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charlie parker

Charlie Parker

b. Charles ‘Charlie’ Parker Jr., 29th August 1920, Kansas City, Kansas, U.S.A.

d. 12th March 1955, Stanhope Hotel, New York City, New York, U.S.A.

Also known as ‘Bird’ and ‘Yardbird’.

Charlie and Miles

charlie parker with miles davis

Quote: By Miles Davis ‘You can tell the history of jazz in four words: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker’.


charlie parker timeline......

1920 - Born on the 29th August 1920, Kansas City, Kansas, U.S.A., and raised in Kansas City, Missouri.

1931 - Charlie began playing the saxophone.

Charlie Parker

1934 - He attended Lincoln High School, in Missouri, during September.

1935 - Left school and joined the local musicians' union. His future wife, Rebecca Ruffin, graduated from Lincoln High School that year.

1936 - He performed at the Reno Club in Kansas City. He proposed to his wife, Rebecca Ruffin and the two were married. He traveled (with a band from Kansas City) to the Ozarks for the opening of Clarence Musser's Tavern in Missouri. He was involved in a car accident which broke three ribs and fractured his spine. This later led to troubles with pain killers and opioids, (including heroin), a habit which would affect his future life.

1938 - He joined Jay McShann's Territory Band (whom he made his first recordings with). The band performed in the South West, along with Chicago and New York City.

1939 - He relocated to New York City, working in music and as a dishwasher at Jimmie's Chicken Shack. In New York he developed his new musical vocabulary


1940 - He returned to Kansas City to perform with Jay McShann. His father (Charles, Sr.) passed away and he attended his funeral. He performed in Fairyland Park in the summer with McShann's band at 75th and Prospect in front of all-white audiences. He was introduced to Dizzy Gillespie (by Step Buddy Anderson) near 19th and Vine. Following those gigs, he left with McShann's band. He earned his nickname (‘Bird’) from McShann folllowing an incident with a chicken and the tour bus.

1942 - He left McShann's band. He spent a year performing with Earl Hines and Dizzy Gillespie. He joined a group of young musicians, and performed in Harlem. The ensemble consisted of Dizzy Gillespie, pianist Thelonious Monk, guitarist Charlie Christian, and drummer Kenny Clarke. Formed as a reaction to swing becoming ’too white’, they became the early purveyors of the Jazz genre, ‘Be-Bop’.

1942 - 1944 - Realised a two-year Musicians' Union ban of all commercial recordings. As a result, bebop's early development was not captured for posterity. Bebop musicians found it difficult gaining widespread recognition.


1945 - The recording ban was lifted. Collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Bud Powell and others became influential. Recordings, from this era, were issued in 2005 (featuring a show in New York's Town Hall recorded on the 22nd June 1945.) He recorded for the Savoy imprint, recording as Charlie Parker's Reboppers. Performers were Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis on trumpet, Curley Russell on bass and Max Roach on drums. Featured tunes included ‘Ko-Ko’, ‘Billie's Bounce’ and ‘Now's the Time’. The group performed at Billy Berg's club in Los Angeles. The group returned to New York. Charlie remained in California, began using heroin, later being committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital for a six-month period. He was discharged from the hospital, and recorded ‘Relaxin' at Camarillo’ in reference to his stay in the mental hospital. He returned to New York and resumed his heroin usage. He continued to record for the Savoy and Dial imprints.


1949 - Norman Granz arranged for Charlie to record an album of ballads with a mixed group of jazz and chamber orchestra musicians. The album entitled ‘Charlie Parker with Strings’ featuring: ‘Just Friends’, ‘Everything Happens to Me’, ‘April in Paris’, ‘Summertime’, ‘I Didn't Know What Time It Was’, and ‘If I Should Lose You’.

Charlie Parker

1950 - He lived in New York City with his common-law wife, Chan Berg. They weren’t married. He did not divorce his previous wife, Doris, whom he had married in 1948. This complicated the settling of Parker's estate.

1952 - He and Dizzy Gillespie released an album entitled ‘Bird and Diz’.

