One of these times occurred when the Goldkette orchestra was on its way to play an engagement at Notre Dame.
About forty miles this side of our destination the train stopped at a small town. I happened to be looking out the window and I was almost certain I saw Bix standing on the platform as the train pulled out. A quick check of the boys confirmed my doubt. Bix was not on the train.
At the next stop I got off and hired a taxi to drive me back to the little town that was now twenty-five miles away.
I stormed and fretted every inch of the way. What was he up to? Was he off on a binge or ditching the band for good, or just plain mute? When the taxi rolled up to the station, Bix was sitting on the platform, his hands folded over his cornet case.
I was so mad I decided to say nothing until I had a chance to cool off. I got him into the taxi and on the way back I felt calm enough to talk.
Look, Bix, I said gently, Im not mad. Im just curious, thats all. Why the hell did you get off the train back there?"
He shot me a look of pure wonderment. A lot of people got off there, Russ."
There was no answer to that one. After a little he took his horn out of the case and began to play. He played for twenty minutes straight, when he quit I was speechless.
It was his turn to be surprised.
Whats wrong, he asked, why are you staring at me?