[Dixielandjazz] Truck Parham

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet@earthlink.net
Sun, 23 Jun 2002 10:43:49 -0400

Here is the Truck Parham obituary from The New York Times today. Better
late than never.

Steve Barbone

June 23, 2002  by PETER KEEPNEWS

Truck Parham, 91, Jazz Bassist for 7 Decades, Dies

Truck Parham, a Chicago bassist who became known throughout the country
playing with some of the biggest names in jazz during seven decades and
crossing stylistic boundaries, died on June 5 in Chicago, where he
lived. He was 91.

Although he came of age in the early days of jazz and was usually
thought of as a traditionalist, Mr. Parham was at home in many different
contexts. In the 1950's he demonstrated his versatility by working with
the Dixieland cornetist Muggsy Spanier, the swing drummer Louis Bellson
and the bebop saxophonist Gigi Gryce.

Mr. Parham, whose original name was Charles Valdez Parham, was born in
Chicago on Jan. 25, 1911. He acquired his nickname in the early 1930's
while working with the Zack Whyte band in Cincinnati. Although he had
begun his career in 1928 as a tuba player, he joined the Whyte band as a
singer and doubled as a valet, helping the musicians carry their
instruments =97 hence the name Truck.

He also briefly pursued careers as a boxer and a football player in an
all-black league before deciding to concentrate on music.

The string bass was rapidly replacing the tuba in jazz bands in the
1930's, and Mr. Parham was one of the first tuba players to make the
transition. The Kansas City-based jazz bassist and bandleader Walter
Page, best known for his work with Count Basie, was living in Cincinnati
at the time, and he gave Mr. Parham bass lessons in exchange for his
services as a bodyguard.

In 1935 Mr. Parham moved back to Chicago, where he studied with Nate
Gangursky, a bassist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and worked
with groups led by the drummer Zutty Singleton, the pianist Art Tatum
and the trumpeter Roy Eldridge. His powerful and buoyant bass lines =97
and his ability to meet the harmonic challenge of accompanying virtuosos
like Tatum and Eldridge =97 made him a mainstay of the busy Chicago jazz

He became known across the country when the Chicago pianist Earl Hines
hired him in 1940. His records with the Hines band included "Jelly
Jelly," featuring a vocal by Billy Eckstine, which became a sizable hit.
After two years with Hines, Mr. Parham joined Jimmie Lunceford's big
band, with which he toured and recorded extensively until Lunceford's
death in 1947.

He then returned to Chicago, which remained his home for the rest of his
life. In 1957 he began an association, which lasted more than two
decades, with another local musician who specialized in traditional
jazz, the pianist Art Hodes. Mr. Parham remained active on the Chicago
jazz scene, occasionally making appearances at jazz festivals all over
the world, until health problems slowed him down a few years ago.

Mr. Parham's wife, Treopia, died in 1998. He is survived by two
daughters, Lynn Shelton and Rita Banks, and three granddaughters.