Charlie "Yardbird" Parker

Classical Academy | Performers | Jazz & Blues


"Yardbird", known to us now as the great jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, is one of those nicknames with a long and disputed history. Some believe that, too young to go into jazz clubs, he used to hang outside in the yard listening to the music from the bands inside. Another tale goes that Charlie's car, en route to a gig at the University in Nebraska, hit a chicken crossing the road and Charlie shouted at the driver, "Man, go back, you hit that yardbird". (Apparently he took got the lady who ran the boarding house they were stopping in to cook it up for dinner). 


Parker himself suggested that his cousin couldn't pronounce Charlie, opting instead for Yarlie which, in a personal game of Chinese whispers, transformed into Yarl, Yard, and finally Yardbird. The name fits, though, as his biographer notes he was a huge fan of eating chicken; fried, baked, boiled, stewed - Parker would have it any way it came.


Unlike his nickname, Parker's legacy as an icon for hipster subculture and the Beat generation is undisputed. From his dazzling virtuosic technique to his meditative Blues performances, Parker personified the concept of the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual. Enjoy this aptly named recording of his work - Bird in Time - that includes a series of interviews with the man himself.

Want to know more about jazz musicians? Click here to read more. You can find out about one of Charlie Parker's great contemporaries in our article on Satchmo or find out how the Chicago Blues influence the Rolling Stones.