[Dixielandjazz] Truck Parham - RIP at 91
Tue, 11 Jun 2002 14:41:16 -0700
CHARLES V. `TRUCK' PARHAM, 91
Influential jazz bass player known for `Chicago style'
By James Janega Tribune staff reporter
June 11, 2002
Charles V. "Truck" Parham, 91, who along with the late Chicago jazz bass
legend Milt Hinton was regarded as one of the most influential bass players
on the Chicago jazz scene, died Wednesday, June 5, in Michael Reese
Hospital of respiratory illness and complications from kidney disease.
Mr. Parham's sound fit into what was regarded as the "Chicago style" of
bass playing, a distinctive but wide-ranging style at once dark-toned and
But while Hinton was acclaimed for performing with Cab Calloway and working
widely in New York recording sessions, Mr. Parham remained for the most
part in Chicago, in a career noted for his collaborations with trumpeter
Roy Eldridge and pianist Earl Hines.
Growing up in "the Flats," a South Side neighborhood known for its music in
the 1920s, Mr. Parham sold newspapers across the street from the Dreamland
Cafe, a club headlined by such musicians as King Oliver and Darnell Howard.
Within a few years, he was doing Saturday chores for Louis Armstrong as a
way to listen to Armstrong play duets with his piano-playing wife, Mr.
Parham told the Tribune in 1985.
He lived upstairs from Freddie Keppard, a New Orleans musician known both
for his trumpet playing and late-night Saturday night parties that were
part after-hours jam session, part beer bash. Mr. Parham's job, he said,
was supplying the beer.
"Keppard would hit on the radiator with his mouthpiece. This was the signal
for me to come downstairs, get the beer buckets, go down in the saloon for
the beer," Mr. Parham told the Tribune years later. "So I'd go down, get
the beer, drink some foam off it, then come up the stairs. He'd say, `Boy!
What you doin' drinkin' that beer?' `I didn't have any.' `I see that foam
all over your mouth.' I was there settin' up all night waitin' for the cats
to hit on that thing."
Mr. Parham began his professional career after graduating from Hyde Park
High School in 1928, when he played tuba in a band led by Albert Ammons. He
later switched to bass--some accounts have it at the advice of Sy
Oliver--and sang with a band on a Cincinnati radio station from 1932 to
1934. Around the same time, he also tried his hand at playing football with
the Chicago Negro All-Stars, and he stepped briefly into the ring as an
It wasn't until Mr. Parham moved back to Chicago in the mid-1930s that he
began working with jazz groups that would later become famous, including
one led by Zutty Singleton and later fronted by Eldridge.
>From 1936 to 1938, Mr. Parham collaborated with Eldridge and pianist Art
Tatum at the Three Deuces club in Chicago. He became an important name by
1942, when he started regular associations with Hines and bandleader Jimmy
In the early and mid-1950s, he played with swing band frontman Muggsy
Spanier, followed by a stretch in drummer Louis Bellson's quartet and
numerous other collaborations.
A regular performer at jazz festivals around the country, he was somewhat
of a headline act himself by the mid-1980s, and toured Europe with a group
of other jazz all-stars as recently as 1998. His family said he kept
playing until he couldn't lift his bass anymore.
"That was his thing, just being with his buddies, playing for people who
enjoyed what they were playing. He seemed to love it all," said his
daughter Lynn Shelton.
In 1937, Mr. Parham married Treopia Wilkes, whom he had met when both were
teens. His wife died in 1998, his daughter Nona Briggs in 1989. Besides
Shelton, Mr. Parham is also survived by another daughter, Rita Parham
Banks; and three granddaughters.
A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Cage Memorial
Chapel, 7651 S. Jeffrey Blvd., with visitation an hour before the service.
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