Remembering Charles McCarty


Volume 115, No. 10October, 2015

Trumpeter Charles McCarty (right) died on Aug. 28 at the age of 95.

Trumpeter Charles McCarty (right) died on Aug. 28 at the age of 95.

Charles McCarty, 95, a trumpeter and a member of Local 802 for over 60 years, died on Aug. 28. Charlie grew up listening to his father sing the show tunes and pop songs of the day. Charlie sang them too. His father pointed out that the words were as important as the music, something Charlie never forgot. He probably knew the words to every song he played.

When Charlie was in high school, he got a job at CBS as an usher. He had a lot of free time, so he would find an empty room, and practice his trumpet. One day one of the staff musicians at CBS, a trumpet player, said, “Hey kid, you don’t sound bad. Who are you studying with?” When Charlie answered, “Nobody,” the musician wrote on a piece of paper, handed it to Charlie, and said, “Here, go buy this music, come back to me, and I’ll teach you.” Charlie did, and the rest is history.

When World War II started, Charlie enlisted in an Army band. After the war, somebody recommended him to a new band that was going into the Stork Club, the most famous nightclub in Manhattan. Charlie was the right man for the job. He knew all the songs, and he could sing every one of them. (He also sang every song in the original key, so pianists who had learned the songs in the original keys loved him because they didn’t have to transpose.)

After the Stork Club, he became one of the busiest club date players. For 30 years, Charlie was the first sub leader for Lester Lanin, which was probably the best job in the club date business. He played parties for British royalty and toured most of Europe, representing Lester Lanin. Audiences all loved him.

A few years after he retired, he started hosted a jam session once a week in his apartment, and we discovered he had a real feel for jazz. His rhythm was always impeccable.

We will miss you, Charlie.

– Bob Dietrich

Ten years ago, my uncle Charles hung up his trumpet at the age of 85 when he officially retired from the club date business. Then, as Bob wrote above, he began to host jam sessions on Sunday afternoons in his apartment on Fifth Avenue. His core group was made up of extremely talented musicians with whom he had worked over the years. Other players included visiting musicians from all over the world. This jam session was sometimes known as the Jazz Geezers – although many were young. And not only did the neighbors not complain, they came to listen!

Charles played for high society everywhere. He led the band and played at the wedding party of Prince Charles and Diana. He performed for the Aga Khan. And he played at the Swiss resort Gstaad for the European social elite. The one prestigious gig he reportedly turned down was playing for the wedding of Richard Nixon’s daughter.

People loved Charles because he was personable, gracious and thoughtful and could serve up great music even in the most trying of circumstances. He was known among his musicians as a bandleader who really cared about his musicians. Please add your story about Charles at

– Gail Bier