Brad Kay is a professional musician living in California. I interviewed him by phone on May 4, 2009.

BRAD KAY: ... five years old when I had my first epiphanal musical experience, which happened to be in Disneyland. Where are you calling from?

BRENDAN WOLFE: I’m calling from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities in Charlottesville, Virginia. […] We’re recording in the radio station here, but the quality isn’t up to radio standards, so you don’t have to fear that.

BK: Well, I understand. I’m not afraid of that, either. I’ve seen fire, I’ve seen rain. Anyhow, I was taken to Disneyland when I was five. My parents and I, and Main Street USA which is kind of recreation of Kansas City, Walt Disney’s hometown, boyhood home, they have a silent movie theater, and I think it’s still there, the same setup, and it was kind of an indoor gazebo with six screens going, all showing different films, and I being unclear on the concept, just couldn’t figure out what to do with all these moving pictures, see, so that’s when I noticed the music in the air, the piano music going on, and I followed it in the dark amongst the sea of human legs and found, there was a curtain between two of the screens, and it led down to a little corridor to another room not meant for the public, and in this room was a player piano. And it was going like mad and it was the most exciting thing I had ever seen in my five years, you know, and I stood there for hours, literally. I forgot all about my parents, Disneyland, the whole thing. They found me hours later still standing there.

BW: So they were looking for you?

BK: They were looking all over for me, and did I get a beating, woo-hoo. [says this wryly, with no affect] That’s why this is impressed so strongly in my memory.

BW: Was this ragtime music?

BK: It must have been. Well, it was— I can’t remember exactly what it was. I remember it was a giant paper-towel-sized roll, continuous jaunty, syncopated music. I started taking piano lessons when I was nine and it actually was on account of my mother wanting to take lessons herself. We got a piano in the house for her, and they discovered they couldn’t drag me away from it so I ended up taking lessons from this teacher for about a year, and I remember clearly that I didn’t want to study the little exercises in the, you know, baby piano things. I already knew what I wanted to play. It was this music, which I had no idea what to call it. We finally settled on boogie-woogie, and eventually I discovered ragtime, and that held me for awhile. So that was it. It was strictly on my own hook. I stopped taking lessons after about a year and I was on my own, more or less, since then.

BW: So you’re mostly self-taught.

BK: Yeah, I’d say completely. So I was, you know, always playing the piano in school or wherever I could. I was a real nuisance. Then when I was about fourteen I had these friends who I rode home on the school bus with and thought I was a very amusing character. They said, you know, you play that old music on the piano. You should be collecting the old records. My dad has a bunch in the garage. Maybe he’ll give you some. So I says, okay. And so I went over to his house. And there were these, this was Mr. Ball.

BW: Is this in California?

BK: Yes. I’ve lived my whole life in Los Angeles. Mr. Ball said, [in cranky old man voice] Yes, I have records in the garage, but I’m not giving these away. I paid seventy-five cents apiece for these records and I’m gonna charge you the same. And I said okay, and I went in there, well, I mean, little did I know. I pulled out, let’s see, King Oliver Vocalion, two Lonnie Johnston Okehs, like some Benny Goodman–Tommy Dorsey “scroll” Victors, and these were all in brand new condition in their original sleeves.

BW: So these are old 78s?

BK: Oh yes. So he looked at my haul and he says, [uptight old man voice] You’ve selected some very nice things. That’ll be six dollars and seventy-five cents. Now I want to ask you a question. Have you ever heard of Bix Beiderbecke? [pronounced –beckie] And I said no, who’s that? And he said, well, he was the greatest cornet player in the history of jazz. This guy was from the Midwest, see.

BW: We protect our own.

BK: Yeah. So we went in the house, so he sat me down at his elaborate hi-fi system. This was 1966, 65, 66. And he played me several Bix records. I think they were Bix and His Gang, from that first Columbia album. And it sounded wonderful. I was only halfway paying attention because I really wanted to get home and listen to my haul of records, you know? And then I went home, but it was like he lit a fuse, see, and three days later the bomb went off. It was like I had the longest delayed reaction, you know, like double-take in human history. [makes cartoon noise] What the fuck was that?! What was that record? And I made a beeline for Mr. Ball and begged him to play me those records again and that was my introduction to Bix.

BW: How old were you?

BK: I was like fourteen. Thirteen, fourteen I think.

BW: So you were born in fifty-two, fifty-three?

BK: Fifty-one. So that began two things: one was my search for jazz 78s, especially Bix. And this insatiable desire to learn the cornet. Because I had to find out how you made a sound like that. So that was the beginning of my long, sorry odyssey in music, really. I mean, I’ve been playing music for money more or less since around those days, so it’s been about over forty years playing piano in pizza parlors.

BW: Shakey’s, right?

BK: Oh yeah. Yeah. Well, Shakey’s was a big deal. They had thirty-six parlors in California, in southern California. Every last one of them had a piano in it, and somebody playing ragtime or good old time jazz. There would be a Dixieland jazz band at some of these, anything up to like a seventies Dixieland band. Every parlor from Filmar to Oceanside would have these, and that was their company policy. The guy who founded Shakey’s was originally a fan of the Blue Waters Band in the early forties. I found out much later that Shakey Johnson used to go hear the Yurba Buena Jazz Band at Earthquake Magoons or whatever it was in forty-one. He resolved while he was shooting at Japs in Burma that when this war was over he was gonna open a string of pizza parlors and there would be this good time good old American music in every one of them, and he was as good as his word, and that’s the Shakey’s story. So I was a Shakey’s pizza ragtime piano player from about 1967 off and on usually as a substitute—I was a very busy substitute during the seventies. And I must have played, I don’t know, two-thirds of all the parlors in the city. And this lasted off and on until about 1986 when the man died. And corporate decided to leave the issue of music up to the individual parlor owners at which time the number of parlors featuring live music dropped from thirty-six to two and shortly after to none. So that era ended abruptly with the demise of Mr. Shakey. So anyhow I’ve just been playing music for the whole time.

BW: Do you still play cornet?

BK: Oh, assiduously. I practice it constantly.

BW: So what’s a career like nowadays for a musician playing that kind of music?

BK: Slow. The music business as I understood it, as Bix Beiderbecke understood it, as everyone understood it, has practically vanished. I’m speaking of music as a service occupation where, you know, you play music for dancing, for a party, for a function of some kind, you know, in a restaurant, a cabaret, in a theater, on radio—all these venues, nightclubs, have vanished, just gone, you know. These days I find myself having to explain the concepts to people and also that they should pay me for my trouble. It’s a hell of a way to make a living.

