An online petition drive is underway to get the U.S. Postal Service to issue a postage stamp honoring jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke. Confetta Ann Ras, a jazz fan and blogger from San Francisco, started a petition in October on Change.org, asking the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to recommend a commemorative stamp for Bix (1903-1931), whom the petition calls “one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s.” The stated petition goal is 1,000 signatures.
“It’s 50 years overdue,” Ms. Ras, said. “It’s kind of rare a white musician has been such an influence in jazz music. The unusual thing about it, during times when Blacks had to use different facilities, jazz music and Bix’s playing broke all that down.” For the past eight years, Ms. Ras has done a daily blog, On This Day in Jazz Age Music (jazzagemusic.blogspot.com), which notes key facts in jazz history.
In 1994, former U.S. Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa wrote to the Postmaster General in support of a stamp honoring Bix. The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Society strongly promoted “A Stamp for Bix in ’96” at its 1995 festival. (A first-class postage stamp then cost 32 cents.) A total of 1,792 signatures were collected and sent to the Stamp Advisory Committee, but nothing happened.
In 1999, Albert Haim, a noted Bixophile, co-authored another letter to the committee proposing a stamp be issued on March 10, 2003, the 100th anniversary of Bix’s birth, but that too was unsuccessful. Mr. Haim wrote: “The contributions of Bix Beiderbecke—cornetist, pianist, composer—to American music are unparalleled. Bix introduced a new style and influenced the development of jazz beginning in 1924 and continuing to the present.”
On a recent online posting, Josh Duffee, music director for the annual Quad Cities festival, wrote that Bix “deserves to be recognized on (a) stamp for what he contributed to jazz during the 1920s.” Chris Beiderbecke of Moline added: “Bix continues to be revered and admired worldwide. As a young man from a small Midwestern town, he achieved remarkable renown in a very brief life.”
The Postal Service’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee—12 to 15 people appointed by the Postmaster General—considers some 50,000 requests a year, most of which come from the public, according to the American Philatelic Society. The committee then recommends approximately 35 new subjects for commemorative stamps each year to the Postmaster General, who makes the final decision.
Stamps already have been issued commemorating jazz greats Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, but not Beiderbecke, despite previous efforts. To support the petition, write to: Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300 Washington, DC 20260-3501.