Leon Bismark “Bix” Beiderbecke was an American jazz cornetist, jazz pianist, and composer. With Louis Armstrong and Muggsy Spanier, Beiderbecke was one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s. Little do many know, he was from Davenport, Iowa, and went to Davenport High School.
On January 28, 1918, Bix enrolled in the Davenport High School. The odd, middle of the year enrollment was caused by his having contracted scarlet fever in 1911; thus, he had not completed third grade during the 1911-1912 school year and was half a year behind. Bix had enrolled in grade 8-A at Tyler School on September 3, 1917 and had completed the grade on January 25, 1918. Bix , not counting the absence due to illness, spent a total of eight and a half years in grammar school. The 1920-1921 school year was the last year Bix attended the Davenport High School. His grades were poor throughout his high school years, and he missed school frequently. For example, in the school year 1920-1921, Bix was absent from school 54 days. His grades were almost equally distributed between Fair (70 to 80) and Poor (60 to 70). Needless to say that Bix did not graduate from high school at the end of the 1921 school year. In fact, Bix had not earned enough credits to enroll as a senior. In order to complete his high school education, in September 1921, Bix was enrolled in Lake Forest Academy, 30 miles north of Chicago. It turned out that Bix never finished high school: he was expelled from Lake Forest Academy in May 1922 for unauthorized escapades.
In 1920, Bix was a member of the Boy’s Glee Club. Here is a photograph of the group in 1920. Bix is in the last row, first from the right. Bix sang baritone. On May 28, 1920, the Boy’s Glee Club participated in a Concert-Vaudeville program at the Grand Opera House. Bix was a member of the “Black Jazz Babies” and sang “Far Away In The South.” Bix also participated with another boy, Raymond Moore, in a Jazz Specialty number, “Ma Punkin Sue.”