BW: And you’ve been studying these musicians over the years.

BK: Oh yeah, sure.

BW: You’ve been reading Albert’s website since the beginning?

BK: Practically since the beginning, yes. And it’s always, yes, the Bixography Forum—you should call it the Bixography Forum & Follies, because there is much folly going on there, but it’s always been fun, you know, it’s really the liveliest discussion group I’ve ever come across, I mean these people are just nuts! Fanatics. I don’t exclude myself, by the way.

BW: I think nuts is right. And there are a lot of different ways to be nuts, and I think most of them are represented in a given week there.

BK: Yeah, it’s a whole mission pack sampler, boy.

BW: And I don’t exclude myself either, although I don’t always have the courage or the energy to participate. I’m not a musician myself and much of the discussion, well, I’m just not qualified to participate. But I’ve always admired your postings for their diplomacy and good humor.

BK: Well, I find that those two things are essential for survival. Not just on the Bixography Forum, but everywhere. God, I mean, the vitriol that gets flung in that forum is just phenomenal, and it’s all I can do to just step out of the way and not get burned. Because, you know, honestly, if I were Bix Beiderbecke reading this, I would say, What the fuck?

BW: And reportedly that was one of his favorite phrases, right? What the hell?

BK: What the hell, yeah.

BW: I understand that the Internet is full of vitriol, full of high passion. But I’ve always been curious if there’s something about Bix Beiderbecke that provokes people.

BK: Yes, there is. Well first of all, you see, the poor guy had, you see he had no, what to call it, I guess the word is personality to truly identify, to hang on to. Let’s say if there’s a website, for instance, about John Wayne. Which I’m sure there is, there’s a website about everybody. He was a highly definable character, somebody that you can pretty much sum him up in a few well chosen strokes. Bix Beiderbecke on the other hand, everybody agrees he was a musical genius, but who the hell was he, see, and this is something nobody can agree on because all he seemed to be interested in was music. He didn’t seem to have any of the normal interests like chasing women, you know, or getting rich and famous. It’s like Eddie Condon, he put it eloquently, poetically, and succinctly that yeah, Bix was not, what did he say, a human being?

BW: He was never actually a person, he was a living legend.

BK: There you go, yes. Because he was possessed and obsessed by the music, you see, and nothing else mattered but drinking, which of course, was the national sport. If you didn’t drink, forget about being a musician. I think this is why Red Nichols was despised, because he was a teetotaler, you know.

BW: And Frank Trumbauer didn’t drink much, did he?

BK: No, he didn’t. So I think that Bix was somebody who everybody idolized because he was just the best around and he just, but [long sigh] but he had no hooks, no handles, no sharp edges, he was indefinable. Unless you were also a musical genius and could run with him, there wasn’t really much to go on with him. He spent most of his life just trying to be a regular guy, which he was anything but. You know, the question that comes to mind is, what can I tell you about Bix that hasn’t been endlessly written about? How can I help you?

BW: You’re asking me?

BK: Well ...

BW: It’s a fair question. The reason I’m talking to you is that sure, to some extent this stuff has been endless written about. To me when you take the main biographies of Bix, from Wareing & Garlick, Burnett James, Sudhalter and Evans

BK: I’m wearing some garlic right now.

BW: And Ralph Berton right up to Jean Pierre Lion, what I’ve found is you get, especially with Sudhalter and Evans, they call their book Man & Legend but they say right up front that they’re not interested in the legend, that the legend has not done well by Bix.

BK: What they try to do is define him, what all these books, they try to define him by citing the facts, what he actually did, where he went, and so forth. They try to pin him down with circumstantial evidence. I think the reason why Bix Beiderbecke is the most detailed, the most punctiliously documented jazz musician is precisely because he was so slippery and indefinable as a person. Because people keep trying to define the guy and they couldn’t.

BW: You can give me the Evans and Evans day by day, six hundred and some page account of his life and you still can’t decide what his name was.

BK: Yeah.

BW: I’ve always found that interesting, and like you I’ve always seen Bix as something of an empty vessel that we fill him up with whatever we want him to be.

BK: Yes. And, and, and everybody wants to be his pal!

BW: Yes!

BK: Everybody wants to be his best bud. And they all think they know him, see. Yes, they fill this void with themselves. And to me it’s all bullshit. I mean, I’ve been to a few of these events, these Phil Popsychala thing and so forth, I even went to Davenport, Iowa, to, special invitation to see this restored Jean Goldkette film, but you know, really, honestly, I never cared about any of that stuff. I don’t care to look at any old dance halls that he played in, or the, it’s like the barn door after the horse has run out kind of feeling. Because everything you need to know about Bix that’s for real is contained on his records. It’s what he actually played on the records, it’s the sounds that he made that mattered. That’s all, you know. Who he was doesn’t really matter a bit as far as I’m concerned. I mean, he was a poor, confused guy who was in the grip of a demon somehow. Because I know the feeling. He absolutely should not have had the career that he had. He should have, you know, been a bank president or a lawyer or a senator or whatever. I mean. Herbert Hoover came from people like him, you know. He was as far as his family and background were concerned destined for some kind of middle, high level professional career, some kind of white collar kind of thing. It would have been totally all right if he had, you know, taken over the family business and turned it into a coal and lumber empire. You know, and today we’d all be buying Beiderbecke coal and lumber because of the great businessman Bix Beiderbecke was. But no. He had no excuse whatever to become a jazz musician, to have done what he did. Except that I think it was because he was simply possessed by the music. The music, it just was, it dwelled in him. It was an entity. It was above and beyond, separate from and not connected to any real human life. Again, I’m well aware of this because I have a similar problem.

