The Alleged 1931 Photograph of Bix Beiderbecke: Not Bix!

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

June 14th, 2018, 8:12 pm #1

The Alleged 1931 Photograph of Bix Beiderbecke: Not Bix!
Albert Haim and Nick Dellow
More than a decade ago, Scott Black brought to the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival in Davenport, IA, a printout of what he described as a photo of Bix in 1931.

The photo was published in 2009 in Black’s defunct kazoolips website with the caption:
”A recently discovered photo 
of Leon Bix Beiderbecke - 
taken in the Spring of 
1931. So far, this is the 
last known photo of Bix.”
The source of the photo, evidently cropped from a newspaper article, was not given, nor was the text that accompanied the photo.
  On August 18, 2014, Scott Black posted in his Facebook page the complete photo with the accompanying text (but not the name of the newspaper or the date of publication).     

Here is part of what Black wrote in his Facebook posting:
“Ok, here is some Bix news that many of you have been waiting for ever since I found this photo. During the late 1950's a few reports came in to Phil Evans and John Steiner about Bix working with "Peyton's Orchestra" for a couple of weeks. So they naturally assumed it must have something to do with Dave Peyton and his band in Chicago, even through [sic] the idea of Bix being a regular member of a black Jazz & Dance Orchestra seemed more than a bit remote. So a few of the surviving members were contacted with the typical results. "Bix? Sure We all knew Bix. He used to sit in with the band whenever he could, and was always welcome! WORKED in the band? No..I don't recall that at all. Sitting in..sure..member of the band..No!" With that Phil and Steiner scratched their heads and put the entire subject aside, dismissing it.
    Then over 40 years later, I purchased an old scrapbook on New England bands from the years 1930-1931. I was hoping to find a lead on that so-called "Mystery Tour" that Bix did in the spring of 1931. As I got around half-way through the scrapbook, and Bix jumped out at me. Without looking at the name of the band, just by his posture and features, it had to be Bix. Then I looked at the name of the band. "Doc Peyton's Orchestra". It was like watching the three 7's lining up on a slot machine.
Doc Peyton's New Kenmore Orchestra was based in Albany at the Kenmore Hotel. The photo was taken in front of a building about a block away from the hotel.”
We have not identified the source of the newspaper article. However, one of us (ND) found an article in The Springfield Daily Republican of June 9, 1931 with an announcement for the appearance of Doc Peyton’s orchestra in the Crystal Ballroom of Riverside Park, Agawam, Massachusetts, across the river from Springfield, MA. The relevant page is given below - the announcement appears as the fifth item in the fourth column.

The announcement is identical to the first paragraph of the original newspaper article posted in Scott Black’s Facebook page. 

The left hand side in the above image is the announcement in The Springfield Daily Republican of June 9, 1931 and the right hand side is the first paragraph of the article posted by Scott Black in his Facebook page. Evidently, the two articles are contemporaneous, published around June 9, 1931, possibly a press release by Doc Peyton’s advertising office (or the office of his agent) for the Thursday June 11, 1931 appearance of Doc Peyton’s orchestra in the Crystal Ballroom, Riverside Park, Agawam, MA.
Although the newspaper articles cited above date from June 1931, in fact the photograph of Peyton’s band was taken before May 1930. Here is a scan of an article published in the May 1930 issue of Orchestra World, recently found by one of us (ND).

It will be seen that the photo of the band in the Orchestra World article is the same as the photo posted by Scott Black; the photo, therefore, is not from 1931. It must have been shot before May 1930, the date of the Orchestra World article. Therefore the photograph cannot be a photo of Bix in 1931, as asserted by Scott Black. In fact, it cannot be a photo of Bix at all, as we will demonstrate presently.
Bix’s whereabouts before May 1930 are well known. For the majority of the period September 15, 1929 to April 30, 1930 he was in Davenport, IA or in Dwight, IL. There are two short intervals during this time-frame when Bix left Davenport for brief visits to Chicago and in New York, namely Feb 5-12, 1930 and Apr 21-30, 1930. 
We now turn to Doc Peyton’s schedule in late 1929 and early 1930. On November 6, 1929 Doc Peyton’s orchestra began an engagement in Omaha, NB.

From February 5, 1930 to March 5, 1930 Doc Peyton’s orchestra had an engagement in the Gibson Hotel Cincinnati OH and the band was then at the Monticello Club, Detroit MI until June 28, 1930.

