R. Evans: An Appreciation.
Spiegle Willcox: An Appreciation.
***In Memory of Philip R. Evans***
Condolences can be sent to Linda Evans at email@example.com or at P.O. Box 10507, Bakersfield, CA 93389-0507
Albert Haim, July 24, 1999
Note: On July 28, 1999, the New Wolverine Orchestra dedicated the stage show "The Story of Bix" to the memory of Phil Evans.
Chris Beiderbecke, Bix's grand
nephew, writes on July 26, 1999:
I am extremely grateful for Phil Evans. I first became aware of him many
years ago when he published the first of his biographies of my great-uncle
Bix. I heard stories of his meticulous research, and the huge volume of
research materials he had amassed. I was told that he'd had to actually build
an addition to house it all.
Over the years, there have been many projects revolving around Bix
that have come and gone. There were the movies, the books, and many other
merchandising and marketing efforts. They ranged from the sublime to the
ridiculous, skewing towards the ridiculous. And accuracy was always at the
very bottom of the priority lists of most of these efforts. No one that I've
been aware of has approached the subject and person of Bix Beiderbecke with more dedication to doing the painstaking, long, frustrating, and very
difficult, hard work that getting it right requires than Phil, and getting it
right was Phil's passion.
Phil's approach was impeccable. He researched and wrote as a scholar
would. Dedicated to finding verifiable facts, disregarding things that might
have made good copy, or that had been told and retold so often that they had
become regarded as facts, reporting the truth only after exhaustive research.
I'm grateful to Phil for spending so many years in this often unsung and
unrewarded effort. His latest effort will stand for all time as the
definitive volume on Bix, and should serve to strike down many of the
fallacies that have sprung up over the years around Bix's life.
The beauty in what Phil has done is that through seemingly dry research
and doing away with embellishments and personal opinion, and refusing to bow to the urge to over dramatize an already dramatic life, he actually revealed Bix the young man and shooting star in a more personal way than any before him had done in any medium. And all without the use of "dramatic license."
If not for Phil and his wife Linda, I would have spent my life just
wishing that someone would do what he has done, and feeling bad knowing that I certainly would not have the patience and perseverance that he had for the task, and lamenting that no one had searched out, sorted through, verified, and laid down the facts of my great-uncle's life in a definitive way. We all
would have had to rely on other works and various short biographical sketches that repeated falsehoods and the author's bias.
Bix deserved Phil. Phil did well by Bix, and I'm sure that like myself
and countless others, Bix is grateful for Phil Evans.
Marian McPartland, jazz pianist,
Port Washington, NY, writes on August 1, 1999:
I never had the pleasure of meeting Phil Evans, but we had many conversations about Bix and my husband, Jimmy McPartland, who replaced Bix in the Wolverines. Phil was a very charming and interesting man to talk to, and I read and enjoyed several of his books, namely, "Bix: Man and Legend" (in collaboration with Richard Sudhalter), "Tram, The Frank Trumbauer Story" [in collaboration with Larry Kiner, ed.], and "Bix: The Leon Bix Beiderbeke Story" [in collaboration with Linda Evans, ed.]. I found these books to be tremendously interesting and informative. Phil Evans was undoubtedly a great jazz scholar, and he will be sorely missed.
Frank Manera, Bixophile, Providence,
RI, writes on August 3, 1999:
As a noted scholar of Bix Beiderbecke and researcher/author of other great
American jazz giants, Phil Evans had outstanding merit for the detail
and meticulousness of research in his extraordinary contributions.
Upon visiting with Phil at his home in Bakersfield, California this past
May, I've had the privilege to read an innumerable amount of letters Phil had
amassed since the mid-1950's. Some of these letters were from Louis
Armstrong, Hoagy Carmichael, Paul Mertz, Roy Bargy and C.B. Beiderbecke. Phil personally knew and was friends with many of the musicians Bix knew and worked with, namely, Red Nichols, Jack Teagarden, Bill Rank, Roy Bargy, Paul Mertz, and Hoagy Carmichael. Phil made contact with a lot of these guys through his friend, the late bass-saxist Joe Rushton. One contact led to another. Phil was indeed close to these guys who loved him like a son. They were all extremely generous and helpful to him as he would ask them questions for information in his research on Bix.
