Did the drugs sake Charles’ Jazz what it was or did the man have the built in ability to squeeze the perfect notes out of a saxophone making it do his will without hardly having to give it a thought. On August the 29th In the year of 1920 a baby was born to a family In Kansas City. Kansas. The child’s name was Charles Parker Jar. He was the newborn son of Adelaide (“Eddie”) Bailey Parker, who was African-American-Choctaw, and Charles Parker, Sir. , an African-American. His mother migrated to Kansas City from Oklahoma where she met Charles Parker Sir. Charles Sir. Ad been In Mississippi and Tennessee and had mom to Kansas to pursue a career as an entertainer. Charles Sir. And Eddie separated leaving Charles without a father figure. Charles Sir. Never realized his dream of becoming an entertainer and is reported to have been working on a train as a waiter or chef when he died. At the age of 15 Charles began to show a great interest In music. He Joined the school band where he was given an alto horn but soon switched to the baritone horn and soon developed a love for the alto saxophone. His mother had more idealized views of Charles’ academics then those that are given by the school and friends.
A Fellow Student, Lawrence Keyes was quoted as saying, “If he had been as conscientious about his school work as he was his music, he would have become a professor, but he was a terrible truant … He was doomed to be a perpetual freshman. ” ( CTD. In Charlie Parker, His Music and Life 4 “The result of this initial burst of curiosity was that Charlie began pestering his mother to buy him an instrument of his own. ” (Priestley 12)His mother purchased a used saxophone from the local pawn shop for forty-five dollars and had it overhauled. Charles soon lost interest in the horn and loaned it to a friend.
His friend had his saxophone for around two years before he decided to get It back. During this time Charles frequented Kansas Clues bars and clubs taking advantage of the Jazz scene and soaking in the artist’s styles and sounds “There are many references in available literature stating how Charlie would sit in with any band or group of musicians, wherever and whenever there was an opportunity. ” (birdlime’s. Co. UK). Most of the time he would have to hang around outside of the clubs because he couldn’t get In. Doing this exposed him to a vast array of professional musicians, some of which would exposed to marijuana, and pills.
He has been quoted when talking about his introduction to drugs saying ” It all came from being introduced too early to night life…. When you’re not mature enough to know what’s happening-?well, you goof. ” (CTD. In Charlie Parker, His Music and Life 7) He talked about his his introduction to heroin to a bassist by the name of William “Buddy’ Jones. He told him that at the age of fifteen he got high from heroin for the first time. Buddy retells the event, “Getting high for the first time at fifteen, Bird told me what he felt. He pulled out $1. , which was worth more in those days and he said, ‘Do you mean there’s something like this in the world? How much of it will this buy? ‘ ” (CTD. In Charlie Parker, His Music and Life 8) From the age of thirteen drugs play more and more of a role in Charles’ daily life. Charles began to play with a band called the Deans of Swing and did so for about a year and a half. During this time he became close friends with a man by the name of Robert Simpson. Simpson was an older gentleman not unlike most of the people Charles liked to be around. Lawrence Keyes claims that Charles worshiped Simpson, and was with more often then not.
Shortly after the Deans broke up at the age of twenty-one Simpson died, and Keyes claims that Charles was a complete wreck afterwards. This event helped to spiral Charles farther down the path of his drug addiction. Charles married Rebecca Ruffian on July the 25 of 1936, a girl whom he met in 1934 when she, her mother and her siblings boarded a room from Charles’ mother. When Rebecca was three months pregnant with Charlie’s first child he called her into their room and asker her to sit down. Rebecca had no idea what Charlie was doing until she saw his reflection in the mirror injecting himself in the arm.
He convinced her that he had to take heroin to alleviate the pain from a wreck he had recently been involved in that broke three ribs, and fractured his spine. She never seemed to learn the truth about his history with heroin or chose to ignore it and believe what he had told her. 1936 was a transitional year for Charles, his technique developed and so did his love for drugs. The wreck that had injured Charles so badly had happened on his way to the Ozark Mountains where he was to play a Thanksgiving Job. Charles continued afterward taking Jobs in the Ozarks. He often played with a saxophonist named Tommy Douglass.
Douglass helped Charles develop some techniques such as “passing cords” and the woodwind technique. Trumpeter Clarence Davis later used his armature disk recorder to make the first recordings of Charles. Charles was away from Kansas City for an extended amount of time during this summer and when he returned he was the most popular player there. In 1937 Charles met a man by the name of Jay McMahon, who was a pianist. These two artist would soon find themselves working together. McMahon was was the pianist of a band formed by Henry “Buster” Smith, a 12 piece or sometimes smaller ensemble.
