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The following tape recorded program is a presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the tense in a series of programs on the roots of jazz in the United States. In this program we hear the music of cornet. The time is the early 1920s. The place is Chicago. The subject is
jazz. For half of its present history. Jazz has been a continuous development of Negro art for most of those 30 is it had flourished in one place. New Orleans the second generation of the negro musicians had moved up the river and had created in Chicago an audience for their music. Time was the early 1920s. I remember it because we'll return to it twice before with it. But on this program we have 11 years to span 11 years with pics. Jazz as it had been played at the mouth of the Mississippi was played on a cornet a
trombone and a clarinet with rhythm. Somewhere the saxophone entered the picture. It was used in St. Louis and it popped or groaned up. You know orchestras here and there all along the river but it was Chicago that placed it in jazz combinations to stay. Some critics liked it some didn't. It's been with jazz ever since and it has constantly grown in popularity. Jazz was played in Chicago's South Side. It was played by and for Negroes jazz was played at one other place in Chicago friars in whether New Orleans Rhythm Kings the white contingent from the city Way down yonder held forth. They came to Chicago in 1920 with Palm is on trumpet. George Burley's on trombone and on clarinet jazz had been played by only one other white band prior to the Rhythm Kings and that was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band when they played in Chicago in
1917 with Larry shields on clarinet nickel or rock on cornet and Eddie Edwards on trombone. No saxophone in this Dixieland band. But the Rhythm Kings how to turn a saxophone played by Jack Pettus or Don Murray the Rhythm Kings of the beginning of the breakdown of the New Orleans style. Here are the words of George Beal British jazz a file in the magazine swing music. The Friars and men added variety to the monotonous renditions of the Dixieland Jazz Band by the inclusion of fairly extended solos as well as less rigid adherence to one or two simple variations on the basic theme. Arranging began to make an appearance. The band as a unit displayed greater balance in the discs by the Dixieland Jazz Band. We find the same ad lib phrase repeated again and again giving weight to the impression that the performer intends to convey his idea by sheer repetition. True the genuine spirit is always present
in the original text by man's efforts but the expression seems sadly lacking. The Friars in band is not hampered by such rigid repetitions in expressing its ideas. A telling phrase introduced by one soloist is repeated with variations by another. Harmonies and key changes add to the pleasing effect of their output. The rhythm section provided an even Foundation for the building up and display of the ensemble and solo parts a tremendous advance over the atmosphere of conflict and jerkiness generally produced by the Original Dixieland. However the feature of interest of these ancient records is the fact that they represent such a definite stage in the development of jazz as well as that they are the only tangible criteria of an organization which yet remains almost as famous as it was in its great days. Bix Beiderbecke came to Chicago in 1921. He was 18 years
old. He died in 1931. He had 10 years of life left when he got to the Windy City. Since 1931 Bix has become a legend. Before 1921 he lived in Davenport Iowa. He studied piano and cornet. He played to the records of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and he learned from nickel or rock. He learned from the con artists on the riverboats and he played and dreamed cornet wherever he was. But the legends of his life are many. Fact and Fiction have become inseparable. Here is what Studs Terkel says about it and so I imagine this is where the story many stories told of Bix Beiderbecke a fabulous trumpet player a cornet player from Davenport which was a port city of course and how he was ever going to buy some of the great musicians that came off the boats that may well be. There's no specific proof of that but it's quite possible that myself story's been romanticized so much as
someone says you know exactly has bands who have posters stickers they put up big layers you know. And become it's quite a moment. And what makes them so I suppose was there's been so much written about and I said Dorothy Baker's book young man with a horn and there was a movie about it and how much is true how much is not always open. It's always moved but musicians talk of. The guy's being a great craftsman and B. And back in the latter days of his life there was a sadness and because he realized he was hampered much like us by Sam while Ring Lardner the writer in latter years but he was happy to hear old sports stories only. That is when I was a diamond and Scott Fitzgerald writing letters exchange would bring lack of a lack of very frustrated. Could have been a greater writer. I didn't spend so much time with baseball and so when Bix Beiderbecke he thought it was something new happening in jazz do we spend all our always time with Dixieland. I want to and so he ed. some of us Dixieland frenzy and so even he was that the modern musician who's