But Bix was, I mean, you know what’s really telling? In the Condon quote, at the end, Condon says he sat at the piano and played the same incredible, marvelous, inventive original stuff, and when I looked at his face and saw the absence there, the dead eyes, you see. I mean, because there’s something Faustian about this. And it’s easy to see why legends accrue to him because you know he was definitely in the grip of something. And he was not the first great musician to have been so possessed. This seems to have been the case his whole life, because there’s this news article about him at age seven, in 1910, the child prodigy. And the reporter from this Davenport newspaper says he never looks at his hands, he just stares into space! When he plays. And he was still doing that just before he died. He was staring into space. The music was just coursing through him and he had no recourse but just to do it. And volition, desire, a definable goal—none of this had anything to do with that. This was just his personal, you know, I’ve always felt that Bix like Robert Johnson, had a hellhound on his trail. He was not a happy camper. Not at all. His was not a happy satisfied life. He was a very unhappy cat and his drinking is proof of that. The other clue is that he drank and drank and drank but as far as anyone could tell, he never got drunk! Except toward the end, but in his prime, when he was making those great Okeh Bix and His Gang, Trumbauer records, he was putting down, he had two hollow legs. Him and Fud Livingston. I hear stories about Fud, too. But Bix could drink like a Trojan and never appeared to be intoxicated. It just tamped him down a little. It just took the edge off. That’s all it ever did, and prodigious amounts of this bathtub gin, too. All it did. He didn’t drink for kicks or to get high, he drank to stay sober. So he could navigate a little, so somehow he could have a little space to himself, which, you know, and that was, that’s just it. There’s a haunted quality about the man. And I feel terribly sorry for him. He never could find any relief for this. And he spent his whole life, you know, in his letters, his communications especially to his folks, trying to prove how normal he was!

BW: Right. And I’ve always been amazed that Albert, for one, wants to take those letters so perfectly at face value. They strike me as letters from a kid who, whatever else you can say, is desperately trying to please his parents.

BK: There you go. Yeah, I mean. Albert Haim, I’ll say he is, I’ll be the first to tell you that I think he is doing a great thing. That this Bixography website is a really wonderful place, and that it needs to be there, and he keeps it lively. He keeps it lively and alive by constantly introducing new topics and pursuing threads of thought and so forth and debating with people. I think he’s doing a terrific job. But his shortcoming, his main shortcoming, is that he is after all a chemist, a scientist. He’s an analyst. He’s only interested in hard facts. You know, and the website is about a person who couldn’t have been less interested in any hard facts. It’s just the ironies pile up here, you see. Also, you know, I was just in Toronto at the Canadian Collectors Congress, and I gave a talk on Fud Livingston up there. Well, that’s beside the point. The point is that the people who, you know, are Bix’s biggest fans— well, here’s Bix, somebody who was relentlessly on the move, who was heavily invested in things constantly changing, as you can hear anytime you listen to Take 2 and then Take 3 stuff like that. And then on the other hand his fans, the people who collect his records who are just as heavily invested in everything staying the same! They don’t want one note to be different! It’s like oh my god! They keep trying to pin him down. It’s like nailing jello to the wall. It’s a fruitless, hopeless occupation. They just don’t really understand it all. They don’t get it.

BW: I’ve always seen that in how people approach Davenport, Iowa, since it’s my hometown—

BK: You were born there?

BW: Yeah.

BK: Wow.

BW: So I’ve always been a little sensitive to its portrayal in the Bix myth as this corncobby place, which it’s not now and I don’t really believe it was when Bix grew up there, although Bix’s upbringing was pretty conservative—

BK: Reactionary, I would say.

BW: Sure.

BK: Mid-Victorian in its horrid dimensions.

BW: But that didn’t represent Davenport as a whole, although it conveniently does when you’re talking about Bix. People represent Davenport as this place that stopped in time, so you can go back to Davenport now and see it as Bix saw it. There’s this musician Jim Cullum from San Antonio who wrote about going back to Davenport, this was in 2003 maybe, and it was rotting and had stopped in time. And therefore it was a great place for Bix fans because they could see it just as Bix saw it. It’s ironic because, as you say, Bix was invested in finding things that were new and not particularly interested in—

BK: I don’t know if he was looking for something that was new. I think he was trying to get away from something that was old. That’s my opinion because he was, I mean, he relentlessly turned his back on his own work and wouldn’t countenance it, wouldn’t reference it. There was the story about an old chum who was also a cornet player, who played note for note his “Jazz Me Blues” solo from Gennett and he just winced and grimaced, and said, What on earth are you playing that for? See. He had gone beyond, he was going beyond. And he was always heading for beyond and it just, to me the terrible thing is there was nothing and no one that could stop his rush of self-immolation. I wonder if, I think that he was well on the way, had he lived longer, of inventing the music that twenty years later would be known as bebop, only it would be in his own style. See, because he was employing all the harmonic tricks, and some of the rhythmic tricks that people like Charlie Parker were hitting on years later. But anyway.

BW: You use the phrase self-immolation, reminds me of Ralph Berton wrote that Bix had a death wish. Chris Beiderbecke once wrote on Albert’s forum that “death wish” was not a fair way to describe Bix, and that anyone who knows about alcoholism knows that alcoholics don’t have a death wish. I always thought that seemed like a little bit of a broad statement.

BK: That is very broad and it means nothing to me.

BW: I’m wondering if you can help me understand the self-immolation.

BK: Well [long pause, sigh] okay, well, when you listen to his records, what you hear, especially when there are alternate takes, is you hear Bix just burning his way through his musical options. He doesn’t just vary his improvisation when he approaches the same tune another time. He doesn’t just vary what he did before, he completely alters it, reconceives it, he reinvents it. It’s like he’s gone to the trouble of building this house of cards and it’s a beautiful thing, like he’s built this Chartres cathedral out of a deck of cards, you know, but that’s not good enough. He has to tear it down and build the Chrysler Building next. This is what he does in every alternate take. He utterly reconceives what he did to the point that, and I’ve done this in public, when you take the two takes and combine them so that they’re synchronous, you hear that he harmonizes and counterpoints what he had previously done.

BW: So you can put one on top of the other?

BK: You superimpose them and the two solos sound like they were two parts of a duet.

BW: What would be a representative example of that?

BK: Well, my favorite example is the Whiteman record of “Changes.” Because it just, oh my gosh, it sounds like King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, like two cornets just blazing away there. I did a whole demonstration of this at Phil Popsychala’s thing in Racine where, you know, I took numerous alternate takes of Bix and showed how in example after example, when you take his alternate takes and play them simultaneously so that the beats and the harmonies line up, what you hear clearly, you can hear clearly what is the same and what is different. Because you’re getting simultaneous playback of both. What you hear is Bix reconceiving everything. He’ll take the elements of his previous conception and throw them into the Cuisinart and redeploy them in completely novel ways so that they harmonize, that there’s antiphonal call and response. And all of this is completely uncontemplated consciously, you see. He wasn’t thinking, what did I do last time? I’m gonna have to harmonize with it. No. this is like this completely unconscious process that was taking place in his brain, and the evidence is right there before your ears when you hear the two takes together.

