Early jazz legend Leon Bismark [Bix] Beiderbecke was born on March 10, 1903, in Davenport, Iowa, a mid-sized midwestern city. He attended Davenport schools until 1920 and showed an early aptitude for music. His family disapproved of his interest in jazz and sent him to Lake Forest Academy [IL] in 1921, but the opportunity to play and hear jazz in nearby Chicago was too distracting and eventually led to his expulsion. After several months working for his father in Davenport, he returned to Chicago.
He played with several bands around Chicago joining the Wolverine Orchestra in 1924. Bix became well known through his playing and recordings with the Wolverines. In October 1924 Bix left The Wolverines and joins The Jean Goldkette Orchestra. Also in that year, he began playing with Frankie Trumbauer’s jazz group, recording with him in New York and playing mostly in St. Louis. Bix’s association with Trumbrauer broadened his musical experiences. In late 1926, he and Trumbauer joined Goldkette and were prominent members of his group in New York until it disbanded in September 1927.
In October 1927, Bix and Trumbauer joined the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. The Whiteman Orchestra was on national radio, and played every major concert hall in the USA, including Carnegie Hall where Bix played his own composition "In A Mist." Bix continued with Whiteman until September 1929. Experiencing a larger audience Bix continued to write and record many of his most memorable compositions. Beiderbecke's originality made him one of the first white jazz musicians to be admired by black performers. Louis Armstrong recognized in him a kindred spirit, and Rex Stewart exactly reproduced some of his solos on recordings. Beiderbecke's influence on such white players as Red Nichols and Bunny Berigan was decisive.
Beiderbecke's worsening alcoholism caused his health to deteriorate, and he was frequently unable to perform gigs. He left Whiteman in September 1929; his hopes of rejoining the group after recuperation were not realized. Until his death, he worked in New York in a radio series with the Dorsey brothers a few times, with the Casa Lorna Orchestra, and with Benny Goodman. Bix did seek treatment for his addiction in rehabilitation centers, with the direct support of Whiteman and the Beiderbecke family. Ultimately, he failed to stop his decline. He left the Whiteman band in 1929 and in the summer of 1931 died aged 28 in his Queens apartment. He was buried on August 11, 1931, in the family plot at Oakdale Cemetery in Davenport.