the classical be you stack influence him now did you see in others. And he was experimenting and called the latter days of his life but his life I guess was so full of cynicism that you have no objective in my pursuit of a man to have a gabber. So isn't this trying not to destroy himself. I don't know I'm going to suggest a wild conjecture here. Yeah there's no doubt that the guy was a very excellent listing some of the records too. His was not gutsy powerful playing on Armstrong. So you're right. All right. George Mitchell an old time Buddy Bolden. It was more of it in fact the cornet as well use the cornet so much because it's one of those who would I suppose Bobby packing today is a big spider bite kind of horn player. It. By the time he was 20 he was playing in Ohio with a group that had been weened in
Chicago called the Wolverines. These boys had steeped themselves in the music of King Oliver and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. They were of course a younger generation. And as George Johnson said these musicians were the first in Chicago to draw inspiration and gather understanding of pop music as played by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings at Friar's in every evening found a few of them and friars. Much to the management's disgust as they spent a little and stayed too long. They were there to listen and learn and to wait long hours until late at night when the regular members in the band tired. They were permitted to sit in with the orchestra to give a few members a few moments of relief. This was a privilege of course since the kings were kings and we are all less than that. Accepting begs the Wolverine orchestra played on the lake boats and at university dances and dance halls on the campus of the University of Indiana. Oh he called Michael Heard Bix and began his own music career. There are all
sorts of fabulous stories about Bix and Indiana University none of them are important. By nineteen twenty five he had gained enough of a reputation to be recorded by the Janae record company in Richmond Indiana. Here is one of those records Jazz me blues. By the fall of 1924 the Wolverines had become well enough known to be hired by
the Cinderella dance hall at forty eighth and Broadway New York City. Bix stayed one month here again. The words of George Johnson Tanya sax man with the Wolverines famous musicians came to listen and were eager to set in. Just as we had in the days of the friars Inn in Chicago most frequent of these was Rhett Nichols who at that time was just coming under the influence of Biggs's genius. Red probably would not like this statement but it's my personal opinion that much of Red's playing today is the direct result of the absorption of ideas gained from listening to and playing next ABX together with learning note for note of Biggs's recordings even before we had landed in New York. We had heard a recording of reds called You'll never get to heaven with those eyes in which he used mixes chorus in Jazz me blues note for note. Mix was a fountain of ideas that were spontaneous as unexpected to himself as they were to us. While Red's playing as ever
been methodical and carefully thought out with each note planned ahead. Each was an artist but Biggs had the natural flow of ideas which once played were discarded and never used again. There were too many as yet unplayed to bother with repeating Bix return to the Midwest and the Wolverines were never great again. But despite their short existence they are second only to the Rhythm Kings in the annals of white jazz history. In the early twenties Vicks spent the rest of his life in the frustrating effort to find security in high paying large orchestras. First it was Charlie Straight's band in Chicago. Then Frankie Trumbo was banned in St. Louis. Gene code Katz orchestra which had a hot group called Bix and his gang this group created some of the finest of Biggs's recordings. And here is one of them. And after he joined the whiteman where he was buried
musically. He still had four years to live but his music life was practically over. And now we must answer some questions. Why was the Wolverine orchestra such an important one. Why has bits become a hero to almost all jazz musicians. What did Dix do want to point out that others did not do. The first question can be handled by having Culloden in Benny Goodman's book the kingdom of swing the single sector equal to New Orleans in the days before hot jazz or swing became a national enthusiasm. Why Chicago itself in the years immediately following the arrival of the Rhythm Kings Armstrong Oliver the DOD's brothers and the rest. Since there is no written history of jazz no precepts embodied in print the only sources of example are performances by actual players either on records or in the flesh. Consequently more jazz is learned imitative les than in any other way. It was merely a stroke of fortune that the generation of white musicians growing up in Chicago during the 20s
had the opportunity to cherish as their idols and enthusiasms such musicians as these and the musicians in the Wolverines with the first to form a successful band. They took this music out of Chicago. They played for dances where the more swinging music was needed they were the first Chicago style musicians. Now as for the other questions we'll have to do some quoting about Bix here of the woods of Hoagy Carmichael. The notes weren't blown they were hit like a mallet hits a chime and his tone had a richness that can only come from the heart. I rose from the piano bench and fell exhausted onto a davenport he had completely ruined me. Now that sounds idiotic but it is the truth. I've heard Wagner's music and all the rest. But those four notes that explained meant more to me than everything else in the books. When Biggs opened his soul to me that day I learned and experienced one of life's innermost secrets to happiness pleasure that it had taken a whole lifetime of living
and conduct to achieve in full. Here is the writing of Frank sax man in big seas gang Biggs was an intelligent young man a fast thinker and well versed in many things and much to the surprise of many people. He was an ardent student of W.C. Stravinsky Cyril Scott and Eastwood Layne knew their symphonies like most jitterbug know their Goodman studied them and loved them and strange to say understood them. We sat for many hours with Biggs at the piano playing his conception of Eastwood Lane's Adirondack sketches of which the land of the loom was his favorite and also mine. And if you've heard in a mist or candlelight you can readily realize the musical influence inspiring his work. Here is the writing of Edward J Nichols in the book. Jasmine describing Dix's piano playing at this time to his piano improvisations were gaining in melodic context and beauty. The classical models at hand along with the hours big spend on pianos in the joints around the city
were developing a talent that is friend Hasler called the greatest index of Biggs's genius and piano player roommate of Bix during the gold cat days. It's a risk and says Funny thing about mixes piano playing. He could play only in the key of C and he had great difficulty in reading something which he seldom bothered to do anyway and don't get the idea that Biggs was the greatest reader in the world when it came to cornet either. He was I should say only an average reader if that. And now let's hear Bix play. And that's the story of Bix Beiderbecke.
It's a simple story from his childhood to his death. Music seems to have been his sole driving force. He never learned to read music. He played everything in the key of C major. He had a warm tone but a sharp attack to the notes. He was a gentleman to all who knew him. And to those who didn't know him he made between 50 and 100 recordings in 10 years. For a while he earned over three hundred dollars a week. He influenced all of the great Chicago school of jazz. He died young and he has become a legend. Bix Beiderbecke was born in Davenport Iowa in the year in 1903 in 1931 with a bad cold. He went to play in an orchestra which couldn't get a job unless Biggs was with them. So Bix went pneumonia set in and a few days later Dix died and then the legend began.
This has been the tenth in a series on the roots of jazz in the United States. Program number 11 will tell of other Chicago workers the roots of jazz is written and produced by Cleary in the studios of Radio Station Iowa State College.
Dick Wagner is the song technician and radio. This is Norman Cleary speaking. This is the Radio Network.
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Roots of jazz
Chicago: Bix Beiderbecke
Producing Organization
Iowa State University
WOI (Radio station : Ames, Iowa)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on Bix Beiderbecke, the jazz cornetist, pianist, and composer.
Series Description
Music-documentary series in 26 parts, covering various aspects of jazz.
Broadcast Date
Jazz--Illinois--Chicago--History and criticism.
Media type
Director: Cleary, Norman
Engineer: Vogel, Dick
Host: Chass, Robert L.
Interviewee: Terkel, Studs, 1912-2008.
Performer: Beiderbecke, Bix, 1903-1931.
Producing Organization: Iowa State University
Producing Organization: WOI (Radio station : Ames, Iowa)
Speaker: Geesy, Ray
Writer: Cleary, Norman
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-24-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:09
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Chicago: “Roots of jazz; Chicago: Bix Beiderbecke,” 1956-09-02, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “Roots of jazz; Chicago: Bix Beiderbecke.” 1956-09-02. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: Roots of jazz; Chicago: Bix Beiderbecke. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from