Updated: May 7, 2019
You may know the story of Charlie Parker and how he got his name Yardbird, or Bird, by his fondness for chicken at the lunch wagons behind the Reno Club in his hometown of Kansas City. The Reno Club had a speaker mounted above the doorway outside the club and young Charlie would listen from the street before sneaking upstairs to his seat above the stage.
And if you've seen the movie Whiplash - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2582802/videoplayer/vi4006456345?ref_=tt_ov_vi
You know how drummer Joe Jones threw a cymbal at him when Charlie didn’t cut it at a jam session.
But did you know that while out in Los Angeles at the height of his power, Charlie was staying at the Civic Hotel in Central L.A, and one day came down to the lobby to get change for the phone, wearing only his socks? Back up in his room, the mattress caught fire and spread, the fire and police departments were called and Charlie got sent off to Camarillo State Mental Hospital north of the city.
Here’s Relaxin’ at Camarillo -
Charlie Parker was the most beautiful musician of the Twentieth Century.
Why? Because he changed music. Jazz was no longer just dance music, or show tunes, or songs to sing along. People now came to LISTEN. And the music they heard! Charlie Parker could take a simple tune and turn it inside out with complex and beautiful melody lines. Koko is his adaptation of George and Ira Gershwin’s - I Got Rhythm.
Here’s Koko – listen to it burn -
And here’s Cherokee -
And lastly, the theme song of The Jazz Report with PK – Summertime -
Dizzie Gillespie was often credited for inventing BeBop, but its true dark prince was Charlie Parker.
The last year of his life was bad; nearly twenty years of dope; not well in New York City; his baby daughter died; Charlie drank iodine, yet survived.
But soon the bill for his addiction came due.
Charlie Parker died on March 12, 1955 in the living room of Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter at the Stanhope Hotel in New York City. Ulcer, heart attack, heroin, alcohol. It all killed him. He was not yet 35 years old.
For more Charlie Parker, listen to The Jazz Report with PK on Saturday Mornings from 10 - Noon.