The unheard and unseen Bix Beiderbecke

The unheard and unseen Bix Beiderbecke

Enrico Borsetti
Enrico Borsetti

June 9th, 2009, 8:27 pm #1



Thanks to Hans Eekhoff for sharing this gem with us!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQnW8C8HeQs&fmt=18



NOTES AND ADDENDUM
On 17 April 1928 Bix Beiderbecke and his Gang recorded the tune "Thou Swell" for Okeh in New York.
Two takes were mastered; take -C was issued on Okeh 41030 and a single test pressing of take -A (designated second choice by Okeh official Robert Stevens who signed it "RBS") has also survived. This take has a great number of interesting differences from the issued one, especially in Bix's clear lead all through the ensemble passages.
The record is single-sided and on the back are embossed the name and logo of the Columbia Phonograph Company, who by that time owned the Okeh label.
The history of this unique record is vague; rumour has it that it was found in a junkshop in New Jersey some 50 years ago and that it subsequently travelled the world in a military trunk.
None of this has been proven though. The only certain facts are that a friend of Don O'Dette from Davenport had the record and that it went from him to a well known musician and Bix afficionado in 1977. The latter sold the record in 2008 on Ebay.
It was reissued on LP in 1977 when John R.T. Davies did the remastering in England.
Alas, the original record was never again made available and subsequent CD reissues all draw from the 1977 LP with the result that the sound has always been rather dull and distorted.
However, a fresh restoration from the original disc, using the latest techniques, has recently been done and although the record is worn and heavily damaged (see picture), the sound is now quite stunning if one has good loudspeakers connected to the computer; even though the file had to be translated to MP3 format.
As the record turned up in Davenport it is possible that it originally belonged to Bix himself (rejected tests were often given to the artists). Moreover, a careful and extensive analysis by a highly reputable expert from Davenport who is familiar with Bix's handwriting has led to the probability that the writing in ink of the title and band name is indeed by Bix. Interestingly, he has written 16-4-28 while the recording was actually done on the 17th.
Could Bix have written this some time later and forgotten the exact date? Possibly.
Another interesting aspect of the record is that the format is 11 inch, and a few test-grooves remain at the outer rim (alas heavily damaged by the engraved mx number which is right into these grooves - see picture) which contain some playing and talking by a few band members.
After some clarinet, bassax and piano notes the words "Damn", "I got it" and "Take it (from) the last four" and some laughter can be distinguished. In the last sentence there was a heavy distortion over the word "from" which has been cut out as it could not be made understandable.
We have not only uploaded this passage but also amplified and slowed down the fragment with the spoken words (while maintaining the original pitch). The last sentence "Take it (from) the last four" might very well be the only recording of the voice of Bix Beiderbecke.
This video is really all about the record and making the music available to Bix fans all over the world. We have therefore only upoaded a few pictures of the record and its label.
However, we have added a bonus; an unknown picture of Bix at around 10 years of age, showing him with a dog (his? It certainly looks like it) and an unknown little girl. Although there now appears to be evidence that the Beiderbecke family did not move to 1934 Grand Avenue, Davenport, until 1905 and that Bix was not born there, the location here is easily recognisable as Grand Avenue, probably the front lawn of the Beiderbecke house. The tree with the bicycle (Bix's?) leaning against it had grown very big in the early 1980s and it is probably the tree on the left in the last picture, taken in the summer of 1981. (If anyone is interested - the car is a 1962 Lincoln Continental). Both trees have since been cut.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 10th, 2009, 2:05 pm #2

I understand that the first issue of the alternate take of Thou Swell was in the 1978 Wolverine 3 album With A Bow To Bix. In the liners, Warren Plath writes



I note the following differences between Plaths account and the one in youtube

1.Warren Plath. LP issued in 1978.
Youtube. Issued in 1977.

