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.