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Charlie Barnet

Charlie Barnet (October 26, 1913 – September 4, 1991) was an American jazz saxophonist, composer, and bandleader.

Barnet began recording in October 1933, during an engagement at New York's Park Central Hotel, but was not a great success for most of the 1930s, regularly breaking up his band and changing its style. Early in 1935 he attempted to premiere swing music at New Orleans' Hotel Roosevelt, where Louisiana's colorful Governor Huey Long, disliking the new sound, had the band run out of town by luring them to a bordello, which was then raided. Barnet arranged with Joe Haymes to take several of his now-jobless sidemen, while he himself went on a lark in Havana, as an escort to well-to-do older women. 1936 saw another swinging Barnet edition, which featured the up-and-coming vocal quartet The Modernaires but quickly faded from the scene.

The height of Barnet's popularity—and his first truly permanent band—came between 1939 and 1941, a period that began with his hit version of "Cherokee", written by Ray Noble and arranged by Billy May. In 1944, Barnet had another big hit with "Skyliner". In 1947, he started to switch from swing music to bebop. During his swing period his band included Buddy DeFranco, Roy Eldridge, Neal Hefti, Lena Horne, Barney Kessel, Dodo Marmorosa, Oscar Pettiford, and Art House, while later versions of the band included Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severinsen, Jimmy Knepper and Clark Terry. Trumpeter Billy May was an arranger in the Charlie Barnet Orchestra before joining Glenn Miller in 1940.

He was one of the first bandleaders to integrate his band; the year is variously given as 1935 or 1937. He was an outspoken admirer of Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Ellington recorded the Charlie Barnet composition "In a Mizz". In 1939, Basie lent Barnet his charts after Barnets' had been destroyed in a fire at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. Throughout his career he was an opponent of syrupy arrangements. In the song "The Wrong Idea", he lampooned the "sweet" big band sound of the era. The song was written by Billy May, who later used the same satirical bent in his collaborations with Stan Freberg on Capitol Records including the Lawrence Welk satire "Wunnerful! Wunnerful!" Barnet's was a notorious party band where drinking and vandalism were not uncommon. While Glenn Miller enforced strict standards of dress and deportment, Barnet was more interested in having fun, according to his autobiography The Swinging Years.

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Listen to Charlie Barnet on Swing City Radio.  We are a Big Band Radio Station playing a wide selection of Big Band and Swing music.

Swing City Radio plays Charlie Barnet - Listen to our station and hear the songs:
The All Night Record Man
The Count's Idea
Leapin' at the Lincoln
The Right Idea
Harlem Speaks
Charleston Alley
Swing Street Strut
Cement Mixer
Pompton Turnpike
Blue Juice
Where Was I?
Cherokee
Redskin Rhumba
I Hear a Rhapsody
All This and Heaven Too
Make Believe Ballroom

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