And among all of the great jazzmen of the nineteen twenties who left alternate takes of their work, Bix Beiderbecke is unique in possessing this quality. Nobody else does this. Everyone else worked their stuff out. They worked out their shit beforehand. They had a record date coming up, you know, you did what any normal person would do, is to study the stuff and figure out some kind of little routine so they wouldn’t mess up, so they could go in the studio the next day and not ruin a master by you know making a wrong turn somewhere. So when you listen to alternate takes by Red Nichols, Jimmy Dorsey, Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dodds—I went far and wide looking at people’s alternate takes, you see that when they would go to the next take, the solo that they played would be substantially similar to the first take because there would, when you played them together there would be a lot of unison notes with an occasional diversion, you know, like a divide in the road, and then it would come back together. So there would be a little bit of harmony and then back to the routine. Especially in solo breaks where two bars exposed, and, well, it’s exactly the opposite with Bix. When you play his alternate takes they are eighty percent different, and they harmonize. And the breaks are usually always different. And equally well conceived, equally well executed.

This I think is the real smoking gun that shows you the fundamental difference between Bix and everybody else at the time, indeed past that time.

BW: And how do we bring that back to self-immolation?

BK: Because all this comes at a price. To me what it sounds like is that the cat was just burning and churning his way through everything. He was constantly using up his options musically and I’m sure in life, as well. He was just making, he’s saying, this is no good, throw that out. This is no good, throw that out. This is no good, throw that out, you know. Couldn’t stand to listen to his own old records. You know, there was a line from Hemingway to go completely far afield. The Snows of Kilimanjaro. I think this is the epigraph at the beginning of the book where he speaks of how they found the mummified carcass of a leopard at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and this presented a great mystery. Nobody knew, he says, we could never understand what this animal doing up there, or what he could possibly have been seeking at that altitude way above the tree line and all. And I think Bix was similar. I think he was constantly seeking. He was, you know, there was something that constantly eluded him. I think actually that’s the kernel of truth in the book Young Man with a Horn, like Rick Martin was constantly seeking something, something that eluded him. And this seems to be the case, to be true to life with Bix. Bix was never satisfied with anything he ever did. He could not look back. He couldn’t manage himself. If he could’ve, he would have been a big name in music after 1928, not just amongst his fellow sidemen, but I mean his career was peaking in twenty-eight. He was making records under his own name. He published “In a Mist,” he performed it at Carnegie with Whiteman. He was becoming a force! He could have gone on to have a stellar career. If he had any sense of himself as a person, he could have turned around and you know and said, I’m on to something pretty good here. I think I’m going to capitalize on it. I think I’m gonna, you know, I could write more music like “In a Mist.” But he couldn’t see any possibilities. He was too deep into his pain, his flight from whatever. So that’s what I’m saying. I think that’s what I mean by self-immolation.

BW: I think you’ve put your finger on what on the one hand is at the heart of the romantic legend of Bix, which is connecting this idea of the searching quality of his art with the fact of his early death. And it seems to leave behind this big question mark of why did it have to end that way. Except that to the extent—

BK: Well, I don’t think it’s such a big mystery. Bix isn’t the only artist who lived like this, whose life was a relentless search. If you look in other areas, other alcoholic geniuses. There’s a pattern; it’s rare but it happens. It’s just that the results are always unique and different with each person. But it’s like you get to this level of obsession it just manifest so clearly and brilliantly, like for awhile, you know. They put the pedal to the metal and they just burn out! I have insights because I came dangerously close to that myself. Not that I’m comparing myself to some kind of genius.

BW: But you’ve lived the life.

BK: Yeah. I understand how this works, you know. Okay, I mean, look at this cat Heath Ledger who died, who played the Joker in the recent Batman movie. I think he had something like that going on, you know. And you know there are perfectly ordinary people who aren’t artistic geniuses who have that going on, they’re driven, the hellhound on the trail thing, it really happens, you know. They have nothing to hold on to. Or only one desperate thing to hold on to, and it’s a really lonely and desperate and unhappy way to live. And there’s nothing in the world they can do about it. And Bix was one of these people, only he happened to be involved in an art form where, I mean, it’s just that we can share some of the beauty by listening to his records.

BW: I’m curious to know how the alcohol fits in that. We’ve talked about how people who are nuts are attracted to Bix. Is there some meaning in Bix’s attraction to alcohol? Is it coincidental? You talked about drinking to stay sober but I’m still not sure what you mean by that.

BK: Okay, well, [sigh] well when you’re, and I use this word “possessed” I mean, when you’re in the grip of such a powerful inspiration, a lifetime of it, it’s like, you’re never alone. You never have time to yourself. You’re always being prodded and assaulted this other, this thing. It’s a very fine line between this kind of genius, duty, and the paranoid schizophrenic who hears voices, okay? I was hospitalized once, I was in a mental ward when I was twenty-eight. I head a breakdown, a total breakdown around the same age that Bix died, you know. And I remember being incarcerated on the fourth floor with all the crazies and the doctor interviewed me one day and a nurse with a clipboard taking notes, and he says, So Mr. Kay, um, do you hear things in your head? And I said, of course! And he looked at the nurse and the nurse looked at him and she started writing. And I went, Hey, wait a minute! I’m a musician; we’re supposed to hear things!

And there happened to be a piano there, and I ran to the piano and started playing, and I’m sure she wrote something like, Patient exhibits piano-playing mania.

Well, okay. I think maybe I do have a piano-playing mania, and I think Bix had one too. And he had a cornet-playing mania and he had just a music mania. It was this never-ending urge to, I mean, the music called him at every moment of his life. And this is a very hard thing to live with because it precludes anything like normality. I mean, what could be more normal than growing up on Grand Avenue in Davenport, Iowa? Okay? I was there. I was in that house. I saw that cute tree-lined nice neighborhood, that Leave It to Beaver picket fence, middle-class neighborhood that, it just looks like Norman Rockwell created it. And, you know, Bix, for gosh sakes, he had no excuse— I said this before, but look at all the great jazz musicians of the twenties, mostly black, with a few white guys, okay, they were all from mostly poor families. In the case of Louis Armstrong from the poorest, you know. There was no crime-ridden inner city ghetto that’s worse today than what Louis Armstrong grew up in in New Orleans, okay? The fact that he grew up at all is a miracle. And so, you see, for those people who have musical talent, playing music was a way out, all right? And they were, it was a safety line, a life preserver, their ticket out of poverty and hell, a living hell. It was their ticket out, you see. Bix was totally different because his music was a way in, he wanted in to something, which was actually already in him. And there was nothing in his comfy middle-class world that could provide that. It just seems, you begin to wonder, where does something like that come from? Well, I don’t know.