1953 - He performed at Massey Hall in Toronto, with Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell and Max Roach. Charles Mingus recorded the concert, resulting in the album ‘Jazz at Massey Hall’.

1954 - His 3-year-old daughter Pree dies of illness. He attempted suicide twice, which landed him in a mental hospital again.

Charlie Parker Funeral

1955 - Died at the age of 34, on the 12th of March 1955, in the Stanhope Hotel in New York City, New York, U.S.A. He died in the suite of his friend and patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter. The cause was lobar pneumonia along with a bleeding ulcer. He was also suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, and had suffered a heart attack. The coroner said his body was that of a 50 or 60 year old. Dizzy Gillespie paid for the funeral arrangements. He organized a lying-in-state, a Harlem procession officiated by Congressman (and Reverend) Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. He was buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Missouri.


The Charlie Parker Story, Vol. 1 ([Stash] Stash Budget Records 1940)

Charlie Parker, Vol. 1 ([Savoy] Savoy Records 1944)

Savoy Recordings (Master Takes) (Savoy Records 1944)

Bird: The Savoy Recordings (Master Takes) (Savoy Records 1944)

Charlie Parker, Vol. 2 (Savoy Records 1945)

Bird, Diz, Bud, Max (Savoy Records 1945)

The Charlie Parker Story [Savoy Jazz] (Savoy Records 1945)

At the 1946 JATP Concert (Verve Records 1946)

Bird Set (Verve Records 1946)

Bird / Pres: '46 Concert [live] (Verve Records 1946)

Bird & Pres (Verve Records 1946)

Jazz at the Philharmonic, 1946 [Polygram] [live] (PolyGram Records 1946)

Diz 'N Bird at Carnegie Hall [live] (Blue Note Records 1947)

Charlie Parker [Verve] (Polygram Records 1947)

South of the Border: The Verve Latin-Jazz... (Verve Records 1948)

Bird on 52nd Street [live] (Original Jazz Records 1948)

Bird at the Roost: The Savoy Years, Vol. 1 (Savoy Records 1948)

Swedish Schnapps (Polygram Records 1949)

Jazz at the Philharmonic, 1949 [live] (Verve Records 1949)

The Genius of Charlie Parker, Vol. 2: April... (Verve Records 1949)

Charlie Parker with Strings: The Master Takes (Verve Records 1949)

The Genius of Charlie Parker, Vol. 3: Now's... (Verve Records 1949)

The Bird Blows the Blues (Dial Records 1949)

Charlie Parker Quintet (Dial Records 1949)

Charlie Parker & Stars of Modern Jazz at... (Jass Records 1949)

The Genius of Charlie Parker, Vol. 4: Bird... (Verve Records 1950)

Bird & Diz [Verve] (Verve Records 1950)

Bird and Diz (Verve Records 1950)

One Night at Birdland (Columbia Records 1950)

The Genius of Charlie Parker, Vol. 1: Night... (Verve Records 1950)

Bird with Strings [live] (Columbia Records 1950)

Charlie Parker Sextet (Dial Records 1950)

The Genius of Charlie Parker, Vol. 8:... (Verve Records 1951)

The Genius of Charlie Parker, Vol. 6: Fiesta (Verve Records 1951)

Summit Meeting at Birdland (Columbia Records 1951)

The Complete Legendary Rockland Palace... [live] (Jazz Classics Records 1952)

Boston (1952) [live] (Uptown Records 1952)

The Genius of Charlie Parker, Vol. 3: (Now's...   Records 1952)

Charlie Parker Plays South of the Border (Mercury Records 1953)

Yardbird: DC-53 (VGM Records 1953)

Quintet of the Year (Debut Records 1953)

The Jazz at Massey Hall (Original Jazz Records 1953)

The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever [live] (Prestige Records 1953)

Jazz at Massey Hall (Debut / OJC Records 1953)

Collectors' Items (Dial Records 1953)

Bird at the Hi-Hat [live] (Blue Note Records 1953)

One Night in Washington (Elektra Records 1953)

The Genius of Charlie Parker, Vol. 5: C.P.... (Verve Records 1954)

A Night at Carnegie Hall [live] (Birdland Records 1956)

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