2. Warren Plath. This alternate take test pressing of Bixs Thou Swell was located by Tom Pletcher in Denver in February of 1977. It had originally been found in a junk shop in New Jersey over 40 years ago and then proceeded [sic] to travel around the world in a military trunk, miraculously surviving breakage. Tom hand carried the record to London where it was tenderly and lovingly transferred by John R.T. Davies
Youtube. The history of this unique record is vague; rumour has it that it was found in a junkshop in New Jersey some 50 years ago and that it subsequently travelled the world in a military trunk.
None of this has been proven though. The only certain facts are that a friend of Don O'Dette from Davenport had the record and that it went from him to a well known musician and Bix afficionado in 1977. The latter sold the record in 2008 on Ebay. It was reissued on LP in 1977 when John R.T. Davies did the remastering in England.

Questions.

From youtube, "As the record turned up in Davenport it is possible that it originally belonged to Bix himself (rejected tests were often given to the artists)."

Was the friend of O'Dette the one who found the record in a junk shop in New Jersey? What was his name? Did he bring the record to Davenport after carrying it in a military trunk? Or was the record originally found in Davenport as hinted by the phrase in youtube, "As the record turned up in Davenport"? Did the owner of the test pressing move from Davenport to Colorado with the test pressing and is it there that Tom Pletcher located it? The "only certain facts" claimed in youtube must be documented.

Here are some relevant postings in the forum

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... 173537891/

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/message/1204932573

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... 127129978/

Evans and Evans write,

"Bill Rank and Roy Bargy did not particularly care for THOU Swell. Roy Bargy(7/3/59): I felt the tune did not lend itselfto a jazz treatment."

Sudhalter in the booklet for the Mosaic set,

"Its [Thou Swell] perhaps the weakest of the Gang performances: in a 1968 conversation, Bill Rank expressed disdain for the Rodgers and Hart standard as a jazz vehicle, reserving special animus for the trombone-and-bass-sax duet alternating with Friedman in the penultimate chorus. 'Just plain corny was the trombonists curt assessment."

Albert
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Victor Bronsgeest
Victor Bronsgeest

June 10th, 2009, 4:47 pm #3

May be "Bill Rank and Roy Bargy did not particularly care for THOU Swell"
But Bix did!!!
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Ken Bristow
Ken Bristow

June 10th, 2009, 5:12 pm #4

I understand that the first issue of the alternate take of Thou Swell was in the 1978 Wolverine 3 album With A Bow To Bix. In the liners, Warren Plath writes



I note the following differences between Plaths account and the one in youtube

1.Warren Plath. LP issued in 1978.
Youtube. Issued in 1977.

2. Warren Plath. This alternate take test pressing of Bixs Thou Swell was located by Tom Pletcher in Denver in February of 1977. It had originally been found in a junk shop in New Jersey over 40 years ago and then proceeded [sic] to travel around the world in a military trunk, miraculously surviving breakage. Tom hand carried the record to London where it was tenderly and lovingly transferred by John R.T. Davies
Youtube. The history of this unique record is vague; rumour has it that it was found in a junkshop in New Jersey some 50 years ago and that it subsequently travelled the world in a military trunk.
None of this has been proven though. The only certain facts are that a friend of Don O'Dette from Davenport had the record and that it went from him to a well known musician and Bix afficionado in 1977. The latter sold the record in 2008 on Ebay. It was reissued on LP in 1977 when John R.T. Davies did the remastering in England.

Questions.

From youtube, "As the record turned up in Davenport it is possible that it originally belonged to Bix himself (rejected tests were often given to the artists)."

Was the friend of O'Dette the one who found the record in a junk shop in New Jersey? What was his name? Did he bring the record to Davenport after carrying it in a military trunk? Or was the record originally found in Davenport as hinted by the phrase in youtube, "As the record turned up in Davenport"? Did the owner of the test pressing move from Davenport to Colorado with the test pressing and is it there that Tom Pletcher located it? The "only certain facts" claimed in youtube must be documented.

Here are some relevant postings in the forum

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... 173537891/

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/message/1204932573

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... 127129978/

Evans and Evans write,

"Bill Rank and Roy Bargy did not particularly care for THOU Swell. Roy Bargy(7/3/59): I felt the tune did not lend itselfto a jazz treatment."

