Bix Biz (or “Young Girl With a Horn-Player’s Cousin”)

Well, this was a surprise! Chalk up another celebrity for the East Bay Watsons!

Three Watson brothers left Saratoga County, New York in the 1850s for the truly Wild West. They helped build Oakland – literally. Two were carpenters, and one was a crafty crony of the city’s first Mayor. But that’s old news around here.

For those keeping score, these guys are responsible for my connections to Joel McCrea and Frances Dee, their son Jody McCrea (and all the “Beach Party” movies, by extension), Jack and Charmian (Kittredge) London, and Sonja Henie.

The couple profiled in the post called “Sweets for the Sweet” had three daughters – the middle daughter was Donna Spaulding Watson.

Donna Watson

Like her sisters, she attended the University of California, and excelled there. When she was named Women’s Editor for the University’s “Daily Californian” in 1919, a local newspaper article proclaimed “Talented Oakland Co-Ed Captures Big U. C. Honor.”

She would follow her parents’ example by marrying a shirttail relative – a man named Miner Spaulding Keeler, Jr. Keeler was a teacher, the son of a prominent furniture maker in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Miner died in 1934, when their son William was just seven years old.

In 1941, Donna married Carl B. Stibolt in Maricopa County, Arizona (where she and Miner had moved). Carl was from Davenport, Iowa, and attended Cornell University for a time before returning to Davenport around the time the U.S. entered World War I. I don’t find him in Armed Services records, and I have no clue how he ended up in Arizona. But there he was – and there she was.

Donna and Carl remained married until Carl’s death in 1977. Donna died ten years later.

But now for the juicy celebrity stuff!  Carl’s middle name was Beiderbecke, for his mother, Ottile “Tillie” Beiderbecke.  Tillie’s nephew (Carl’s first cousin) was “Bix” Beiderbecke, a legend of the cornet, and a true sensation of 1920s jazz.


As cursed by alcohol as he was blessed by genius, Bix died at the age of 28 in a Queens, NY apartment. Allegedly, his life story was used as the framework for the novel and subsequent film “Young Man With A Horn” (though you couldn’t prove it by me).


It’s actually quite a good film – directed by Warner Bros. stalwart Michael Curtiz, starring Kirk Douglas (as “Rick Martin”), Lauren Bacall (as Amy North, High-Brow Socialite), Doris Day (as Jo Jordan, Plucky Band-Singer With A Heart of Gold), and the great Hoagy Carmichael – who was always terrific in his film roles.

It also boasts a classic soundtrack featuring Harry James – the 78 RPM album of which was a mainstay in my household when I was a kid.


So – good movie, great music. But nothing whatever to do with Bix Beiderbecke.

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