And this is how I relate to him, because I grew up in a comfy middle-class environment. My dad was a business-owner. He was more than that, he was a chemist, an inventor who built a big business out of the products that he invented and he was hoping that I could kind of take over the reins at some point. There was no music in our family except, you know, I mean nothing out of the ordinary for a middle-class family. And there was nothing, no one or nobody in the neighborhood to turn one on, and yet I’ve been obsessed with music my whole life and I don’t know where the hell it came from. I don’t know why it’s in me. I don’t know why it drives me the way it does. The fact is it does, I’ve survived by the hair of my chinny chin chin, luckily I’m not an alcoholic, and, I think that’s probably how I managed to get past the age of twenty-eight. I wasn’t killing myself drinking. I smoked pot, but that wasn’t so bad. But I know how it is to put everything aside, to leave it all behind, every conceivable blandishment of the material world, the relationships and everything because you’ve got this thing in you that drives you and never lets up! And to me, listening to Bix on record it’s just obvious that this is his case. He was one of these people who had this problem. And that either makes you very strong or it kills you. You know.

Look at Beethoven. Here’s another case. Okay. I’ll leave the details aside, but there are certain parallels.

That’s what I’m saying. He had that drive and he was always seeking, always seeking. And again, could never settle on anything, never repeat himself. He was the opposite of Irving Berlin. He couldn't just sit down and write, you know, “Always,” nice and simple. He had to compose “In a Mist,” and drive poor Bill Challis crazy because he could never repeat anything that he played on the piano. He was always changing and altering and never satisfied with anything. And it’s just amazing they got anything down on paper!

BW: Challis seemed to be extremely frustrated by the process.

BK: Yeah. I’m amazed that they wrote more than one piece together. I think his real piano masterpiece, by the way, is “Candlelights.” That one is even, is an advance on “In a Mist.” If you study the music you’ll see he goes further out in “Candlelights.” There’s some chords in there that just defy analysis. You know what’s all of a piece with “Candlelights” is the melodic interlude, the slow part of “In a Mist.” [hums] That part. That came about later than the rest of “In a Mist,” he added that, this is after he did the record, after he did the piano solo record. After he was hooked up with Robbins the publisher, and he played it for Jack Robbins and Robbins said that is very good, can you, but you know it needs something. Can you do a melodic section, you know, like in “Rhapsody in Blue”? [hums] And so Bix said, okay, what the hell. Or whatever he said. And he composed that [hums] and I think a lot of people don’t realize that that is a direct response to the big melody of “Rhapsody in Blue” at Jack Robbins’s request. But see that passage, that section of “In a Mist” has much more in common with what came next, “Candlelights,” than it does with the rest of “In a Mist.” It's got the same profoundly dissonant yet satisfying harmonies, and it’s really, I can tell that the rest of “In a Mist” was something that Bix had worked on more or less since, for years, since 24 or 25 he was fooling around with that [hums] you know, he had been working on that. But the rest of that, once he had gotten beyond the first sixteen bars he was on his own. He was just riffing and doing his thing. But anyway, aside from that—

BW: I understand what you’re saying about his obsession and the relationship to the alcoholic. But I’ve always been curious why the alcohol seems to have become Bix’s defining feature. I mean, people call themselves “Bixaholics,” and I’ve always thought that to be strange and sad.

BK: [laughs] Okay, well, in this day of twelve-step programs, everybody’s an –aholic of some kind. I mean, I recently stopped being a shellac-aholic, an obsessive collector of 78s, okay. Oh, I don’t know. Come again?

BW: I guess my point is that alcohol killed Bix, but it seems almost as if people celebrate him for that particular fact. It’s become the central fact that people know about him.

BK: That he drank himself to death. Well, I have to say that was a major achievement, or de-chievement, is that a good word? I mean, because Bix was no pansy, he was no shrinking violet. He was a robust, physically powerful person. I mean, there’s this photo of him in a canoe with Don Murray or somebody. The two guys in a canoe, I guess it’s out on Hudson Lake, and so there’s this really skinny runt of a guy in the front of the canoe, and there’s Bix in back with the paddle and he’s looking very, very deeply earnest, and he’s got a cigarette in his mouth, and he’s in his BVD undershirt and he’s wielding a paddle. And that guy has got some arms on him! I mean, he’s got some build. He was a powerfully built cat. He was five-eleven or something? He was not small. And if Ralph Berton is to be believed, a hell of a ballplayer. And there’s other stories of his physical prowess. He could jump barrels on ice skates, as a freshman at Lake Forest he beat the senior tennis champ and so forth. So he was something of a physical prodigy as well as a musical one. He was blessed with extraordinary good health and a sturdy constitution. And for him to have blighted that and broken it down and died from just consumption of alcohol by the age of twenty-eight, well I mean that is a hell of an achievement. It took Fud Livingston who was equally a drunk till the age of almost fifty-one to do himself in and be a stinking derelict. So I don’t know, to me it just points out the power of this, again, I grope for a correct word to describe it, zeitgeist, demon, whatever you want to call it, you know. Again, it’s like, I just feel that Bix had a big monkey on his back, a big hellhound on his trail. And his drinking was to ease the pain, to ease the tension just enough so he could get a little respite from it and feel slightly normal. That’s my best take on that.

Other than that, I mean, drinking was the national sport in the twenties. Everybody drank. It was just carried on, it was the national culture, Prohibition? God, I mean, you know, take a step back. Do you know why the twenties roared? It wasn’t all just Bix. Bix was just a unit in the middle of it all. I mean, look, there was this whole sense of what-the-hell betrayal. Everyone was going what the hell, not just Bix. If you think back to the end of World War I, 1918, 1919, all right, and so the millions of American doughboys who had gone overseas, who had gone on to France to save democracy, right? And to make the world safe for democracy, I think was the big catch line, and how you gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree? Then they come home to discover two things. One, that they didn’t save shit! And two, that while they were over there, the Mrs. Grundys and Carrie Nations had gone ahead and passed this fucking Volstead Act of Prohibition— I went over there to save democracy and now you say I can’t buy a beer! Well fuck you! That’s what they said, in the millions. And this was at the root of the whole Roaring Twenties phenomenon, I think. And so it was like the perfect breeding ground for an entire continent of alcoholics, not just Bix. You’re telling us we can’t have a drink? Well to hell with you. We’ll have drinks, we’ll make them ourselves. We’re brew our own bathtub gin! A lot of young people felt that they had been betrayed by their elders, that this Prohibition was just the tip of the iceberg. Reminds me a lot of the sixties, with the Vietnam War and everything.

