Charles Henry Christian was a bebop jazz guitarist and an American swing guitarist born on July 29, 1916 in Bonham, Texas.

His family moved from Bonham, Texas to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma when Charlie was a small child. Charlie Christian was the youngest in the family and had two brothers; Clarence and Edward, both of his parents were musicians. His father Clarence Henry taught music to all the three children’s. Charlie’s father Clarence Henry was struck by a illness and lost both of his eyes, he and his brothers were asked to work as ‘buskers’, giving live performances in public places in order to support the family. His father died when he was 12 and Charlie took over his father’s instruments and learnt guitar.

Charlie Christian
Charlie Christian

Charlie Christian joined the ‘Douglass School’ in Oklahoma City, where he met music instructor Zelia Breaux, who encouraged him to learn music. Charlie Christian started learning jazz guitar from Ralph Hamilton of the band ‘Bigfoot’. He was taught to play solo on three songs, ‘Tea for Two’, Rose Room’ and ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ by the band members. Charlie Christian played all the three solos in a jam session in Deep Deuce, Northeast Second Street in Oklahoma City and the whole city was in uproar.

Charlie Christian learnt playing electric guitar by 1936 and met many big performers like Art Tatum and Teddy Wilson who traveled through Oklahoma City. Charlie was auditioned by record producer John Hammond who recommended him to bandleader Benny Goodman. Initially Goodman was not interested in hiring Charlie to his band but after seeing his performance he hired him. Charlie stayed for two years (1939 to 1941) with Benny Goodman Sextet.

Charlie Christian was elected to the Metronome All Stars magazine during the jazz and swing guitar polls in February 1940. He was inducted into the ‘Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame’ of the magazine ‘Down Beat’ in 1966.

Charlie Christian was also inducted into ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ in 1990.

Charlie Christian was contracted by tuberculosis in the late 1930s and died on March 2, 1942.

Some of his albums include:

  • ‘I Got Rhythm’ - 1939
  • ‘Rose Room’ - 1939
  • ‘Haven’t Named It Yet’ - 1939
  • ‘Flying Home’ - 1939
  • ‘Seven Come Eleven' - 1939
  • ‘Dinah’ - 1939
  • ‘Till Tom Special’ - 1940
  • ‘Grand Slam’ - 1940
  • ‘Six Appeal’ - 1940
  • ‘Good Enough to Keep’ - 1940
  • ‘Stardust’ - 1940
  • ‘I Never Knew’ - 1940
  • ‘Wholly Cats’ - 1940
  • ‘Royal Garden Blues’ - 1940
  • ‘Breakfast Feud’ - 1941
  • ‘On the Alamo’ - 1941
  • ‘I Found A New Baby’ - 1941
  • ‘A Smo-o-oth One’ - 1941
  • ‘Airmail Special’ - 1941