Magnante’s father was a well-known amateur musician, and performed at Italian wedding receptions and other dance venues. Charles Magnante sang along with his father beginning at the age of five years, and at the age of seven, he secretly learned to play his father’s accordion. At the age of sixteen his reputation as an accordionist had grown so much he was receiving many offers to join tours with stage bands, which he declined due to his continuing musical studies.
Charles Magnante started his professional career playing in Italian restaurants and on the Staten Island Ferry. However, he wanted to break free from the O Sole Mio image of the stereotypical Italian-American accordionist which his audiences expected to hear. In the 1940s, he was the leader of a successful trio with guitarist Tony Mottola and organist George Wright, and played regularly on NBC radio broadcasts. He worked also as a sought-after studio musician. At the peak of his career, he played 30 live radio broadcasts and eight studio sessions each week. He performed also as a solo concert musician, and once performed a solo concert at the Civic Stadium of Buffalo, New York for an audience of 40,000.
Charles Magnante was one of the twelve founding members of the American Accordionists’ Association (founded in 1938), and also served as this organization’s president for three terms .