Charles W. Creath

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Born Charles Cyril Creath, this multi-instrumentalist was active on the historic music scene of America in the late 19th century, playing in circus bands, roving theater troupes, and musical comedy shows…
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Born Charles Cyril Creath, this multi-instrumentalist was active on the historic music scene of America in the late 19th century, playing in circus bands, roving theater troupes, and musical comedy shows before establishing a reputation as a jazzman. Even among performers who have active musical families, Creath can be said to have had double the trouble or pleasure, depending on one's point of view. Marge Creath might have preferred accompanying drummers to brothers, since she married Zutty Singleton and stayed his wife for 40 years. Then there was Pauline Creath, always available to pound out chords in music lessons as her brother struggled to learn alto saxophone, then trumpet.

When the prodigal son returned from his wanderings in 1918 he had a solid résumé in groups such as the Hagen Beck-Wallace Circus Band and Walker's Musical Comedy Show as well as efforts to lead his own bands in Seattle. In 1921, Creath took over a St. Louis group which had previously taken marching orders from the pianist Marcella Kyle. The experience seems to have revealed Creath's knack for bandleading, but unlike leaders who were content with one happening combo, he was an early exponent of the franchise concept and had several groups gigging in the St. Louis area under his name.

Near the end of 1926, he joined forces with Fate Marable on a riverboat job. A few years later, he seems to have been sidetracked by an illness, reviving his career in 1930 as both a saxophonist and accordion player. One of his best-known jobs was with Harvey Lankford's Synco High Hatters circa 1933; he also co-led a group with Marable during this period in a real twist of fate. After moving to Chicago later in that decade, Creath dabbled in the fine art of nightclub ownership. Later jobs had even less connection to music, such as his employment in the '40s as an aircraft inspector.