Sudhalter in the booklet for the Mosaic set,

"Its [Thou Swell] perhaps the weakest of the Gang performances: in a 1968 conversation, Bill Rank expressed disdain for the Rodgers and Hart standard as a jazz vehicle, reserving special animus for the trombone-and-bass-sax duet alternating with Friedman in the penultimate chorus. 'Just plain corny was the trombonists curt assessment."

Albert
The signature on the Test Pressing does look like Bix's signature to me. Comparing it with the Bach Strad. receipt, the lower case "x" is written in exactly the same way. On the Wolverine 3 sleeve, someone has gone over the photo of the original signature possibly with a ball pen, where on the existing test pressing it's written with either a fountain pen or pen nib in dark blue ink. Surely it's 99% Bix's own genuine signature? The top of the label where the matrix number is written together with the initials "RBS" appear to be in pencil and in a completely different handwriting. Even though he doesn't solo I think Bix kept this disc to the end because it was one of his own favorite "Gang" recordings. I've always liked it.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 10th, 2009, 5:41 pm #5

There is general ageement that the names "Bix Beiderbeclkke" written on the file cards for the Bach Strad # 616 and 620





are not Bix's signatures, but his name written by someone in the music store where Bix purchased the cornet.

Seehttp://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... 126994995/

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/message/1127158307

Albert
Last edited by ahaim on June 10th, 2009, 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 10th, 2009, 5:58 pm #6

.... but not Bix's last name: Beiderbecke, not Beiderbeclkke !!!!

Albert
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 10th, 2009, 8:45 pm #7

I understand that the first issue of the alternate take of Thou Swell was in the 1978 Wolverine 3 album With A Bow To Bix. In the liners, Warren Plath writes



I note the following differences between Plaths account and the one in youtube

1.Warren Plath. LP issued in 1978.
Youtube. Issued in 1977.

2. Warren Plath. This alternate take test pressing of Bixs Thou Swell was located by Tom Pletcher in Denver in February of 1977. It had originally been found in a junk shop in New Jersey over 40 years ago and then proceeded [sic] to travel around the world in a military trunk, miraculously surviving breakage. Tom hand carried the record to London where it was tenderly and lovingly transferred by John R.T. Davies
Youtube. The history of this unique record is vague; rumour has it that it was found in a junkshop in New Jersey some 50 years ago and that it subsequently travelled the world in a military trunk.
None of this has been proven though. The only certain facts are that a friend of Don O'Dette from Davenport had the record and that it went from him to a well known musician and Bix afficionado in 1977. The latter sold the record in 2008 on Ebay. It was reissued on LP in 1977 when John R.T. Davies did the remastering in England.

Questions.

From youtube, "As the record turned up in Davenport it is possible that it originally belonged to Bix himself (rejected tests were often given to the artists)."

Was the friend of O'Dette the one who found the record in a junk shop in New Jersey? What was his name? Did he bring the record to Davenport after carrying it in a military trunk? Or was the record originally found in Davenport as hinted by the phrase in youtube, "As the record turned up in Davenport"? Did the owner of the test pressing move from Davenport to Colorado with the test pressing and is it there that Tom Pletcher located it? The "only certain facts" claimed in youtube must be documented.

Here are some relevant postings in the forum

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... 173537891/

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/message/1204932573

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... 127129978/

Evans and Evans write,

"Bill Rank and Roy Bargy did not particularly care for THOU Swell. Roy Bargy(7/3/59): I felt the tune did not lend itselfto a jazz treatment."

Sudhalter in the booklet for the Mosaic set,

"Its [Thou Swell] perhaps the weakest of the Gang performances: in a 1968 conversation, Bill Rank expressed disdain for the Rodgers and Hart standard as a jazz vehicle, reserving special animus for the trombone-and-bass-sax duet alternating with Friedman in the penultimate chorus. 'Just plain corny was the trombonists curt assessment."

Albert
.... for the "Thou Swell" test record page in youtube.