So I think that Bix fell into that general zeitgeist. Bank presidents had their own stash of alcohol. Alcoholism was epidemic and there was no AA, there was counter-voice. It was all a big moral issue. Everyone said to hell with morals. Fuck you, Queen Victoria. Fuck you, Carrie Nation and the Nineteenth Amendment. That’s what I think is behind all the alcohol really, in general. It just made it all the easier for Bix to have been as deeply alcoholic as he was. See. If he’d been the only maybe he would have given it up. Maybe he would have been persuaded to quit, but absolutely everyone around except for a few teetotalers were carrying on.

BW: There was no context to judge the toll that it took on certain people.

BK: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, yeah, right. Because alcoholism was not a health issue, see. People didn’t make a health issue out of it. You know what I have here, is a songbook from the year 1900 of the Prohibition party, the Prohibitionists, the Carry Nation-ites, and it’s just one anti-alcohol hymn after another. I mean, some of them are just cringe-inducing. There’s one called We Have to Civilize the Philippines. We have to civilize these heathen savages, but there’s a problem which is that our civilization has alcohol in it that’s gonna set a bad example for our little brown brothers overseas. And oh my god the convoluted thinking that went into Prohibition. But for them, and this is my point, it was entirely a moral issue. It was an issue of saving souls, you see. Absolutely nobody was concerned about health.

BW: You weren’t going to wag your finger at Mezz Mezzrow and get very far.

BK: Right. It became a matter of, I don’t care what Mama don’t allow, and they just kept on drinking. I’m gonna have my drink and enjoy it and to hell with you. And I don’t think that anyone but a few crackpot physicians had made any serious study of the long term effects of alcohol on a person’s vitals. And of course anyone who talked about alcohol poisoning, it was only because of the bad alcohol, the wood alcohol that people were consuming. Grain alcohol was good for you. A little wine after dinner.

We could ratchet back the focus a little further and look at the whole Judeo-Christian ethic with regards to these things. There’s always been this debate about controlled substances in our culture. And the real question is who does the controlling? Do we control it ourselves or does Big Brother do it? Do we pass laws or do we just abstain? Or do we manage it somehow? Do we cultivate an intelligent attitude toward it? When Timothy Leary was doing his LSD experiments and so on, there was a debate on about what is the right setting, the right attitude to have about acid and so forth. And he was a big ass pied piper, he stopped being a conscientious researcher and started being you know the pied piper of acid. But during the late fifties and early sixties when the stuff was just being produced by [unintelligible] and you could get it legally and it was being used for research, the idea was that you just had to educate people what the proper attitude was about the consumption of these drugs because this is powerful stuff. You don’t want to mess with it. You need to know what you’re getting into here.

The emphasis, though, is on individual responsibility and so we have a problem in this country about individual responsibility. I mean look at the last presidential administration here. It’s like who does the controlling? Who controls the stuff? Who controls our habits? How do we control them ourselves? See now this is a whole issue, see now I’m sorry I brought it up because it’s a whole seminar. I’m saying that these are the root issues about substance abuse and alcoholism and so forth. And personally, I think the human brain contains receptors for everything! And every, you know, conscious-altering molecule in every substance on the planet has its receptor in the human brain, and so if the brain didn’t have these receptors, we wouldn’t ever notice the stuff. But we have receptors for [unintelligible], for DMT, for alcohol, for cocaine, for heroin, you name it, and it’s all very, very effective. And so what’s the stuff for then? Why do we have these receptors? But instead of a thoughtful dialogue, instead of a school where you can go and you can learn to shoot heroin—

BW: I’d like to see that.

BK: —responsibly, you know, no. What we end up with are Carrie Nations and Harry Anslingers, these Prohibitionists, these people who just beat us over the head with morality and everything and we end up with what we have today is a stupid drug war and thousands of people getting their heads chopped off in Mexico because of this drug war, and millions of people being incarcerated because they use drugs. And then you go to the corner and there’s a drug store. What do you make of that?

So I’m saying, poor Bix! He never had a chance! Bringing it back to him, he was just a victim of all this, and alcohol was just the most convenient means by which he could you know forget his troubles, I guess. But he had powerful troubles. And he needed a powerful anodyne. And it was just too bad for him. I don’t know if would have fared any better today if he had been born in 1953 instead of 03, if he would have not been a drug crazed rock and roll musician, because when you’re dealing with a force as powerful as the musical force that drove Bix and again I don’t have to speculate on that. We all know what a powerful musical force dwelt within him, the evidence was all there on record. You don’t just pick up a horn and play like that by accident. It’s no accident that he played and created the way he did. He was just in the grip of it.

You know there’s a, I’m thinking of this remark, I’m coming back to Beethoven, okay. The two greatest minds in German, musical and literary finally met in 1812, Goethe and Beethoven had a couple of weeks hanging out together in this place called Teplitz, it was one of the watering holes around Vienna, let’s see if I can, oh let’s see, there’s, pardon me, but I have to, Goethe wrote something about this, about their meeting, pardon, pardon, this is just too good, Goethe, admiration of, makes acquaintance of at Teplitz, 536, okay—

BW: Is this a biography of Beethoven?

BK: Yeah, I’m looking at the Thayer, Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, which is a fascinating book. My copy is really dog-eared and fucked up. Um ... um ... oh yeah, here he goes. He says, I made Beethoven’s acquaintance at Teplitz, says Goethe in a letter to a friend. His talent amazed me. Unfortunately, he is an utterly untamed personality who is not altogether in the wrong in holding the world to be detestable but surely does not make any the more enjoyable, either for himself or others by his attitude. He is easily excused on the other hand and much to be pitied as his hearing is leaving him which perhaps mars the musical part of his nature less than the social. He is of a laconic nature and will become doubly so because of this lack.