Evidently, Bix could not have been with Doc Peyton’s orchestra during the periods he was away from Davenport between September 19, 1929 to April 30, 1930. On  February 5-6 and 10-12, 1930 and on April 17, 1930, Bix was in Chicago, and on February 7-10, 1930 and April 21-30, 1930, Bix was in New York. However, as documented above, from February 5, 1930 to March 5, 1930 Doc Peyton’s orchestra had an engagement in the Gibson Hotel Cincinnati OH and then the band was at the Monticello Club, Detroit MI until June 28, 1930.
Moreover, according to Scott Black, the location of the photo is Albany, New York, but there were no windows of opportunity for Bix to be in Albany, NY between September 19, 1929 and May 1, 1930.
The incontrovertible conclusion is that Bix is not the man in the Doc Peyton band photograph.
A few additional photos of interest.

Courtesy of David Bock. The man of interest is fifth from left.

This 1931 photograph is from an old Internet page, the link to which ( post/591066763/doc-peytons- orchestra-original-snapshot- 1931) no longer works.

Joined: March 29th, 2018, 12:06 pm

June 14th, 2018, 11:05 pm #2

Very nice piece of research, Albert & Nick !
You've consulted primary sources, which is how it's to be done.

One small amendment: The Doc Peyton Orchestra photo appeared on page 6 of the May 1930 Orchestra World issue.
This issue, together with 15 others, were kindly sent to me by Russ Shor. I then scanned all pages here at the Heidelberg University Library, and then forwarded these files to some other collectors, among these Mark Berresford. This is why Nick Dellow was able to get access to the Orchestra World.
BTW, besides the 16 issues mentioned above, I have made scans of 59 additional issues (42 from microfilm, and 17 from the collection of Dave Hignett).

Ralph Wondraschek

Joined: March 15th, 2018, 4:56 pm

June 16th, 2018, 3:52 pm #3

Clipping collections are a curse. Most collectors neglect to label the paste-ins sufficiently. Sometimes, a type-face expert can narrow things down between possible sources by analyzing the newsprint. Major papers were pretty insistent on using their own design and look.

The fellow in question looks awfully healthy for Bix in '30 or '31. But we do have some claims that Bix's health rebounded dramatically after his stay at Keeley.

Joined: March 16th, 2018, 8:41 am

June 16th, 2018, 9:24 pm #4

In response to Ralph Wondraschek's post above, I would like to make it clear that the scan of the May 1930 Orchestra World came from Dave Hignett. Thanks to Dave for his kind assistance.

Joined: March 17th, 2018, 5:01 am

June 16th, 2018, 11:05 pm #5

Fascinating reading!

The following text from your article - do you know if it is true or false?

"During the late 1950's a few reports came in to Phil Evans and John Steiner about Bix working with 'Peyton's Orchestra' for a couple of weeks."

Joined: March 29th, 2018, 12:06 pm

June 16th, 2018, 11:13 pm #6

Nick Dellow wrote: In response to Ralph Wondraschek's post above, I would like to make it clear that the scan of the May 1930 Orchestra World came from Dave Hignett. Thanks to Dave for his kind assistance.
And I would like to make it clear that it was me who scanned all the OW issues (including the May 1930 one), and that I've sent these files to Dave Hignett, among some other respected collectors.
Would it have not been for my work, Dellow would not have been able to access OW - and to write the article.

Ralph Wondraschek

Joined: March 29th, 2018, 12:06 pm

June 16th, 2018, 11:44 pm #7

Here's the rundown of the sources of the various Orchestra World issues which I have scanned:

