Bix Beiderbecke Memorial

Beiderbecke Drive, Davenport, Iowa

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Photo taken by J.R. Manning

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Leon Bismark "Bix" Beiderbecke was one of the most influential jazz cornet players of the early 20th Century. Born into a well-to-do family in Davenport, Iowa, Bix demonstrated a strong musical talent early on, but piano teachers gave up on him because he refused to learn to read sheet music and insisted on moving the notes around in a composition. At the age of 13, after hearing Louis Armstrong play on a riverboat, Bix acquired a cornet and taught himself how to play.

His parents, dismayed at the dismal state of his high school grades, packed him off to Lake Forest Academy, a boarding school near Chicago - and close to the speakeasies and jazz outlets. Bix sat in with many jazz groups and usually showed up to class half asleep, hung over, or both. He was unable to get a musicians union card for not being able to read music, and his father dragged him back to Davenport to work in the family coal business. He did return to Chicago, though, faked his way through the test and got his union card.

He performed and wrote music, his first recorded composition was Davenport Blues and he went on to a successful career in jazz. Bix had a drinking problem, however, and failing health cost him his life at the young age of 28.

On the 40th anniversary of his death, August 6, 1971, a memorial concert called "Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival" was held in Davenport. The response was overwhelming. It spawned the formation of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society dedicated to making the festival an annual event. The first president was Don O'Dette.

The annual Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival takes place in Davenport every year, using several venues, including the LeClaire Bandshell, just to the south of this memorial.

Bix Lives!

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Have Street View (32,053)
Iowa (2,455)
Monument (430)
Open to the public (1,752)
Scott County, Iowa (289)

Update Log 

  • May 2, 2017: New Street View added by Bill Eichelberger
  • August 15, 2011: Added by J.R. Manning

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