blues" on his Allen GW319-EX theatre organ.
I am grateful to Mark Renwick for his generous gift of a cd with
recording of "Singin' the Blues."
Since I seem to be one of the very first Swedish participants in
forum, I thought the
following piece of information - though probably quite well known to Swedish jazz historians
- might be of interest to bixophiles worldwide.
During the years 1927-33 drummer Anders Soldén - one of the
among Swedish jazz
musicians - wrote what he called ”The history of jazz in Sweden”. The result is a
handwritten 48-page booklet which is now (I think) in the collections of the jazz department
at ”Svenskt visarkiv” (The Swedish Archives of Song) giving Soldén’s personal memories of
the development of Swedish jazz.
What gives these writings more than local interest is the fact
Soldén twice (in 1925
and 1926) visited the USA, playing with the orchestras onboard Swedish steamships bound
for New York. From the latter tour Soldén writes (my own translation):
”We went to the old friendly ballrooms of Arcadia and Roseland.
played at the Roseland and that was really something. I have to write about the members
of this orchestra. Director was Frankie Trumbauer, saxophone player by the grace of God, he
could play ”hot stuff”. On trumpet was Bix Beiderbecke, of whom one later has read that he
is second only to Red Nichols. The bass player was very humorous. He slapped the strings
with his hand. I think his name was Brown. The drummer was left handed, having all his
[here Soldén uses a slang expression, unknown to me, for a part of the battery] to his
It is interesting to note that Soldén seems to have been
personally and directly
impressed by Trumbauer and Brown than by Bix of whom he only writes what he had
afterwards read (this description was probably written around 1927)!
That Bix became rather well known, at least among musicians, in
a far away country as
Sweden even during his life time is also proven by such a detail as the fact that the young
trumpeter Erik Lindquist (a member ”The Original Green Orchestra”, originally a student
orchestra started in 1924) was nicknamed ”Beiderbecke”! His solos on two of the band’s
recording made in May 1928 also have a quite ”bixian” touch.
I have not read the Mississippi Rag article you refer to, but I'm
sure that the band
mentioned could be no other than "Svenska Paramountorkestern" (= The Swedish Paramount
Orchestra). Several of the future members of that band played onboard a ship that sailed
for the USA and got the opportunity to see and hear the Goldkette band live at the
Roseland Ballroom. One of the members, drummer Anders Soldén, wrote about this in his
diary and I translated the relavant part of that diary in one of my earlist postings in this
forum (I will go back to find and supply the thread after posting this). I don't remember him
writing anything about the Swedish musicians actually socializing with the Goldkette boys
Paramountorkestern is generally regarded as the first "real" jazz
Unfortunately they suffered much of the same treatment as the Goldkette and Pollack bands
when it came to recordings: the record companies forcing them to record mainly current
"pop" tunes and waltzes. Even these make for some nice listening though and I have some
of there original 78s in very nice condition as well as a tape with 32 of their best recordings
that another forum particapant, Anders Gustafsson, has been kind enough to send me.
The CD series "Svensk Jazzhistoria" (= Swedish history of jazz)
four of the bands
jazziest recordings from the 1920s as well as three tracks by a reconstructed version of the
band made in 1952. These are supposed to sound the way the band did live back then, but I
strongly doubt that it did: these tracks have a much more modern dixieland/Eddie
The big star of the orchestra was its trumpt player Gösta
Redlig. When Jack
Hylton visited Sweden in 1930 he was so impressed by "Smyget" that he offered him a place
in his orchestra, but "Smyget" who was a very shy and insecure person turned the offer
Through His Music, Bix Is Alive
BRIEF TABLE OF CONTENTS
|A Brief Biography||Articles in Magazines||The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society|
|Bix's Musical Genius||Video Tapes||Items of Special Interest|
|Biographies||Audio Tapes||Information of Related Interest|
|Chapters in Books||Museums||A Stamp for Bix in 2003|
|Scholarly Dissertations||Miscellaneous||Links to Related Sites|
|Obituaries||Readers' Queries and Remarks||Celebration of Bix's Musical Legacy|
The Original 78's
Analysis of Some Recordings: Is It Bix or Not ?
Complete Compilations of Bix's Recordings
Tributes to Bix
Miscellaneous Recordings Related to Bix
In A Mist