Phil Pospychala is the first Jazz Warrior we've covered so far who produces his own festival without the help of a jazz club, jazz society, or not-for-profit jazz organization.
"It's mine. I lose the money!" he proclaims proudly. He doesn't deal with grants, saying, "I can't receive any, because, although I am non-profit in reality, I'm not an official non-profit organization. This is my fest, and I have no reason to fiddle around with all that's required when one is officially non-profit."
Phil Pospychala (pronounced Pos-pa'-ha-lah) has answered to the name Phil "Pepsi-Cola," Phil "Pensacola," and Phil "Popsicola" -- it doesn't matter. He's having fun, no matter how you pronounce his name, and just as long as you come to his Tribute to Bix Fest, held every March in Racine, Wisconsin. (This year's festival is March 13-16.)
Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society vs. Tribute to Bix Fest: Although Pospychala has nothing to do with Davenport's annual festival, he and Rich Johnson of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society have always supported and attended each other's festivals.
"Rich Johnson always gave my fest nice plugs in the BBMS newsletter and in the Catfish Jazz Club newsletter," Pospychala says. Although the BBMS BixFest is held in Bix's hometown of Davenport, Iowa, where Bix's gravesite is located, Pospychala says, "We have his prep school in Lake Forest, Ill., and he spent plenty of time in Chicago."
Like other "Bixians," Pospychala fell in love with Beiderbecke's music as a teenager. He collects 78 RPMs, which prompt him to use the word OKeh in place of "Okay." (OKeh is the name of a record label from the 78 RPM era, and many of the greats recorded for it.)
As for the Tribute to Bix fest, Pospychala gets help from his sons, Chuck and Bart, and daughter, Nancy. The bulk of it falls to Pospychala, pretty much taking over his life, but he gets some additional help from a group of ladies called "The Schmooze Gals," who are ardent followers, friends and helpers. Pospychala also credits Joe Urbanik of the Illiana Club of Traditional Jazz for being a faithful attendee, so much so that the Schmooze Gals adopted Urbanik and his friend, Eric, and ordained them "Schmooze Guys".
Pospychala's daughter, Nancy, coordinates the Schmooze Gals' activities. Most of the gals have come through Nancy (daughter #2), except for an ex-girlfriend, also named Nancy, who coordinated and helped for at least 13 or 14 years. These ladies handle much of the festival administration, including sitting on the beer cooler to "prevent theft during one of Phil's Tribute to Bix bus tours to hell."
Pospychala jokes, "The Schmooze Gals used to think the fest started when they got dressed up for Saturday night and drank the joint dry."