Bix Beiderbecke

From Academic Kids

Bix Beiderbecke (March 10, 1903August 6, 1931) was a notable jazz cornet player.

Leon Bix Beiderbecke was born in Davenport, Iowa to a strict middle-class family. As a teenager he would sneak off to the banks of the Mississippi to listen to the bands play on the riverboats that would come up from the south.

Beiderbecke's parents thought he was going to ruin his life by going into music and sent him to a boarding school, but he ran away to pursue his music career.



Beiderbecke's early influences were mostly New Orleans jazz cornetists. His first big influence was Nick LaRocca of the Original Dixieland Jass Band; the LaRocca influence is evident in a number of Beiderbecke's recordings (especially the covers of O.D.J.B. songs.) Other influences included Joe "King" Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and clarinetist Leon Roppolo. The influence of older New Orleans players such as Freddie Keppard shows up on Beiderbecke's famous two note interjection on "Goose Pimples."

According to many contemporaries Beiderbecke's single biggest influence was Emmett Hardy, a highly regarded New Orleans cornetist of whom there are no remaining recordings; several fellow musicians said that Hardy's influence is very evident in Biederbecke's early recordings with The Wolverines.

Bix was also influenced by music that had hitherto been far removed from jazz, such as the compositions of Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and the American Impressionists, notably Eastwood Lane.


Beiderbecke first recorded with his band The Wolverines in 1924, then became a sought-after musician in Chicago and New York. He made innovative and influential recordings with Frankie Trumbauer ("Tram") and the Jean Goldkette Orchestra. He and Trambauer, a saxophone player, joined the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, the most popular and highest paid band of the day.

Beiderbecke also played piano, sometimes switching from cornet for a chorus or two during a song. He wrote several compositions for the piano, and recorded one of them, "In A Mist".

Beiderbecke's health began to decline around 1930, his immune system having been severely damaged by years of alcoholism. He died a year later at the age of age of 28. Many of his family issues went unresolved.

Later influence

Louis Armstrong once remarked that he never played the tune "Singin' the Blues" because he thought Beiderbecke's classic recording of the song shouldn't be touched. As he later said, "Lots of cats tried to play like Bix; ain't none of them play like him yet".

The novel Young Man With a Horn (1938) by Dorothy Baker was a work of fiction partially based on Beiderbecke's life. It was later made into a movie (1950) starring Kirk Douglas (with horn playing dubbed by Harry James). It was later parodied in the BBC radio series Round The Horne as Young Horne With a Man, featuring Bix Spiderthrust.

Beiderbecke's music features heavily in three British comedy-drama television series, all written by Alan Plater: The Beiderbecke Affair (1984), The Beiderbecke Tapes (1987) and The Beiderbecke Connection (1988).

External link

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