As the years passed on and these guys left us one by one, Phil took their passing as if he had lost a family member. Phil had told me so many interesting stories about these musicians during my visit with him and through many letters and phone conversations. Phil loved to talk of these guys and how helpful they were to him.He would always express his deepest gratitude for their kindness shown to him in his quest for information about Bix.
Phil (like Bix) was an avid sports fan. He would love to watch the ball games on television.
Always a caring and concerned man, Phil saved a Parochial school in
Bakersfield, California from being closed down by leading a project through
the efforts of volunteers in this mission, while at the time working in a
full time capacity for the U.S.Government.
I recall when we first met in Davenport, Iowa in 1998 how patient he was in answering all my questions about Bix. We talked for many hours. That is how our friendship began. Phil had spent his life in total dedication of Bix and would continue to search for any new information he could find. He was willing to share his information with those who were interested in Bix.
On the morning of July 24th, 1999, I received the saddest of news from Phil's wife Linda. She informed me that on the night before, at 10:00 PM Phil had a massive heart attack.We lost him. My mail of that sad day included a letter from Phil which he sent off to me a few days earlier.
Phil deserves a special place in history for his outstanding contributions. I
feel proud and honored to have known him. I'll always cherish with the
fondest of memories the warm friendship I have shared with such a wonderful person as Phil Evans.
Scott Black, jazz cornetist,
CT, writes on August 5, 1999:
Back in the late 70's, while talking to Vince Giordano about Bix, he said,
"Do you know Phil Evans?" I said no, just from the book. So he gave me Phil's phone number and said to give him a call, that he is a swell guy, and loves to talk to people who are sincere about Bix. That first phone call became the start of a 20+ year friendship that lasted to the end. I still can't believe
he is gone, that I can't pick up the phone, and spend two hours with the most
sincere and honest researcher of jazz, and of Bix.
Phil sought one thing, the TRUTH about Bix. The Beiderbecke horn, and his concept of music, is something that affects people in strange ways. It was a different direction and style of music he created that caused such a musical
wake, that many people spent the rest of their lives trying to figure it out.
When Bix died, he took it with him. For years fans and would be writers
pestered his friends and family to the point that they clammed up. That's
where the writers with the fantasy stories came about, dumping more mud on
the truth about Bix.
Phil was able to win the friendship and trust of the musicians and family
of Bix, because they realized that his love for Bix was honest, and that he
wasn't trying for the Book Of The Month Club. He told me that at the first
Whiteman reunion party that he was invited to, the boys were a bit wary about him, here he was with a 50lb tape recorder, feeling quite uneasy. He said Roy Bargy came up to him and said, "What did Bix drink?" Phil said, "Gin." Roy said, "Great, what do you want to know? How can I help you?" The ice was broken, and from then on, the Whiteman boys were happy to help Phil with whatever information he needed. They gave him pictures, diaries, letters, clippings, interviews so the legacy of Bix, good or bad, would be judged by the truth.
For a while in the early 80's I taped our phone calls, with his permission
of course, because he would tell me so many things, and answer so many
questions, with so many details about Bix, it was almost impossible to digest
it all. These tapes and the 150+ letters from him over the years would make a
great book in itself. I, along with many others, tried to get him to write a
book about trying to write a book about Bix. The trouble he had is well
known, and no need to go into it here, except to say that it is part of what
caused his death.
