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Barnet, Charlie (actually, Charles Daly)

band formed played moved

Barnet, Charlie (actually, Charles Daly), jazz saxophonist, leader; b. N.Y., Oct. 26, 1913; d. San Diego, Calif., Sept. 4, 1991. He was born into a wealthy family and began playing piano at an early age, picking up the saxophone at 12. He studied at Blair Academy in N.Y., then attended high school in Winnetka, III. He went against his family’s wishes by refusing to become a lawyer. At 16, he led his own band on the S. S. Republic and subsequently led bands on the Cunard, Red Star, and Panama- Pacific liners; he played on many Atlantic crossings (visiting England in the early 1930s), and also performed on Mediterranean and South American cruises. After attending Rumsey Academy and playing in the school band, he left to work for almost a year with Frank Winegar’s Pennsylvanians, specializing on tenor sax. He played with Beasley Smith, then gigged his way across the country, performing with Flem Ferguson in Shreveport and Jack Purvis in Kilgore, Tex.

Barnet freelanced on the West Coast, then moved back to N.Y. where he formed his first big band for a three-month residency at Paramount Hotel Grill, N.Y. (spring 1933). During the following year, he led the band at the Park Central Hotel, N.Y., Glen Island Casino, Hotel Roosevelt, and in New Orleans. He formed a new band in spring 1935, disbanded it, then moved to Hollywood for a short- lived acting career, appearing in forgettable flops Love and Hisses and Sally, Irene, and Mary (both 1936).

Throughout his career, Barnet has done as much as anyone in breaking down racial barriers in music. From the mid–1930s, he employed many African-American musicians including Benny Carter, Garnett Clark, Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie, Peanuts Holland, Kansas Fields, Al Killian, Frankie Newton, Roger Ramirez, Paul Webster, Trummy Young, Clark Terry, Oscar Pettiford, and Lena Home. His was also the first white band to play N.Y.‘s Apollo Theater. He had nearly 30 big hits between 1936–46, including a version of Ray Noble’s “Cherokee,” and his own “Skyliner.” In fall 1939, Barnet moved to the West Coast; during a residency at the Palomar Ballroom, Los Angeles, the band lost all its instruments and orchestrations in a disastrous fire that October. He continued to lead this unit regularly until 1943, and during the following 10–year period Barnet formed several excellent big bands. In 1949, his group included such modernists as Buddy DeFranco and Dodo Marmarosa. During the 1950s and 1960s, he occasionally organized big bands for specific engagements; the last regular unit played residencies in Las Vegas and N.Y. (late 1966). In his last years, he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, though the immediate cause of death was pneumonia, according to his wife of 33 years, Betty.

Charlie Barnet’s film appearances as a musician include The Fabulous Dorseys (solo), Music in Manhattan (band), Freddie Steps Out, and Juke Box Jenny . Early in 1967, his specially formed band made a short feature film. A lifelong admirer of Duke Ellington’s music, he played chimes on a 1929 Ellington recording of “Ring Dem Bells/,” and also once subbed on alto for Otto Hardwick with Ellington (March 1943). He also used many Ellington charts in his own groups.

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