[Written for Allegro, the newspaper of Local 802 AFM]
Noted jazz guitarist Chuck Wayne has written three new instruction books for Don Sickler, whose Second Floor Music is in the process of publishing them under the general title, "The School of Chuck Wayne." The first, "Scales," is now being distributed by Hal Leonard. The second and third, "Chords" and "Arpeggios" will be available soon. Wayne hopes to complete the final book in the series, "Harmony," but his failing health is making the work difficult. Now 73, Chuck suffers from Parkinson's disease and emphysema.
Wayne, a member of Local 802 for nearly 50 years, is one of the New York jazz musicians who actually grew up here. Born in Brooklyn as Charles Jagelka, the son of a Czechoslovakian cabinetmaker, Chuck began playing the guitar in junior high school. His brother, an amateur guitarist, got him started. Chuck's early influences were Eddie Lang, Charlie Christian, and a guitarist with Charlie Barnet's band, Buss Etri, who died young, the victim of an auto accident.
Chuck was unhappy with the way he had been teased about his surname in school. He disliked the way all the schoolchildren with ethnic names became objects of derision. "I decided that no kids of mine were going to put up with that," he said. "I liked John Wayne, and I thought that was a nice neutral name. I changed it when I was about eighteen."
Chuck began to develop his own approach to jazz guitar when he first heard Coleman Hawkins playing "Body and Soul." Chuck wanted to create solo lines like those of Hawkins, and that prompted him to invent picking and fingering techniques that made his solos sound more like legato phrases blown through a wind instrument.
When he finished high school, Chuck supported himself by working as an elevator operator, but he soon found a jazz gig with Clarence Profit's trio, playing at George's Tavern in Greenwich Village, and later at the Two O'Clock Club on 52nd Street. That job didn't start until 3:30 a.m., so he was also able to take an earlier job with a pianist named Nat Jaffe, down the block at Kelly's Stables. He finished there at 3 a.m., just in time to get to his job with Profit. Chuck said, "Jaffe tried to play like Profit. He sounded so much like him that it was just like working with Clarence all night long."
After a two year interlude in the army, Chuck returned to 52nd Street, joining Joe Marsala's band at the Hickory House in 1944. Though Marsala was a Dixieland clarinetist, he was open to the modern rhythms and harmonies that his younger musicians were using, under the influence of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. "I can't play that stuff," he told them, "but you guys go ahead."
It was George Wallington, Marsala's pianist, who took Chuck to the Three Deuces to hear Parker one night. Chuck knew immediately that he wanted to play that way. He was one of the earliest guitarists to learn the bebop style. Chuck recorded with Dizzy Gillespie in 1945, on two sides that helped spread the bebop revolution, "Groovin' High" and "Blue 'n' Boogie."
When Marsala broke up his group in 1946, Wayne, with pianist Gene DiNovi and bassist Clyde Lombardi, went into the Blue Angel. But Chuck soon got a call to join the Woody Herman band, where he stayed for about eight months. Among other recordings with Woody, he was featured on Ralph Burns's "Summer Sequence." Chuck learned to read music on Woody's band, and immediately began writing tunes. He named one of them "Sonny," after Sonny Berman, Woody's trumpet soloist. When Miles Davis paid the band a visit, Berman played Chuck's tune for him. Miles evidently liked it. Some time later he made a recording of it, but he called it "Solar," and put himself down as the composer. Chuck wasn't happy about the lost royalties, but since there seemed to be nothing he could do about it, he took a philosophical view. "It's water under the bridge," he says.
When Woody broke up his 1946 Herd, Chuck got back together with Gene DiNovi and bassist Bob Carter for a gig at the Three Deuces on 52nd St. Later he replaced Remo Palmieri with the Phil Moore Four at Cafe Society Downtown. In 1948, he was back on 52nd Street with the Barbara Carroll trio at the Downbeat Club, and then at the Three Deuces with the Swedish clarinetist Stan Hasselgaard, with DiNovi and drummer Max Roach, playing opposite the George Shearing Trio.
At the suggestion of British jazz writer Leonard Feather, Shearing added Chuck to his new group. With Marjorie Hyams on vibraphone, Denzil Best on drums and John Levy on bass, the sound of the soon to be famous George Shearing Quintet was born. Chuck stayed with Shearing for about three years, acquiring international recognition through the Quintet's recordings and personal appearances. When he left the group, he worked around New York with trios of his own.
Chuck served as Tony Bennett's musical director from 1954 to 1957, writing arrangements, conducting, and accompanying. He left Bennett to write and play the music for the Broadway production of Tennessee Williams's "Orpheus Descending." He joined the music staff at CBS in late 1959, playing shows with Garry Moore, Carol Burnett, and Ed Sullivan. His last show there was with Merv Griffin in 1971, before Merv moved to California. During his CBS years, Chuck often played radio shows with the CBS Jazz Players, and he wrote the music for several TV documentary films.
Chuck and Joe Puma formed a guitar duo in the 1970s that attracted a lot of attention around the country for a couple of years. As a free lancer, Chuck often worked as a singer's accompanist. Dick Haymes, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Sarah Vaughan and Hildegarde are among his credits. In 1974 Chuck became the house guitarist at Gregory's, a small upper east side club, staying there until it closed in 1979.
Wayne's long career in jazz is documented on recordings with Shearing, Gillespie, Marsala, Herman, the Bill Harris Big Eight, Serge Chaloff, Lester Young, Joe Bushkin, Jack Teagarden, Coleman Hawkins, Clyde Hart, Barney Bigard, Slam Stewart, Teddy Napoleon, Billy Taylor, Sam Most, Terry Gibbs, George Wallington, Duke Jordan, Dick Katz, John Mehegan, Milt Jackson, Clifford Jordan, Zoot Sims and Frank Wess. Chuck also recorded six albums under his own name, and one with the Wayne-Puma duo.
Early in his career, Chuck became a teacher, and the music world is now populated with many guitarists who have studied with him. His teaching has not been exclusively to guitar players, however. Among others, tenor saxophonist Tom Butts studied harmony with him. Chuck's most recent recording was made with Butts, with Earl Sauls on bass and Frank Ferreri on drums. Chuck and his wife, Diane, who were married in 1973, now live in Jackson, New Jersey.
(Chuck Wayne died in New Jersey in July, 1997.]