Finding Bix: The Life and Afterlife of a Jazz Legend

Bix Beiderbecke was one of the first great legends of jazz. Among the most innovative cornet soloists of the 1920s and the first important white player, he invented the jazz ballad and pointed the way to “cool” jazz. But his recording career lasted just six years; he drank himself to death in 1931—at the age of twenty-eight. It was this meteoric rise and fall, combined with the searing originality of his playing and the mystery of his character—who was Bix? not even his friends or family seemed to know—that inspired subsequent generations to imitate him, worship him, and write about him. It also provoked Brendan Wolfe’s Finding Bix a personal and often surprising attempt to connect music, history, and legend.







“This book has the potential to spread Bix’s reputation and share his work with a wider audience. Similar to Peter Guralnick’s Searching for Robert Johnson, Brendan Wolfe’s book delves beyond the bio and music and into the often conflicting details of Bix’s personal life, an approach that sheds light on the facts of the subject’s life and the fleeting nature of truth.” – Preston Lauterbach, author, The Chitlin’ Circuit and Beale Street Dynasty

“Funny, passionate, and touching—sometimes in the same sentence. While the book is about Bix, it’s also not really about Bix; the ideas it contains—identity, fame, originality, addiction, obsession, truth—are universal. The structure mimics a jazz song, specifically Bix’s music. Wolfe blends boundaries à la Leslie Jamison or John D’Agata, but retains the musical element as Amanda Petrusich would.” – Jay Varner, author, Nothing Left to Burn

"Although Wolfe ultimately judges his search a failure—near the end of the book he writes of his 'chronic inability to find Bix'—the journey itself is well worth reading about." – New York Times

"Breezy, engaging, and entertaining ... fascinating." – Library Journal

"49 discursive but elegantly written chapters ... [Finding Bix] rolls along with a stimulating intellectual verve and attitude." – Down Beat

 "[Wolfe] is at heart an essayist, and his writing tends to ruminate on a question or, in the case of Beiderbecke, many questions." – C-ville Weekly

“'Finding Bix' is a compelling read because it’s about more than Bix: it’s about the myths we construct about artists and what it means to confront them. When we start to get a glimpse of who Bix may have actually been, Wolfe pulls back the curtain and reveals his own vulnerability as he too takes a hard look at this oft-idealized musician." – The Cedar Rapids Gazette