Dick Voynow and Bix

Joined: March 15th, 2018, 6:05 am

September 2nd, 2018, 3:09 am #1

In 2002, forum member jaykay posted excerpts about Bix from Sam Ross's 1939 Federal Writers Project interviews with Dick Voynow, Muggsy Spanier, George Barnes and Bud Jacobson. 
viewtopic.php?f=27140&t=260&p=3167&hilit=voynow#p3167

What I think is the bulk of the Voynow interview appears in a book First Person America by Ann Banks.

To simplify things, I'll copy and paste the Voynow excerpt posted in 2002 and then add other bits that may be of interest.

DICK VOYNOW (band manager as well as pianist for the Wolverines):

Bix was really a genius. He was the kind of guy who would never send his clothes to a laundry. Never thought of it. He would throw his stuff into a closet and leave it there and rummage through for a clothes change, and finally some guy in the band would get disgusted and send his clothes to the laundry. But he was a true artist. Sometimes we would go down to the Art Institute and although he knew nothing about painting from books, he would always stop in front of the best paintings and point them out and admire them. Bix had a fine feel for color tone on his horn, too. He was doing things musically, along with some of the other boys in the band, without even being conscious of it. The men in the Wolverines were all fine musicians who didn't play notes but created them.
...Because of Bix we couldn't stand anything but a cornet in our band. When Bix left the band, we were almost driven to distraction trying to get someone who could really fit in. We tried out a few but they didn't do. We even brought up Sharkey Bonano from New Orleans. He walked in with a trumpet and all the fellows shook their heads. Sharkey played fine trumpet, but we had got so used to the cornet because of Bix we just couldn't see a trumpet. Finally one of the boys in the band said that he had heard a kid from Chicago play who sounded pretty good. We sent for the kid and he turned out to be Jimmy McPartland. We were very happy to get him because he filled Bix's place pretty well and he was so influenced by Bix he worked in fine right off the bat. But he could never excel Bix.

Other bits, from First Person America:

Jazz was played long before this craze about it came into being. Nobody made too big a fuss about it. There is nothing being done today that wasn't being done by my band or by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. That outfit was the real influence on Chicago style. In fact, the bands today aren't even playing as good as my band was playing in 1923, because we had Beiderbecke in our band and nobody has been able to touch him since. The other day I was down at Nick's in the Village and Bobby Hackett -- he plays just like Bix, almost a perfect imitation -- came up to me and said, "Listen to me, will you, Dick, and tell me if I do anything that Bix didn't do." I listened to him for some time, and he did almost everything Bix did, but he wasn't as good, nor did he have Bix's originality.

I was the worst musician in the band but was the business head. All the boys knew I was the worst musician but they also felt they needed me to keep them together and discipline them. We would have to make a train at nine-thirty, say, and I would be waiting for them at the station, and they would get off on a drinking spree, or a love-fest or something, and they'd come running to the station half-dressed just when the train was pulling out. Things like that were enough to drive a guy crazy. But I had a better musical education than all of them. I'd do the skeleton arrangements during rehearsals. But you never had to tell them what to do, even though most of the fellows couldn't read a note. They'd pick up a tune from the melodies I'd knock out on the piano, and then in their solos, they'd create around that melody so that the music came out like a work of art. In the ensembles they never get lost but stayed in and played in perfect harmony.

Although Bix felt more when he played, there was a man called Teschemacher, who played clarinet, who was also a genius, but who had a calculated manner of playing. He was an intellectual compared to the others -- he knew the value of each note he hit and knew why he played them. He had a marvelous musical background, which most of the others didn't have, and it didn't hamper him any.
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Joined: April 24th, 2018, 8:31 pm

September 5th, 2018, 4:25 am #2

Thanks for posting this.  I googled around for more about Dick Voynow and was surprised to find this interesting photo on ebay:  
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Frank- ... 2571445956
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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 6:05 am

September 5th, 2018, 5:53 am #3

Andy V. wrote: Thanks for posting this.  I googled around for more about Dick Voynow and was surprised to find this interesting photo on ebay:  
https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Frank- ... 2571445956
That's fascinating: Frank with his lower lip stuck out and Voynow apparently lecturing.

Thanks so much for the discovery!
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