Monks Register

DAVENPORT, Ia. – Kelly Lao said that despite numerous books and articles written about Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke, the famous Davenport jazz legend remains a mystery to many.

But visitors can learn more about the man and his family this summer through exhibits at the German-American Heritage Center in Davenport. The building features a new 10-by-30-foot canvas portrait of Bix on the back facade of the building. It was created by Quad-City artist Bruce Walters.

The exhibition runs until August 30 and is titled “Zeitgeist: Bix Beiderbecke and the spirit of his time”. the Quad-City Times reported.

Featured are the mural and large panels created by Buck Henri, a Davenport native who lives and works as a professional artist in New York. Other photos of the Beiderbecke family from First Presbyterian Church and artifacts shared by local Bix collectors will also be part of the exhibit.

FURTHER READING: Bix Beiderbecke in our Famous Iowans Database

Lao, deputy director of the center, said members of the Beiderbecke family were German immigrants to the Quad Cities area and were respected and successful members of the German community for decades.

“Another component of that is the historical and genealogical component, his German roots and background, and the German-American community that flourished at that time,” she said.

For example, Lao said Bix’s grandfather, Carl, was in the German Men’s Choir in Davenport and ran a grocery store in Davenport. Bix’s grandmother, Louise Pieper Beiderbecke, was a big supporter of what was then called the Tri-City Symphony.

“Bix was a child prodigy. He played the piano at a young age,” Lao said. “He had a love affair with jazz at a very young age. He was considered a rebel. His family really didn’t approve of his music, but we found out later his family had all his records when he was died in 1931. .

“I think he’s still an enigma. He was a badass even today. Those people who wrote books about him have different memories of him. He traveled all over the place playing with different bands. He actually died in New York at age 28. He had visited Davenport just before that.

Walters, a graphic design professor at Western Illinois University, Macomb, said Bix was a rock star in his day.

“He was the real deal,” he said. “He was like lightning in the bottle. He really changed things. I see jazz as really the voice of the early 1920s. The world was changing. The technology was changing and the music that captured the change.

“For the first time, more people lived in cities than in rural areas of the country. And young jazz musicians were rock ‘n’ roll stars. They believed in this music, just like rock ‘n’ roll. And his parents hated that music.”

Walters agreed that Bix was a “troubled soul” whose drinking led to his untimely death. Still, he said, many don’t appreciate Bix’s genius and impact on the music landscape.

“If jazz is anything, it’s a melting pot of music,” Walters said. “It’s a shame he died so young. But even with his handful of music, he was years ahead of everyone else.

“He was in a band with Bing Crosby. They were drinking buddies. But the headliner was Bix. Bix was the star. He’s sometimes called the father of cool jazz. I think we took him for granted. Davenport is sitting on a real treasure.”