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May 29, 2006

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Mike Smolinsky

I read somewhere that James Merrill's "The Victor Dog" name checks Bix.

I just googled "bix beiderbecke" and "donald justice" and it turns out they died on the same day. It looks like Beiderbecke died when Don was just a kid, so I'm sure they never crossed paths, but it seems somehow like they should have.

Brendan Wolfe

Thanks for the heads up, Mike. Here's the beginning of "The Victor Dog" by James Merrill:

Bix to Buxtehude to Boulez,
The little white dog on the Victor label
Listens long and hard as he is able.
It's all in a day's work, whatever plays.

***

I don't know anything about Bix & Donald Justice, but there's a Bix & Donald Hall connection. This is from "The Best Day The Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon" (1995):

Jane Jennifer Kenyon was born on May 23, 1947, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her father played the piano for a living. Reuel Kenyon (1904–1982) grew up the son of a butcher, and his mother was the fierce Methodist grandmother of Jane’s poems. When he was only fourteen, he played for fraternity dances at the University of Michigan. After high school, he studied architecture, more his passion than music was, but could not afford to take a degree. Instead he sailed to Europe, where he spent the 1920s playing le jazz hot in Paris and on the Lido; he recorded hundreds of sides in these years, with Lud Gluskin et Son Jazz. (A discophile presented Jane with an LP after her father’s death; we listened to young Reuel’s barrelhouse left hand.) He returned to the United States as the depression began, when his father was dying. Then he toured with big bands like Eugene Goldkette’s, living out of a suitcase, playing dance halls one night in Cleveland and the next in Akron. In 1930 he jammed with Bix Beiderbecke in Walled Lake, Michigan, a wild Prohibition town north of Detroit. His first marriage was childless and ended in divorce. During the war he was performing with a dance band at a hotel in downtown Detroit, where he met Jane’s mother Polly, who played cocktail piano and sang in the hotel’s bar.

Mike Smolinsky

Dude, how fast do you type?

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  • The banner image is a detail from Grant Wood’s “Young Corn.” Now owned by the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Community School District, it was painted in 1931: the same year Bix Beiderbecke died and a year after Wood painted “American Gothic.”

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