Orchestra World – missing issues (on microfilm & in the Russ Shor & Dave Hignett collection)
missing                              Dave T. Hignett          microfilm & Shor collection
(47 issues):                      has (17 issues):            contain (67 issues):
1926-March                                                              1925-June
1926-April                                                                 1925-July-August       
1926-June                                                                1925-September
1926-July                                                                  1925-October
1926-August                                                             1925-November
1926-October                                                            1925-December
1927-February                                                          1926-January
1927-June                                                                 1926-February
1927-September                                                       1926-May
1928-January                                                            1926-September
1928-February                                                           1926-November
1928-March                                                               1926-December
1928-April                                                                  1927-January
1928-May                                                                  1927-March
                                               1928-June                   1927-April
1928-July                                                                   1927-May
1928-August                                                               1927-Summer
                                               1929-January              1927-October
1929-February                                                            1927-November
1929-May                                                                   1927-December
1929-June                                                                   1928-September
1929-July                                                                    1928-October
1929-August                                                                1928-November
1929-October                                                              1928-December
                                                1929-December          1929-March
                                                1930-March-April        1929-April      
1930-August                                                               1929-September
1931-March                                                                 1929-November
1931-April                                                                    1930-January
                                                1931-June                   1930-February
                                                1931-July                     1930-May
1931-August                                                                1930-June
                                                1932-January               1930-July
                                                1932-March                  1930-September
1932-June                                                                    1930-October
1932-September                                                          1930-November
                                                1932-November           1930-December
1933-January                                                               1931-January
1933-April                                                                     1931-February
1933-May                                                                      1931-May
1933-June                                                                     1931-September
                                                1933-July                      1931-October
                                                1933-August                  1931-November
1933-September                                                           1931-December
                                                1933-November            1932-February
                                                1933-December            1932-April
1934-February                                                               1932-May
                                                1934-April                      1932-Summer
                                                1934-May                       1932-October
1934-June                                                                      1932-December
1934-July                                                                       1933-February
                                                1934-September            1933-March
1934-October                                                                 1933-October
1934-November                                                             1934-January
1934-December                                                             1934-March
1935-May                                                                       1934-August
1935-June                                                                      1935-January
1935-July                                                                        1935-February
1935-August                                                                   1935-March
1935-December                                                             1935-April
1936-February                                                               1935-September
1936-June                                                                      1935-October
1936-July                                                                        1935-November
August 1936                                                                   1936-January
September 1936                                                             1936-March
October 1936                                                                  1936-April
December 1936                       1936-November              1936-May
I have 84 issues, I still miss 53 issues. I own 61% of the OW issues.

As I find it important to disseminate primary source material as widely as possible among interested collectors / researchers, I'm willing to send scans of these (and many other magazines which I've already scanned, and which are not yet online, like Metronome, Jacobs' Band Monthly, Dance Review, Morning Telegraph, etc) to interested individuals, on USB flash drives. Cost per 128 GB drive is $ 50.00, plus postage (about 30.000 scans, at 600 dpi).

I'll eventually send these all to Tom Tryniski, owner of the Old Fulton newspaper atchive, for him to put online. I've already done this with the complete run of Billboard, 1923 - 1935 (about 30.000 pages, which I all had scanned from microfilms).

Ralph Wondraschek

Joined: March 17th, 2018, 5:01 am

June 17th, 2018, 12:41 am #8

Fine articles. Let me better-state my post above:

Are you able to rule out documentation/recollection about Peyton-Bix in the present Davenport archive?

I had the impression the entire archive is presently not yet fully read/examined... or listened-to, in the case of audio recollection.

Joined: March 17th, 2018, 5:01 am

June 17th, 2018, 1:19 pm #9

Let me begin by seconding Mr. Wondrasek's enthusiasm for your research.

Now, does the Peyton-Bix recollection exist within Evans' archive?  If so, then by present-time you can only argue a possible conclusion (Bix or no).  And you two know that.  "Not Bix" does overstate.

Can you offer any possible names for this non-Bix individual imaged?

Afford me staff to investigate newsprint content, and I'll find you multiple inaccuracies inked within the current week.  Never mind more distant past.  Specifically, you reference here publicity filler... contributed content.  Presumably the newspaper made no effort to verify any of it, nor correct afterward any inaccuracy.

September 15, 1929 to April 30, 1930 is ~ half a year's time.

In scholarship on "Singing Brakeman" Jimmy Rodgers, there is a presentation of a case / proof ("incontrovertible" etc.) that Louis Armstrong could not be present for the recording of "Blue Yodel No. 9"... (wish I could document this here better... possibly it's from the Porterfield biography...).  The not-Louis assertion was made via itinerary documentation extant.  Subsequent scholarship yielded a handwritten "Thank You" note from Rodgers to Louis (via Lil, I think it was) for their piano/trumpet participation in the "No.9" session.  And so the preceding itinerary thesis & conclusion had been debunked.

Joined: March 17th, 2018, 5:01 am

June 17th, 2018, 5:06 pm #10

Potentially better-phrased as always, my previous post conflated two questions....  Multiple photos including the same individual - probably not Bix, conceded here.  But to the tale of subbing for Peyton?

He'd been gone for a couple decades and more, before many researchers began to inquire of him.  No?  Memories fade.

Of subbing-with-bands once again, and for example - we'll never know how much detail was missed, from interviews & investigation begun long afterward.  Despite, false authoritativeness seems to seep into some of this writing... ascribing certainty when, instead, as-far-as-is-known/indicated/found/claimed better description.

Mid-20s aged man, well acquainted with national travel & life on the road... based six months at home with the folks.  Presumably he's free to come and go, and given his musician work proclivity, may be frequently away temporarily.  Half a year's time at this?  Am I unaware of diary record from this time and household?  His activity from this period is well known, to the extent that we know it.