He was a very generous man who was too happy to share his knowledge with people who loved Bix. Many did him wrong. He didn't want to do the last book on Bix, it took years to persuade him to get the story down once and for all. Thank God he did. It's a tribute to Bix, and to Phil, and to all of those
jazz greats to have their words, as they said them, in the context that they
were said. The story about Bix is done. The lies have been swept away,
leaving a clear look at a young man who changed the way many people thought about music. A story that, if made into a real movie, using the FACTS, could be a masterpiece.
Phil would call on his friends from time to time for some help to track
something for him. These quests were some of the best times I've ever had in a library. His excitement over finding something new was very contagious, and we all loved to help out if we could. Being a musician on the road, I would head for the libraries and look up dates for him, reviews, etc. It was like putting together a big puzzle while going on a treasure hunt. I can't tell
you how much I will miss that, it made the road a whole lot easier to take.
Enough can't be said for Linda, she was his rock. She looked out for Phil
like a pit bull, and helped to keep the vultures from taking advantage of his
sweet nature. He would always praise her, telling me, "I don't know what I
would do without her." She was his eyes and ears when he was sick, and
kept his flame burning. His friends, and there are many of us, are there to
help her keep Phil's memory and his work alive. If she's the pit bull, we are the puppies.
Take care my friend, say hi to Bix for us.
Vince Giordano, jazz musician,
archivist, collector writes on August 6, 1999:
Thanks for writing the nice piece on Phil Evans. A real nice man who did a superhuman job getting all those facts and books out there for us to enjoy.
May he rest in peace.
Don Ingle, jazz musician (Sons
of Bix Jazzband) writes on December 27, 1999:
I was among the forunate people to have had a father, Red Ingle, who not
only knew Bix but worked with him in various Goldkette units in Detroit,
including the Victor Band.
Growing up among musicians, and hearing the legends of Bix from others
made me more than aware of him, but it took my dad's playing of a recording by Bix, "Clementine", to electrify me. Having been playing clarinet for a few years (dad being a reed man), that exposure to the sound of his horn made me throw the clarinet idea aside and acquire a cornet, with which I was able to make my lving for many years after.
The point of this is that, in the course of this personal journey, I met
Phil Evans. He had already contacted my dad for information on Bix
from his time, and when I met Phil, he was even more a source of
information for me to glean in our few short meetings. It was later, when he was doing his first book on Bix that I was able to repay his kindness
by supplying several photos for his book, the shot of Bix and dad and one
of Bixian cornetist Este n Spurrier.
Needless to say, the news of Phil's death hit this family hard. He was
already in poor health but a good heart just couldn't keep the beat,
and we lost a great friend.
I was grateful to Scott Black and Linda for their passing on the news,
and I join the many friends of Phil in mourning his passing. But what a
wonderful legacy he has left us in his work.
It has been said that man gains immortality only through the memories of
others. That being true, it means that Phil has joined the immortals
that he wrote so faithfully about.
Obituary in One of Bakersfield Newspapers. Click here
Spiegle Willcox passed away on Thursday,
August 26, 1999, at his home in Cincinnatus, New York. He was buried at
Cortland Rural Cemetery on Saturday, August 28, 1999. Spiegle was the last
surviving member of the Jean Goldkette Orchestra.
Newell ("Spiegle") Willcox was born on May 2, 1903, in Sherburne, New York. Spiegle began to play professionally in the Syracuse area just after World War I. In 1922 he was in Ithaca with "The Big Four" (really a group of eight) when Paul Whiteman discovered the band and renamed it "The Collegians". Spiegle's first recording was "That Red-Head Gal" (New York, March 23, 1923, Vic 19049). Spiegle stayed with the Whiteman organization until early 1925. He then returned to Cortland and joined his coal family's firm for a short period.
During the summer of 1925, Spiegle was playing in a dance hall in Auburn's Owasco Lake. Fred "Fuzzy" Farrar, a trumpet player for the Jean Goldkette Orchestra, was vacationing in the area and told Spiegle that Tommy Dorsey was quitting the Goldkette band and a replacement was needed. Spiegle joined the Jean Goldkette Victor Recording Orchestra in October 1925. In May 1926, Bix and Frank Trumbauer joined the Goldkette band. When Goldkette's Victor Recording band was dismantled in 1927, Spiegle returned to the coal family business for several decades.
In the 1970's, Joe Venuti asked Spiegle to go to Europe with him to play at several venues. Thus, when he was in his seventies, at a time when most people retire to live a quiet life, Spiegle started his phenomenal second career as a professional musician. Spiegle played with jazz bands at festivals, recorded CD's (his first recording was an acoustic 78!), started singing, told stories, cracked jokes. Hemade yearly appearances at the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival. His last appearance in Davenport was just a few weeks ago.After playing a number at Bix's graveside, Spiegle turned toward Bix's grave stone and asked "How am I doing, Bix?" For years, Spiegle participated in several jazz festivals in Europe, where he was idolized. Just a little over a month ago, on June 30, 1999, Spiegle was a special guest with Lino Patruno & the "Red Pellini Gang" in a "Tribute to Bix Beiderbecke" at the Ascona Jazz Festival.
Spiegle was not only a great trombone player, but also a gentleman and a classy individual. One example will suffice. At the last Bix Festival, Rickey Bauchelle, the daughter of Doc Ryker, was introduced to Spiegle. At the concert on Saturday morning at Bix graveside, Spiegle, in turn, introduced Rickey to the audience and, especially for her, reminisced about the Goldkette days with Ryker, Bix, and Tram. Clearly, Spiegle was a thoughtful and considerate man. He will be sorely missed.
Spiegle Willcox and Hans Eekhoff have written a fascinating and informative article entitled "Goldkette and All That Jazz" in the September 1994 issue of Storyville.
Hans Eekhoff (musician from the Netherlands and serious
Bixophile) wrote on August 28, 1999. Spiegle will be immensely missed,
but what a rich life! He was at my house only last month and we played
78's the whole afternoon. A week later, he played with my band in Germany
and I tell you he was truly great! Not just great for a 96-year old guy
but simply great. Period.
Today he'll be buried, and in my thoughts I'll be there to say goodbye. It
was a privilege to have known this great, gentle man.
Addendum January 24, 2000. Here is a picture of Spiegle, taken at my home on July 10th 1999 during an afternoon of record playing. He's holding Victor 20471 "Hoosier Sweetheart" which he considered to be his best Goldkette recording. Two weeks later he played with my band at the Rheingauer Jazz Festival in Germany and he felt fit and played great.
On July 18th Spiegle, Cynthia, the guys in my band and a few more German
friends had a wonderful summer evening dinner on a terrace overlooking the
Rhein which I will never forget. It was the last time I saw him but the memory of it all, having known him for 23 years (literally half my life), more than compensates for my sadness over his loss. Spiegle was one of the finest gentlemen to walk this earth and I sincerely loved him. I thought you might like to share these inner thoughts.
Alann Krivor (grandnephew of Jean Goldkette) wrote
on August 28, 1999. We'll all miss his music, humor, andbright
intelligence. Spiegle definitely gave all of us something to live
for. I feel very complete that I got to share several moments of his long
life. Here's to Spiegle..........Hip, hip, HURRAH!!!
Trevor Rippingale (jazz musician of The New Wolverine
Orchestra and Bixophile par excellence) wrote on August 30, 1999.
What a very gracious pair Spiegle and his devoted
daughter, Cynthia. Both are role-models for us all as we
grow older. And what wonderful retention of personal and musical skills
so late in life! trombonist, raconteur, comedian,
compere, vocalist and great human being. It was a joy to be with them both
at all times. I first met them both and played with Spiegle in 1994 at
"Oestrich-Winkel"a little wine town in Germany, then subsequently at the
Bix Festival, Davenport, in 1996 and 1998. Right from the first contact,
he greeted us with bear hugs and they both made us feel like close personal
friends or even relatives, for which we'll be forever grateful. On that
first night we met in Germany he said: "I was told you boys play Bix, and
we just had to come and hear you". He and Cynthia immediately joined our
band party, stayed with us all through the night and he sat in for a set
with us, tromboning and singing: wonderful ! It was our first direct contact
with Spiegle and through him, with Bix. We'll treasure the audio and video
tapes we have of him playing with us, as I'm sure all the other bands he
graced and encouraged, will also do.
I've learnt many things from Spiegle: not only graciousness in ageing and living for music, but also musical professionalism, and particularly stage craft and presentation skills : and to retain them all at such a high level of
competence at such an age, is almost unbelievable.
I remember asking Spiegle what he thought of Bix, and he said: "Trevor, Bix should have done what I did." (What's that, Spiegle?) "After each gig he should have packed his horn in his case and gone right on home!"
Frank Manera (Bixophile from Rhode Island) wrote on August 31, 1999. It was a thrill meeting Spiegle on every occasion and listening to him play his trombone. He had such exuberance! He spread so much cheer! The guy actually knew Bix. He'll be deeply missed by all Bixophiles and jazz fans alike. Spiegle has now beenreunited with the entire Goldkette Band.
Lino Patruno (jazz musician and Bixophile extraordinaire)
wrote from Italy (received August 31, 1999).
now You will ride forever in the skies of legend, together with Bix, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, and all the boys from the Goldkette Band.
We will remember You everytime we play or listen to "My Pretty Girl", "Idolizing", I'm Looking Over...".
You have been one of the most beautiful and joyous realities of this less than happy end to the century.
We will miss You very much!
Karl Heinz Ern
Red Pellini Gang
and all the Italian jazz musicians that knew and played with You.
Roma, August 30,1999
John C. Bayer (trombone player and music teacher) wrote on September 10, 1999. About 1974, during my college years, a couple of trombonist friends and I had the wonderful opportunity to meet, visit, and play our horns for Spiegle and his late wife Helen in their Cincinnatus home. The Willcox's were so warm and friendly. I remember Spiegle listened to us appreciatively which he followed by words of encouragement. At the time I had little interest in jazz music and I did not fully appreciate those moments we had with you, Spiegle. Now, as I'm much older and play mostly jazz, I thank you for those words of encouragement when I was a kid. I do keep on playing and when I get discouraged, I listen to YOUR music which will cheer up anyone. I am so thankful for those recordings!! jazz certainly did "keep you young."
Michael May (middle school band director)) wrote on
September 13, 1999.
In March of '96, I wrote Spiegle to tell him that the Collegians' recording of
"That Red Head Gal" was to be played at my wedding reception (my beloved Mindy is a beautiful redhead!) He wrote back, with information about his own wedding, and he answered some questions about trombones I had asked, too. He also thought it neat that someone was still listening to the Collegians! Spiegle concluded the letter by inviting me to visit him.
I visited Spiegle and Cynthia the following summer, and I really enjoyed my time with them. We played trombone duets, and I asked him about his career. Spiegle help to solve two mysteries for me. One involved the picture of the Goldkette band, in which all of the band members are sitting on top of the bus, and bassist Steve Brown is holding a gun! Spiegle laughed when I asked him about this, and told me that earlier that day, both he and Brown went to a novelty shop and bought the "guns," which were cigarette lighters.
Another mystery involved record speeds. Spiegle asked me if I knew any of his soloes. I began to play his solo on "Hoosier Sweetheart." When I finished, he told me it was good, but it was wrong. Apparently, I had played it one half step too high! The first three notes of his solo are D, D, and A: to "get" these three notes on the original Victor record, it must be played at 77 rpm.
I enjoyed my subsequent phone conversations with Spiegle, and will miss talking with and spending time with him.
Through His Music, Bix Is Alive