Shavers, Charlie (actually, Charles James)

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Shavers, Charlie (actually, Charles James)

Shavers, Charlie (actually, Charles James), bravura jazz trumpeter, arranger, singer, composer; b. N.Y, Aug. 3, 1917; d. there, Aug. 8, 1971. The son of a trumpet player, Shavers was a distant relative of trumpeter Fats Navarro. He began playing piano and banjo, then switched to trumpet. He played occasionally with pianist Willie Gant in N.Y. He also played with Tiny Bradshaw (1936) and Lucky Millinder (early 1937). In November 1937, Shavers joined John Kirby at the Onyx Club (replacing Frankie Newton). He soon became the sextet’s principal arranger and, while with the group, composed such hits as “Pastel Blue,” which became “Why Begin Again” with words, and “Undecided,” a hit (with words by Sid Robin) for Ella Fitzgerald and the Ames Brothers. He finally left John Kirby in 1944, doubling with Raymond Scott at CBS during his last year. In February 1945 Shavers first joined Tommy Dorsey; for the next 11 years he left and rejoined the band many times. During the mid-1940s and 1950s, he occasionally reunited with Kirby for performances and recordings. He also made several tours with Norman Granz’s ]azz at the Philharmonic, including trips to Europe. Shavers also worked with Benny Goodman for several months beginning in July 1954. He made a notable appearance on the Art Ford TV show in 1958 as director of a jam session featuring Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young.

During the 1960s, Shavers regularly led his own quartet in N.Y. clubs. He worked for years with a Dorsey ghost band fronted by Sam Donahue and visited Europe with this unit in 1964. Beginning in 1965, the ghost band became the Frank Sinatra Jr. touring show. Featured as a vocalist and player, Shavers went on tours to Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Canada, and South America. He also did a wide variety of recorded work. In late 1969 and again during 1970, Shavers toured Europe (including Britain) as a soloist. He continued to perform in N.Y. until a few months before his death from throat cancer.


Like Charlie (1960); Excitement Unlimited (1963); Live (1970).

—John Chilton , Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter