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 Fuller Up The Dead Musician Directory 
 
     Newell Spiegle Willcox 
     Spiegle Willcox 
      August 25, 1999 
      Age 96  
    
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OBITUARY 
        
       
 
 
 
     
   
                     Jazz Trombonist Spiegle Willcox Dies At 96 

                      
                     Trombonist Spiegle Willcox, one of the last jazz musicians  
                     whose career stretches back to the 1920s, died Wednesday  
                     (Aug. 25) of undisclosed causes.  Willcox, 96, had recently 
                     received a heart pacemaker.  

                     Over the course of his century-spanning 
                     career, Willcox took the bandstand in the 
                     company of some of the greatest names in 
                     jazz, including Bix Biederbecke, Tommy and 
                     Jimmy Dorsey, Eddie Lang and Joe Venuti, as 
                     well as leading his own Spiegle Willcox 
                     Orchestra in the 1930s.  

                     Willcox never ceased to be an active musician, 
                     and had plans to play a series of Dixieland 
                     concerts in this country and Europe just this 
                     year. In recent years, Willcox had augmented 
                     his brass playing with singing. In a 1998 
                     magazine interview, veteran bandleader Dick 
                     Ames said of Willcox's role in '20s jazz, "They 
                     had the hot men and the sweet men, the guys 
                     with good tone and reading skills. Spiegle was 
                     one of those guys. He was a sweet man."  

                     Newell "Spiegle" Willcox was born in the 
                     upstate New York town of Sherburne on May 
                     2, 1903, and had learned to play valve 
                     trombone by the time he was 10. He soon 
                     joined his father, Lynn Willcox, in a band in his 
                     hometown of Cortland, New York. While still a 
                     teenager, Willcox was playing with a 
                     Syracuse, New York group called The Big Four 
                     when they were spotted by bandleader Paul 
                     Whiteman. Whiteman joined the band, later 
                     renamed the Paul Whiteman Collegians, and 
                     brought the ensemble to New York and wider 
                     popularity.  

                     In 1925, after nearly three years with 
                     Whiteman -- where he played beside 
                     Biederbecke -- Willcox returned to Cortland, 
                     but was soon wooed away by an offer to join 
                     the Detroit-based Jean Goldette Orchestra. 
                     Willcox took the job (replacing trombonist 
                     Tommy Dorsey), and was soon followed by 
                     Biederbecke and saxophonist Frank Trumbauer. 

                     Willcox's recording career started with several 
                     1923 tracks with the Paul Whiteman 
                     Collegians. The first recorded Willcox solo can 
                     be heard on "Lonesome And Sorry," a 1926 
                     recording by the Jean Goldette Orchestra. 
                     Most recently, Willcox was the leader on the 
                     1994 Challenge Records album Jazz Keeps You 
                     Young, backed by the Menno Daams Sextet.  

                     Willcox spoke of his experiences with 
                     Biederbecke during the trumpet legend's final 
                     days in the 1981 documentary film Bix, and 
                     was interviewed just last year by noted 
                     documentarian Ken Burns for a new project 
                     about jazz.  

                     Willcox is survived by a daughter, Cynthia.  

                                              -- Drew Wheeler

    
Spiegle Willcox 

Newell "Spiegle" Willcox was born in Sherburne, NY on May 2nd, 1903.  His father  taught him the valve trombone.   After enrolling in the Manlius Military Academy in 1918, he changed to the slide trombone.  He quit the Manlius Academy in 1920 to begin his professional playing career, joining the Al Deisseroth Orchestra in Syracuse,  NY.  After a stint with Tige Jewett in 1922, he joined Bob Causer's Big Four later that year and stayed with this group when they became Paul Whiteman's Collegians in 1924.  

Spiegle worked with the Lakeside Park Band in Auburn, NY in 1925, and he then played briefly with in the California Ramblers before Joining Jean Goldkette in October of that year.  After a brief time with the Henry Thies Band, he rejoined Goldkette and stayed until June of 1927.  It was this band that also featured the great Bix Beiderbecke. Spiegle also played in bands with Joe Venuti, Russ Morgan, and Jimmy Dorsey in the ensuing years. 

After 1927, Spiegle went into the family business in upstate NY, but he also led his own successful band in the Syracuse area for many years.  

Twice in 1975, Spiegle appeared on stage at Carnegie Hall along with five other members of the original Goldkette Orchestra, once in a tribute to Bix, and the second time as an introduction to the Newport Jazz Society’s calendar of events.  Since then, he has taken part in many festivals and concerts throughout the US and Europe, including many appearances at the annual Sacramento Jazz Jubilee.  

In 1995, Spiegle won the Benny Carter Award of the American Federation of Jazz Societies. 

Spiegle lived for a long time in Cincinnatus, NY, where he was so well-known that he could be reached by writing simply to "Spiegle," plus the zip code. 

Spiegle died in Cortland, New York, August 25, 1999. ~Riverwalk

 
 
        
     NEWELL 'SPIEGLE' WILLCOX 
     The Independent (London) 

    It seems unlikely that there's anyone still alive who heard the legendary 
    Bix Beiderbecke in the flesh during the Twenties. Not only did trombonist 
    Spiegle Willcox do that, but also he actually played in the same band with 
    the cornettist. Beiderbecke and Willcox were together in the little remembered 
    but formidable Jean Goldkette orchestra of 1926 (Willcox had taken Tommy Dorsey's 
    chair). 

    'The records never sounded the way we did in person,' said Willcox. 'They're 
    just a shadow, just a hint. Bix? Well, you can't begin to imagine listening 
    to those records what his tone really sounded like. You had to be there. You 
    could never imagine it without hearing it for yourself.' 

    In those days black and white did not mix in jazz bands. The leading jazz 
    orchestra was the black one led by Fletcher Henderson (Ellington's band was 
    immature at the time) but the white band led by Goldkette, a Frenchman who 
    had trained as a concert pianist in Greece and Russia before emigrating to 
    the USA in 1911, was reputedly better. Certainly Goldkette's band outplayed 
    Henderson's when the two met at the famous Roseland Ballroom in New York for 
    a night billed as 'The Battle of The Bands' in 1926. Beiderbecke would have 
    scored many of the points. 

    When the Henderson band came to record 'My Pretty Girl' in 1931, Henderson's 
    trombonist Claude Jones made a note-for-note reproduction of the solo that 
    Willcox had played on Goldkette's record four years before. 
    Because of his friendship with Beiderbecke, for the rest of his long life 
    Willcox was booked into Beiderbecke festivals at the drop of a whiskey 
    glass. 

    'When Bix hit a note, it was like a girl saying "yes",' said guitarist Eddie 
    Condon, who has presumably been roistering with Bix in the alcoholics' 
    heaven for the past quarter century. Bix went there aged 28 in 1931. 

    Jazz fans become misty eyed at the thought of dear old Bix being taken from 
    us so young, and the imagination conjures up a wan face with tubercular 
    pallor. The truth was different. Bix chose to drink himself to death and to 
    have a loud and raving time doing it. In this he was like the other trumpet 
    virtuoso Bunny Berigan, but unlike Berigan he didn't have a parent to look 
    after him.  A worried management, fearing Berigan's drinking excessively 
    while on tour, hired his father to go with him to make sure that he didn't. 
    The two drank each other under the table each night. 

    Despite the boozing, Beiderbecke was one of the most forward-looking 
    musical thinkers of his time. 'He was always at the piano, fooling around 
    with modern stuff,' remembered Willcox. 

