Charles "Truck" Parham

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Charles "Truck" Parham played bass with some of the most renowned jazz and Dixieland musicians of the 20th century, including pianist Art Tatum and cornet player Muggsy Spanier, among others.…
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Charles "Truck" Parham played bass with some of the most renowned jazz and Dixieland musicians of the 20th century, including pianist Art Tatum and cornet player Muggsy Spanier, among others. Born and raised in Chicago, Parham sold newspapers from the town's famed Dreamland Café, where he first became familiar with jazz music (via cornet player King Oliver). Parham also grew friendly with some of the musicians who played at the venue, including Freddie Keppard and Louis Armstrong, both for whom the youngster did chores for. It wasn't long before Parham picked up an instrument himself, but it wasn't the bass first, it was the tuba. He switched to the bass soon thereafter, however, after a bandleader asked him to fill in for a bassist who failed to show up for a performance. Parham began picking up pointers from such bass legends as Walter Page from the Count Basie Band, as Page tutored Parham in exchange for his service as a bodyguard (Parham was an amateur boxer and a football player). It was also around this time that Parham was given his nickname, "Truck," due to the fact that he would often drive the band bus.

Parham played with local bands regularly and eventually throughout the Midwest by the 1930s, before returning to Chicago permanently, where he played alongside drummer Zutty Singleton (additionally, Parham played with trumpeter Roy Eldridge around this time, at the popular Three Deuces Club). Shortly thereafter, Parham became known as one of the area's most skilled bassists, as he continued to perfect his playing in pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines' big band as well as Jimmie Lunceford's Orchestra, the latter of which Parham played with for five years during the early to mid-'40s. During the '50s, Parham played as part of cornetist Muggsy Spanier's Dixieland Band, in addition to brief gigs with singer Pearl Bailey and drummer Louis Bellson, while the '60s saw the bassist play primarily with Dixieland/traditional jazz pianist Art Hodes. Parham continued to play throughout the latter part of his life, including an ongoing gig with Jim Beebe's Chicago Jazz and festival shows with longtime friend/saxophonist Franz Jackson's band. Parham passed away at the age of 91 on June 5, 2002, in his lifelong hometown of Chicago, due to respiratory ailments.