Oh let’s see, but that’s not the quote. The quote is where he says, well, anyway, something about it’s excusable because he’s in the grip of this demon, this demon, you know, again. Goethe could not reach Beethoven on a social level because Beethoven was just in the grip, see. And just barely sociable with himself. I see something similar, now Bix was a much gentler personality than Beethoven, but he was similarly in the grip.

BW: In his own private astronomy.

BK: Mm-hmm. And he did his level best! Everybody that played with him said, oh Bix is just one of the guys, he was just a regular, you know, but I think Bix took great pains to try to be one of the guys, to just be normal, but there was something in him that just isolated him completely. Maybe part of his drinking had to do with his just wanting to be one of the guys, see. There’s a lot to be said for that. I don’t know. I’ll shut up for a minute.

BW: That may be a good place to stop.


BK: To sum it up, I think his personality was a large vacuum and he filled it up with music and booze, and these were his major obsessions, and that we, you know, we crave, we who are his fans, we who listen to his records and want to know the guy, we wish that, you know, we had Bix writing chatty charming letters, talking about his music and his way with it and his opinions of this person or that person and what he did here and there and so forth. But this is precisely what is completely missing. He had this interior dialogue with his music. And I call it a dialogue because there is a desperation about it all. Again, I think that line in Condon, I looked into his face and saw the absence there. Because when everything else had been driven out of him, he was facing the end, when death was staring him in the face, that music, that beautiful perfect incontestably beautiful music was still pouring out of him! And there was nothing he could do about it! You’re either for it or against it. It was an unstoppable force within him. This is the, I think that one line, I saw the absence there, is the biggest clue that we have about him. Who knows, I’m sure that he more than once wished he could have had some normal life and found some girl and gotten married and settled down, had kids, some normal kind of thing. But no, this was not for him. He was destined for other things. It was, and again, it was totally not what he was raised to expect in life. He was not escaping poverty. His story is not the Benny Goodman story, where Benny Goodman’s father was a poor immigrant and the whole family had to work, and all the Goodman boys picked up an instrument because it looked like a decent business to be in. So Benny became this tight-fisted virtuoso son of a bitch bandleader, you know, so his circumstances perfectly explain his career and his eventual stuff. You add to that his immense talent, of course.

But then Bix, there’s no explanation. We grope for an explanation. We don’t have an explanation. And so I just eschew—Gesundheit—the whole business of what kind of horn did he play, where he went, what ballrooms he was in and all that bullshit. I don’t care what horn he played. There’s this big long discussion, this ongoing obsession over did he play a Holton or a Conn, or what the hell was it. I played on one of his horns, the one that’s in the Putnam Museum now. Okay. Now. Let me tell you something about that horn. I was at this party, well, for five years in a row, these friends of mine, the McCoys, Phil and Phyllis McCoy hosted what they called Bix’s Horn Party. And their friends the Christensens would come and bring the fabulous Bach 620 Stradivarius cornet with Bix’s name engraved on the bell, this elaborately engraved horn, you know, that evidently he hardly used, because it was in perfect condition. I don’t know how he managed to keep it that way other than not playing it. But anyhow, I could see why he chose the horn, because when I played it, it was almost impossible to play it out of tune. I mean, the thing practically played itself, it was so in tune with itself, and you could use all the wacky fingerings that he did and it would still be in tune. Valve 3 was almost, I could hardly tell, just a cunt hair away from Valve 1 and 2, only the most microscopic adjustment of the tuning [?] necessary to equalize them and it was the most, just a wonderful instrument. Made the horn I brought sound like an accordion. All right. Well, no slight to the accordionists.

Anyway, here’s what happened at this party, see. There were a lot of horn players there. They came from far and away, and one after another, they would pick up this Bach and start to play on it, and they would be eager to pick it up and give it a try, you know. And after about ten minutes or so they would get a little frustrated and kind of disgusted and put it down. And then the next guy would pick it up and start playing, and then I realized, I know what’s going on here. They’re all hoping that when they pick up this horn and play, they are all going to sound like Bix! And when they end up only sounding like their own nasty selves, you know, it’s like they come face to face with their own inadequacies and have to put it down. And this was what was going on here.

On the other end of the deal, Bix couldn’t help being himself. He could play any kind of horn and it would sound like Bix. There’s that story of how he was on the road with Whiteman and somehow he left his nice horn behind, whether it was a Holton or a Bach, I don’t know, but anyway, he was minus his horn, it was back in the last place they played. So like in the two hours before the concert, they had to scare up another cornet for him to play on. And now that I think about, I can’t believe in the whole Whiteman entourage there wasn’t a spare cornet. But at any rate, Bix and a couple of fellas from the band went around the neighborhood wherever it was, Wichita, Abilene, North Fork, whatever little Podunk town they were concertizing in, and they went around the neighborhood knocking on doors, asking if they had a cornet in the house. Is there a horn in the house? Finally they found somebody with, you know, up in the closet they had this Civil War-era instrument that still, since like 1900, old Gramps used to play it in the Confederate army or something, and they loaned it to Bix, and so he oiled it up, got it up and running, and he sounded magnificent as usual at the concert. Just like Bix, okay? He could have blown into a garden hose and it would have sounded like Bix. He couldn’t help being himself.

BW: He couldn’t help being himself, and the people who looked for Bix in the horn couldn’t find him.

BK: That’s right. And they looked for him everywhere! That’s the allegory.


It’s like, I’ve been talking about Beethoven. We don’t feel this way about Beethoven, who was, you know, an infinitely more accomplished musician, let’s just be realistic here. Who was just as a piano prodigy was every bit the total astonishment and complete departure from the norm that Bix was on the cornet, you know. And yet, his personality is very well defined. He wrote lots of letters that show you just how disagreeable, cantankerous and obstinate and nuts that he could he be. Okay? Overly emotional and Sturm und Drang, we have tons of evidence about Beethoven, so guess what? Nobody gets cuddly and possessive about Beethoven. He’s this marble statue to most people, he’s this unscalable mountain, this monument, okay. But it’s because he’s so well self-defined.

But with Bix we have the exact opposite, someone who couldn’t define himself to save his life. And that was it, and so, you know, and again, I think the real definition of Bix is on his records, hearing what he played. He gave it all up for that. So we need to respect that. You know, that the man, basically, whether he was conscious of it or not, he basically gave his life for those musical moments and what he needed, what he should have had was somebody like Dean Benidetti with Charlie Parker following him around with a recorder, recording every note that he played. He never played an uninteresting note as far as I can tell. And that’s because his whole, he was the carrier, he was the vessel, he was the conduit for this immensity of music, the very god Cecilia pouring herself through his unwitting consciousness. I don’t think Bix consciously was even remotely aware of the forces that drove him. I think all he wanted to do was just chill!

