Barnet, Charlie

Alternative names
Birth 1913-10-26
Death 1991-09-04

Biographical notes:

Charlie Barnet (b. Oct. 26, 1913, in New York City; d. Sept. 4, 1991, in San Diego, Calif.) was an American bandleader, jazz saxophonist, composer, and arranger.

From the description of Charlie Barnet collection of big band arrangements, 1939-1949. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 692587533

Biographical Note

Charles Daly Barnet was born in New York City on October 26, 1913. His parents divorced when he was two, and he was raised in a well-to-do household with his mother and her parents. Barnet’s grandfather, Charles Frederick Daly, was a vice-president for the New York Central Railroad. He attended boarding schools in both New York and Chicago, learned to play the piano as a child, and at the age of eight or nine was given his first saxophone, which quickly became his instrument of choice. In 1929, he was able to put together a small band of musicians for an Atlantic crossing aboard the S.S. Republic, thus becoming a working musician and bandleader as a teenager.

Charlie Barnet formed his first orchestra in 1933, disbanded it in 1937, and formed another band in 1938. Over the years, the size, make-up, and the names of Barnet’s bands changed with some regularity. Names of his groups include: Charlie Barnet All-Stars, The Charlie Barnet Septet, Charlie Barnet and the Skyliners, and The Charlie Barnet Quartet. It is with Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra (active from 1938 to Nov. 1949) that Barnet made a name for himself as bandleader and recording artist; and it is this ensemble that primarily is represented in this collection. Barnet was most popular between the years of 1939 and 1941.

As a bandleader, Barnet was most inspired by Duke Ellington; and as a saxophone player he was most influenced by alto and soprano player Johnny Hodges, and tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. Barnet is remembered as one of the first white bandleaders to integrate his band, a step variously reported as having begun sometime between 1935 and 1937. The band was also one of the few mostly-white bands to play at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Among the black musicians he featured were Roy Eldridge, Charlie Shavers, Benny Carter, Frankie Newton, and vocalist Lena Horne. Other noted musicians who played with Barnet throughout his career include Buddy DeFranco, Neal Hefti, Barney Kessel, Dodo Marmarosa, Billy May, Oscar Pettiford, and, in later years, Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severinsen, and Clark Terry. Around 1947, Barnet’s musical style changed from swing to bebop.

Among Barnet’s greatest hits were “Cherokee” (1939), which became his band’s signature tune, and “Skyliner” (1944), which Barnet also composed.

Barnet retired from music in 1949, though he subsequently returned for various tours and gigs into the early 1970s. He worked at various careers after retirement, including as restaurateur in the 1950s. In 1984, Barnet published his memoir, Those Swinging Years: the Autobiography of Charlie Barnet (with Stanley Dance). Barnet married often, possibly between eight and eleven times. He was survived by Betty Thompson Barnet, his wife of thirty-three years, and a son from a previous marriage, Charles D. Barnet, Jr. Suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Barnet died of pneumonia in San Diego on September 4, 1991.

From the guide to the Charlie Barnet Collection of Big Band Arrangements, 1939-1949, (Music Division Library of Congress)


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • Conductors (Music)
  • Music--Manuscripts--United States
  • Big band music--Scores and parts
  • Music--Manuscripts
  • Arrangers (Musicians)
  • Arrangers (Musicians)--United States
  • Swing (music)
  • Conductors (Music)--United States


not available for this record


  • United States (as recorded)