I quote from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQnW8C8HeQs

"Although there now appears to be evidence that the Beiderbecke family did not move to 1934 Grand Avenue, Davenport, until 1905 and that Bix was not born at that address,"

From my 2005 postinghttp://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... ke+Family-

US Census or the Beiderbecke family in 1900



Note that the address is given as 1933 Grand Avenue. In the 1910 Census



the number is 1934. Did the house numbering change between 1900 and 1910? The even number houses are on the side of Bixs home. The houses across the street have odd numbers.

The 1898-1907 Davenport City Directories list the Beiderbecke house as 1933. Beginning in 1908 the number is 1934.

Regardless, the Beiderbecke family was already living at the Grand Avenue house in 1900 and Bix was born there. Thus, the assertions in the youtube page for "Thou Swell" about the date when the Beiderbecke family moved to the house on Grand Avenue and Bix's place of birth are incorrect.

Albert
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 10th, 2009, 9:33 pm #8

.... Bix's home. The address was 1921 Grand Avenue. There was also a park adjacent to the school. In 1900-1910, there were no houses right across the street from Bix's house.

Albert
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 10th, 2009, 10:34 pm #9

.... for the "Thou Swell" test record page in youtube.

I quote from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQnW8C8HeQs

"Although there now appears to be evidence that the Beiderbecke family did not move to 1934 Grand Avenue, Davenport, until 1905 and that Bix was not born at that address,"

From my 2005 postinghttp://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... ke+Family-

US Census or the Beiderbecke family in 1900



Note that the address is given as 1933 Grand Avenue. In the 1910 Census



the number is 1934. Did the house numbering change between 1900 and 1910? The even number houses are on the side of Bixs home. The houses across the street have odd numbers.

The 1898-1907 Davenport City Directories list the Beiderbecke house as 1933. Beginning in 1908 the number is 1934.

Regardless, the Beiderbecke family was already living at the Grand Avenue house in 1900 and Bix was born there. Thus, the assertions in the youtube page for "Thou Swell" about the date when the Beiderbecke family moved to the house on Grand Avenue and Bix's place of birth are incorrect.

Albert
From

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/message/1175522101

The book "History of Davenport and Scott County" mentions School No. 9 in one paragraph in volume I, pages 928-929. It describes the school as Tyler School, No. 9, with no mention of a name change. The text reads as follows:

"School No. 9, the Tyler school, is a handsome building located on the east side of Grand avenue between Locust and High streets, occupying a lot of exceptional size, purchased at a cost of $3,000. The building was erected in 1892 to relieve schools Nos. 1, 2, and 4. It was a well arranged eight room building and so remained until 1902, when it was enlarged by an addition of four rooms on the north side. The exterior attractiveness of the building was not lessened by the addition. The same is true of No. 6 and its addition made in the same year."

Note that the description gives "Tyler school, is a handsome building located on the east side of Grand avenue between Locust and High streets, occupying a lot of exceptional size."

Here is a map of the area.



You see Locust and High Streets, Grand Avenue and Bixs home (red A).

Clearly, there were no houses across the street from Bixs house.

Albert
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

June 11th, 2009, 1:13 pm #10

There is general ageement that the names "Bix Beiderbeclkke" written on the file cards for the Bach Strad # 616 and 620





are not Bix's signatures, but his name written by someone in the music store where Bix purchased the cornet.

Seehttp://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/me ... 126994995/

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/message/1127158307

Albert
Hans Bach, brother of Vincent Bach, had a music store on W. 48th St. Bix purchased his two cornets at that store. Here is some interesting information about Hans Bach from

http://www.trumpetguild.org/pdf/9702smit.pdf



By the way, the birth name of the Bach brothers was Schrottenbach. Vincent was Vincenz.

Mr. Andre M. Smith wrote two fascinating articles about Vincent Bach.

The Life and Work of Vincent Bach (nee Vincenz Schrottenbach) 1890 - 1976: The Early Years to World War - ITG Journal Dec 1994
http://www.trumpetguild.org/journal/ind ... xdec94.htm (available for downloading)

The Life and Work of Vincent Bach (1890-1976): 1941-1976 (and Beyond) ITG Journal Feb 1995
http://www.trumpetguild.org/journal/ind ... xfeb95.htm (not available for downloading)



Albert
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