Buster invited Charles to Join. Charles had a fairly close relationship with the older McMahon “He used to call me his dad, and I called him my boy. ” (CTD. In Charlie Parker, His Music and Life 12). Buster helped Charles Jar with his improvisation and his sound. Buster was quoted saying that Charles was an apt pupil. He would have breakthroughs in his music but not be able to follow up on them, and they would be lost. He had an affair on Rebecca and then later held a gun to her head trying to get back some letters between himself and his mistress.
He had to leave the band he had been playing with because of his drug habit, and then he had run in with the law. One night he kept a taxi for several hours running up a bill for $10 that he could not pay. When the taxi driver decided he was going to take Charles’ horn for payment he was stabbed. Charles went to Jail. From this point Charles went to New York for some period of time. Doing so he stopped in a club while passing through Chicago called the 65 Club where he met singer Billy Stickiness. Stickiness would later become the leader of Charles’ big band.
Charles finally made it to New York and found his way to Busters place where against his wife will he allowed Charles to stay with him at his apartment. Buster reported that he did not know how Charles got there but he sure was in sad shape. While living With Buster, Charles had to resort to working odd Jobs, cleaning bars and washing dishes until he met pianist Art Datum. It’s believed that Datum had an influence on Charles even though Charles never mentions him as one because after this time of his life he began to use some of Tatum’s techniques. The technique they shared was known as “side-slipping” or “playing out of key. Between late 1937 and 1939 Charles played at many clubs and dance halls form The Parisian, to Clark Monomer’s Uptown House. Charles Played in many Harlem sightless soaking in many different pop songs, sounds and styles. In 1937 Charles had his next big break through. While playing one night with a guitarist named Biddy Fleet he figured out how to play the sounds he had often said that he could hear but couldn’t play, ” He found that by using higher intervals of a cord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related [chord] changes, he could play this thing he’d been “hearing. (Woodcock 17). This along with Charles’ Ozark mountain breakthrough propelled him through the next five years of his life but little is known of his activities throughout the rest of 1939. Biddy Fleet claimed that Charles would disappear for weeks at a time probably due to his drug habit. Charles returned to Kansas in 1940 with valuable experience and soon reestablished a connection with McMahon and Joined his band. It was with this band he made his first commercial recordings. McMahon had taken Charles into the band thinking that he was off heroin which he soon found out was not the truth.
Despite the fact that Charles was still a Junkie he and the band soon became a family. This was the first time Charles felt accepted by his peers. Some say that the band spoiled Charles by over looking his habit and unreliability. When Charles heroin habit would begin to show itself to badly McMahon would make him take a few days off. Gene Ramey said that the band was motivated by Charles when his drug addiction was under control, he was quoted saying,” The Jay McMahon Band … was the only band I’ve ever Know that seemed to spend all it’s spare time Jamming or rehearsing … El this was inspired by Bird, because the new ideas he was bringing to the band made everybody anxious to play. ” (CTD. In Charlie Parker, His Music and Life 19) It was during times like this that Charles Addiction seemed to subside and the music took ore control over his life. Likes of Dizzy Gillespie and helped in the beginning development of Bebop. Dizzy formed a combo with bassist Oscar Petrified and began to play steady gigs at the Onyx Club. Dizzy had sent Charles a telegram and invited him to Join but it would seem that he did not receive it and missed out on the first steady gig for a bebop band.
Soon after that he moved along to form the first Bebop Big Band. It was during this time that Sarah Vaughan began to notice that Charlie had taken an interest in classical music. She said he would listen to something on the bus and then get on tag and play it, his way. Charlie soon left the Big Band because he felt that it lacked individual freedom. Charlie now without a full time band went back to playing whatever gigs he could get, however he continued to play with Dizzy whenever he had the opportunity.
In 1945 Dizzy formed a quintet to work several nightclubs on fifty-second street in New York. The band members often changed but the front line was always Dizzy and Charles. Dizzy being the more stable of the two was normally the first name on the bill. This sometimes made Charles Jealous of Tizzy’s popularity and it’s unclear if he new that it was because of his drug addiction and inability to handle himself in a professional business like manner. In the fall Dizzy dissolved his big ban and received and offer to play in Billy Berg’s Nightclub in Los Angels.
Even though Dizzy knew about Charles’ habit and it related reliability issues he took Charles as his partner once more. This began one of the most tragic times in Charles’ life. Dizzy was contracted to take 5 men to California to play an eight week engagement. Because of Charles’ issues he took a stand in for the inevitable times that Charles would be missing in action or passed out somewhere unable to play. Dizzy did not want the management on his back because of Charles. Charles was even more unpredictable in California due to fact that it was harder to get his hands on his heroin there.
