Charlie Shavers. Charles James Shavers (August 3, 1920 – July 8, 1971), known as Charlie Shavers, was an American swing era jazz trumpet player who played at one time or another with Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Johnny Dodds, Jimmy Noone, Sidney Bechet, Midge Williams and Billie Holiday. He was also an arranger and composer, and one of his compositions, “Undecided”, is a jazz standard.
Charlie Shavers’ father (a distant relative of Fats Navarro) was from the prominent Shavers family of Key West, Florida, and Charlie was a cousin of heavyweight boxer Earnie Shavers. Born in New York City, he originally took up the piano and banjo before switching to trumpet. In the mid-thirties, he performed with Tiny Bradshaw and Lucky Millinder. In 1936 he joined John Kirby’s Sextet as trumpet soloist and arranger (he was only 16 but gave his birthdate as 1917 in order to avoid child labor laws – many biographies still list this date).His arrangements and solos with this band contributed greatly towards making it one of the most commercially successful and widely imitated bands of its day. In 1937 he was performing with Midge Williams and her Jazz Jesters.
In 1944 he began playing sessions in Raymond Scott’s CBS staff orchestra. In 1945 he left John Kirby’s band to join Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra, with whom he toured and recorded, off and on, until 1953. During this time he continued to play sessions at CBS, played with the Metronome All-Stars, and made a number of recordings as trumpet soloist with Billie Holiday. From 1953 to 1954 he worked with Benny Goodman, and toured Europe with Norman Granz’s popular Jazz at the Philharmonic series, where he was always a crowd favorite. He went on to form his own band with Terry Gibbs and Louie Bellson.
Charlie Shavers died from throat cancer in New York in 1971 at the age of 50. His friend Louis Armstrong died while Shavers was on his deathbed, and his last request was that his trumpet mouthpiece be buried with Armstrong in his coffin.