Bix

From the uploader, Harry Oakley:

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 [text continued below the last track] …

Bix and Paul Whiteman:

Finally, Trumbauer band?

… [continued from the top]:

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, that it was later in Denver and that it travelled the world in a military trunk – this story was printed on the back of the only reissue LP in 1978.

None of this has been proven though – there is actually evidence that the record originates in Davenport. What IS certain is that a friend of Don O’Dette (founder of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society) from Davenport had the record and from him it went to a well known musician and Bix afficionado in 1977.

The latter sold the record in 2008 on Ebay via a friend of mine. It was reissued on LP in 1978 after John R.T. Davies did a remastering in England. Alas, after this first re-issue the original record was never again made available and subsequent CD reissues all draw from John Davies’ old transfer with the result that the sound has always been rather dull and distorted.

However, recently I have done a full audio restoration from the original disc, using the latest techniques, and although the record is worn and heavily damaged (see picture), the sound is now quite stunning if you have good loudspeakers connected to the computer; even though the file had to be translated to MP3 format in order to upload it on internet. Since 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, after careful and extensive analysis, a highly reputable expert from Davenport who is familiar with Bix’s handwriting concluded that the writing in ink of the title and band name is probably by Bix himself. 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. It’s unlikely that an Okeh official would write the wrong date.

The other exciting 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 I cut out as it could not be made understandable. What can therefore now be heard is “Take it the last four”. I 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 (….) the last four” might very well be the only recording of Bix Beiderbecke’s voice. This “video” is really all about the record and making the music available to Bix fans all over the world. I have therefore only uploaded a few pictures of the record and its label.

However, I have added a bonus; a previously unissued and unknown picture of Bix at ca. 10 years of age, showing him with a dog (possibly belonging to his sister) and an unknown little girl.

In spite of ubsubstanciated claims to the contrary, notably from the self-proclaimed “Bix scholar” Albert Haim, the location is easily recognizable as Grand Avenue, and extensive research by Gerri Bowers from Davenport has proven beyond doubt that it is indeed the front lawn of the Beiderbecke house at nr. 1934. The house behind the little girl, once owned by the Becker family, is still there, albeit now almost obscured by a newer house in front of it.

The concrete block by the girls foot and the seams in the pavement in front of Bix are still exactly the same today as they were ca. 100 years ago. The tree with the bicycle (probably Bix’s) leaning against it had grown very big in the early 1980s and is on the left in the last picture, taken in the summer of 1981. (For those interested – the car is a 1962 Lincoln Continental). Both trees have since been cut.

ADDITION: information has come to light as to the identity of the little girl in the picture with Bix and the dog on the front lawn of 1934 Grand Avenue, Davenport; the Beiderbecke home. It turns out that the girl is the daughter of the Beiderbecke family’s domestic help.

3 comments for “Bix

  1. dearieme
    September 18, 2017 at 00:03

    Might as well have Thou Swell too. Lurvly.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQnW8C8HeQs

    • September 18, 2017 at 09:11

      Well yes, of course, but where does one stop?

  2. September 18, 2017 at 19:06

    Fascinating story. I like the idea that the Thou Swell record originally belonged to Bix. Amazing what might turn up on Ebay. That one is worth a listen too, although I struggled to make much of the voices at the beginning.

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