This is when the infamous photo of Charles was taken where he looked so strung out that he couldn’t hold his head up and the guys standing next to him where holding him upright. When the eight week engagement was over and it was tie to fly back to New York Charles could not be found. Charles ended up cashing in his plane ticket and staying n California due to his addiction. While on his layover of sorts in California Charles got to play with Miles Davis at he Finale Club. When Charles heroin dealer was arrested in Los Angels he spiraled out of control. He began to drink heavily to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms he was having.
Charles became missing until Howard McGee found him. He was living in a garage that had been converted to a room but was lacking heat, at which time McGee took Charles in. From this time on Charles had nothing but problems. Deteriorating health due to alcohol and drug abuse began to make him have more then reliability problems. In a recording session with dial records, Charles begin to shake, he was barely able to blow his horn, and had muscular spasms. Not long after he made it back to his hotel by taxi he was picked up by the police and taken too hospital because he was walking around nude.
There were also several reported accidents where he had set hotel rooms on fire. Charles was assigned six months at a state hospital by the Judge that heard his case. In 1946 Ross Russell got Charles out by having him transferred to 1949 Charles had become angry with Russell. He claimed that Russell refused to get him released until he agreed to renew his recording contract. He was also upset that Russell released the recordings from the day he had his spasms, and lost his mind. Parker even said at some point that the recordings of that day were his worst recordings of all time.
After Charles had been released he played at the Hi-De-Ho Club in a band that was extensively recorded. During this time Just after his release he sounded as if he was back to his best. Charles also recorded two more releases for the Dial label before returning to New York where he stayed until his death. When Charles returned to New York he was taken in and cared for by two women that were important in his life, Doris Sydney and Chant Richardson. He married Doris in 1948. Charles was now a well known recording artist. He was also sought after as a band leader.
Charles health was now the best it had been since his teenage years. Although he appeared to be stable he was still dealing with feelings of chaos in his life Charles soon returned to his heroin and drinking. Back on his drugs of choice Charles got together a quintet, his main unit from 1947 to 1950. The quintet rarely changed members and had great continuity. A really nice quote from Charles about music “”Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art. ” (whom. Chem.. . Com) The quintet did some recording for the Savoy label which became its documentation. The quintet is considered to be Charles best work, and recordings of them continued to turn up even after his death. Charles managed to keep a strong stage presence even with his Heroin habit for the most part but from time to time it began to show. In 1948 Charles was so high and drunk that he relived himself in a public telephone booth in a club the quintet was playing at resulting in he band not getting paved for the gig. In 1949 Charles was performing a live broadcast in which he was to do a solo from Tizzy’s “Grooving’ High”.
Charles wasn’t able to play the notes due to his diminished physical and mental state. Kenny Dirham had to carry the group after Charles failed on the solo and then continues to miss notes and drop in and out of the performance. In 1950 Charles and Doris divorced. Doris was Charles third wife and couldn’t take the stress of Charles drug addiction any longer. Charles then moved in with Chant Richardson, the two never married but she did take his name. Charles considered Chant’s daughter his own and they had two children of their own together. This year also brought about the breakup of the quintet.
Charles was booked to play a gig in Denmark and tried to get off heroin long enough to make it. Once again as in the past he used large amounts of alcohol to deal with the lack of heroin in his system. Even with the alcohol intake the recording that were made in Denmark got him invited to France to play with Roy Eliding in the Salon Du Jazz. Charles did not fulfill his obligations there due to his partying. Also as a result of all the drinking Charles had one he returned with a stomach ulcer. Charles’ daughter Pre was born with a heart defect which required expensive medical treatment.
This is something that his addiction to heroin and alcohol had biggest blows to Charles and Doris’ life together. Hearing the news while out of town on a gig Charlie’s reported first response was to get drunk, and then he gave away his heroin. This was also the year that Charles last commercial recording was made. Charles last important gig was to be part of an all-star band appearing at Birdman. The first night went well while the second night was ridden with problems. Charles and Pianist Bud Powel Clashed and couldn’t work together that night. Charles Began to drink, became drunk and was asked to leave by management.
Little did the band know or realize that the next day was the one year anniversary of Prep’s death and it was weighing heavily on Charles’ mind. On March 9, 1955 Charles met his death. There are three versions of what happened at the end but the most likely one involves throwing up blood from his ulcers Just before passing away. The actual facts about how he died isn’t really relative t this paper. This paper was to hopefully show that because of Charles Parker Jar. ‘s drug addiction his life was cut short and his musical abilities were not enhanced or caused by the drugs that he used.
Charles himself said “Any musician who says he is playing better either on tea, the needle or when he is Juiced is a plain, straight liar. ” (CTD. Bird: The Legend of Charlie Parker 57) . Events in this paper show that his sound was best when he was somewhat clean, somewhat because once he started on drugs I don’t believe he was ever without something in his system. If it had not been for his short 35 year old life and his drug abuse there is no telling how far Charles loud have taken his talent and in what directions Jazz might have gone.