     As a young man growing up in New York State Willcox too was surrounded by 
    the excesses of the Jazz Age. But, having enrolled at Manlius Military 
    Academy in 1918 and stayed there for two years, he was made of sterner 
    stuff. He had originally been taught to play the valve trombone by his 
    father when the two played in the town band at Cortland, but changed to the 
    slide version while at the Academy. He left to join a band in Syracuse led 
    by Al Deisseroth and played in several long-forgotten groups before joining 
    Bob Causer's Big Four in 1922. He was with this group when, in 1924, they 
    were taken over by Paul Whiteman. Whiteman expanded the four into an 
    orchestra, renamed it the Paul Whiteman Collegians and under his baton it 
    became world famous. Willcox left before this happened and joined the 
    California Ramblers, a band that made more records than almost any other did 
    and remained firmly based in new York. Once again, Willcox took over from 
    trombonist Tommy Dorsey. 

    By the time Willcox joined Goldkette in October 1925 the Frenchman's band 
    had become almost as popular as Whiteman's and the two bands fought for the 
    top spot throughout the rest of the twenties - Whiteman always stayed ahead. 
    But Goldkette's band included top jazz stars that, apart from Beiderbecke, 
    included while Willcox was there, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, guitarist Eddie 
    Lang and violinist Joe Venuti. 'We got our hand from the musicians,' said 
    Willcox, 'but Whiteman got his from the crowds.' 

    Willcox eventually left Goldkette to go into the family business in June 
    1927. While working there he put together his own band to work for evenings 
    and weekends in Syracuse. This was very successful, but it and the business 
    kept him away from the limelight for many years until the Bix Beiderbecke 
    cottage industry grew up and he was called upon to play at reunions, 
    recitals and festivals. 

    His return to the limelight began when, already an old man, he played at 
    the Tribute to Bix Beiderbecke at Carnegie Hall in 1975, and after that he 
    continued throughout the rest of his life to play festivals in the USA and 
    Europe. His trombone solos were eloquent and unadorned, sticking largely to 
    the style used by Tommy Dorsey in his earlier years. 

    Earlier this summer Willcox played at a New Orleans Jazz festival in 
    Ascona, Switzerland. A friend of mine went to hear him and I asked how 
    Willcox had sounded. 'Like a very old man playing a trombone,' he answered. 

    It figures. 

    Steve Voce 

    Newell 'Spiegle' Willcox,  trombonist. Born Sherburne, New York, May 2, 
    1903: died Cortlandt, New York, August 25, 1999.

 
 
 
 
 
       
 

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BIOGRAPHY
 
 
All-Music Guide Review of Jazz Keeps You Young
 
Born: May 2, 1903
Died: August 25, 1999
 
                            Spiegel Willcox, who was 91 at the time of this 1994 recording, 
                            is probably the oldest trombonist ever on record. Despite the 
                            passing of over 60 years since his original decision to 
                            retire in 1927, Willcox (who returned to active playing in 1975) 
                            has a style that is essentially unchanged from the early 
                           days. By 1994, his technique may have slipped slightly, but he 
                           was still a pretty strong player with an appealing sound. For this 
                           exuberant date, Willcox was in Amsterdam and teamed with some 
                           excellent Dutch trad players: trumpeter Menno Daams, Robert 
                           Veen on tenor, alto and clarinet, pianist Joep Peeters, bassist 
                           Adric Braat and drummer Louis Deby with clarinetist Pim Gras 
                           guesting on "If I Had You." Although none of the sidemen display 
                           immediately recognizable sounds or innovative styles, they all 
                           prove to be excellent musicians who fit well into the 
                           Dixieland-flavored mainstream music. The leader has four 
                           good-natured vocals; his voice is raspy but listenable, although 
                           one really cannot buy his version of "Just a Gigolo." Meanwhile, 
                           Peeters scats effectively on "Somebody Stole My Gal." Highlights 
                           include "My Gal Sal," "That Old Green River," "When I Grow 
                           Too Old to Dream," "I Cried For You" and "Summertime," but all 
                           15 selections are enjoyable. Spiegel Willcox, who on the cover 
                           photo looks like he is in early sixties, is in remarkably fine form for 
                           his age. -- Scott Yanow, All-Music Guide
 
 
  
 
 

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