He did the best he could! He drowned it out with oceans of bathtub gin and he still couldn’t do it. It never let him up, it never slept, it never, you know, and then, toward the end, it took human form in the form of his buddies that came and drank with him but wouldn’t let him sleep even, you know. I mean, the story really takes on Faustian dimensions when you think of it.

Of course, everything I’m saying to you would be anathema on the Bixography website. They would just dogpile me if I were to carry on like I’m talking to you. It’s just that, you know—

BW: I am prepared, when this book is published, to be forever denounced by Albert Haim.

BK: The real clue here is that Haim is not a musician. All right. He doesn’t play music, either for his own pleasure or for a living. Now I do both. Not only that, again, I feel like Bix and I have something in common, which is that I have no excuse for my music. I came from a similar background as him, from a nice comfy middle-class family where they all expected me to go into business or be some this or that or the other, and I ended up being a mostly unemployed jazz musician, you know? And to this day it’s like I can’t relate, I can’t have a real conversation with my family. They don’t understand me. I can say hi, how are you, and I’m doing fine. Are you making money? Yeah, I’m making money. Oh good! You know, and it’s, but I can’t begin to talk about what drives me to them. They don’t have the slightest comprehension or interest. And personally I feel close to nobody. I don’t have a girlfriend. I don’t have a wife, I don’t have a family. Why? Because I’ve been fucking obsessed with music all my life! I’ve had health problems too, that’s another story. It’s taken total precedence, and I have given up music ten thousand times in my life out of sheer frustration because I couldn’t play the things I was hearing in my head and it never stops. So I’m telling you, from personal experience, I have some insights that I feel, I guess like everybody who approaches Bix, I feel like I have a personal connection with him. Well fuck. But I’ve walked the walked, I’ve pursued this as a life, as a career. I’m fifty-seven years old and it hasn’t changed.

Unlike Bix I’ve decided that what I want to do is become as healthy as possible, and what I’m in training now to do is to become a geriatric prodigy. I want to be one of these cats who are like ninety years old and kicking ass. Now my model has gone from Bix Beiderbecke to Josef Haydn.

BW: That will take some training.

BK: Well yeah. I mean, I’ve given up everything, I quit smoking pot, I’ve taken up swimming, I’m actually healthy. Who knew? Actually, I mean, the only reason I didn’t commit suicide when I was twenty-eight years old, was because I felt there was something, that I wanted to keep this music alive, and so I couldn’t die until I figured out what it was about. Why it’s there. And just do it, just do it. Actually I have to say, coming back to Beethoven, Beethoven saved me! He wrote a letter like this to his brothers that wasn’t found until after his death, in which he explained about his deafness and he felt like he wanted to kill himself and but he couldn’t because he felt like there was something in him that wouldn’t allow it. And I thought well shit, if it’s good enough for Ludwig it’s good enough for me. So that’s it. I figured that’s a pretty good reason to stay alive, and the only real philosophical question we human beings have to face in our existence is whether or not to kill ourselves. Otherwise, why do we live? I don’t know, I don’t have an answer for that.

BW: Did Bix kill himself?

BK: I think that ultimately he did. I think that he was, well, the trouble was that he was clueless. He had no, he was clutching at straws. He had nothing firm, nothing solid in his life to indicate a real direction for him. He was cut off from society. All his colleagues were these fellow alcoholic musicians. I mean it just became a big horror show for him in last year or so, you know. He was basically struggling to make a living. I’ve asked myself, why in 1930 when he was after he he’d been, after he had spent all of that time drying out at the Keeley Institute, and could see where the life had gotten him, you know, and the horrible debilitated condition that he was in, why did he just go right back to it? Why didn’t he just take it easy for awhile? Why couldn’t he just, you know, gone to Hawaii or something? You know. I mean, he never gave himself a break. He couldn’t. he couldn’t stop. Couldn’t rest. There was no rest for him, you know. It’s like listen to that Robert Johnson record, “Hellhound on My Trail.” That sums it up very neatly. He had a hellhound on his trail. He wasn’t allowed to rest, he had to keep moving, gotta keep moving, keep moving. He had a pitchfork in his ass. It was horrible! And he coped with it the best way he could, with the meager means at his disposal. And he was just a kid! Come on! I’m already more than twice as old as he was when he died and I don’t know how I’ve coped. It’s just too bad.

And you know, I’m sure if he could have perceived a lifeline, a means of escape he would have grabbed it with both hands and never looked back. But he couldn’t. He just had this thing, this thing, this blind driving brilliance that was like an other, and he, I mean, I think of him in that article when he was seven years old sitting at the piano just staring at the wall, and the music just coursing through him as he plays as this reporter, this lady reporter reports, writes in this very prescient and well observed article—I think that actually if you back to that article in the Davenport Democrat you’ll see, you know. This was the best and most accurate reporting and observation of Bix in action that anyone wrote during his lifetime. All the articles that came later, Jazz as Musical Humor and that stuff, pure bullshit. In fact, you know, I noticed something, that Albert posted this article, he tries to make out that Bix’s mother understood, you know, when I hear the perky blare of his horn then I know that it’s our Leon. Well, if you read the article, Jazz as Musical Humor, that phrase “perky blare” is in that one, too. Okay. That didn’t come out of the mouth of Bix’s mother. That came from the head of this journeyman news reporter, this purple prose slinger.

BW: Bix’s words in that article never rung true to me. I have a hard time believing that the same person who wrote the letters that we know are his actually spoke like that.

BK: Yeah.

BW: It’s not that I disbelieve that Agatha listened to Bix. But the fact that she told a newspaper that she listened to Bix only means so much. What else was she supposed to say when the reporter comes calling? It doesn’t mean that she didn’t believe it, but it doesn’t mean for a fact that she did.

BK: Right. I wonder if anything could have saved Bix at all. The only thing I can think of, at all, is an alternate universe in which music is a truly valuable asset in society. Music as such is a thing that if musicians attained the same kind of respect that doctors and lawyers do. It’s a fact that if your daughter comes home and she says I’m engaged to Jack, he’s a doctor, and the mother will go, Oh! And if she says, I’m engaged to Jack, he plays the trombone, she’s gonna go, Oh. You see. It’s a whole different thing.