Mingus, Charles, 1922-1979

Alternative names
Birth 1922-04-22
Death 1979-01-05

Biographical notes:

Charles Mingus, African-American jazz bassist, was born April 22, 1922, in Nogales, Arizona. He began to study the cello in 1934, switching to the bass in 1937. In 1939 he began studying composition with Lloyd Reese and composed What love and Half mast inhibitions. He began his professional career in 1940, playing bass with Lee Young, and he toured with Louis Armstromg's big band the following year. In 1942 he played bass with Barney Bigard's ensemble which featured retired trombonist Kid Ory. The next year he began studying symphonic form and technique with Herman Rheinschagen. He toured with Lionel Hampton's big band beginning in 1946 and in 1950 gained national attention as a member of Red Norvo's trio. He founded the Jazz Workshop, Inc., in 1955 and in 1964 started the record company Charles Mingus Enterprises. His autobiography Beneath the underdog was published in 1972. Charles Mingus died Jan. 5, 1979.

From the description of Charles Mingus collection, 1939-1979. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 71055796

Biographical Sketch

  • 1922: Born April 22 in Nogales, Arizona, to Harriett Sophia Mingus and Charles Mingus, Sr.; Sergeant Charles Mingus, Sr. retired from the U.S. Army on August 31; Mingus family moved to Los Angeles, California; Harriett Mingus died October 3.
  • 1928: Given his first musical instrument, the trombone, by his father for Christmas.
  • 1934: Persuaded by fellow trombonist and friend Britt Woodman, Mingus began studying the cello.
  • 1937: Suggested by high school musician Buddy Collette, Mingus switched from cello to bass.
  • 1938: Mingus introduced to bassist Red Callender by Buddy Collette; Mingus began studying with Callender; began arranging pieces for the high school jazz ensemble.
  • 1939: Began studying composition with Lloyd Reese; composed What Love and Half Mast Inhibitions.
  • 1940: Professional career began at the age of eighteen when he began playing bass with Lee Young.
  • 1941: Began touring with Louis Armstrong's big band.
  • 1942: Played bass with Barney Bigard's ensemble which featured retired trombonist Kid Ory.
  • 1943: Began studying symphonic form and technique with former bassist of the New York Philharmonic, Herman Rheinschagen.
  • 1944: Married Camilla Jeanne Gross on January 3; met saxophonist Eric Dolphy; Charles Mingus III was born on September 12.
  • 1946: Began touring with Lionel Hampton's big band; Eugene Mingus born in September; Mingus separated from wife Jeanne; Mingus takes part-time job at San Francisco post office during Christmas.
  • 1947: Step-brother Odell Carson died in August.
  • 1950: Gained national attention as a member of Red Norvo's trio.
  • 1951: Married Celia Nielson on April 2; moved from the West Coast to New York City for the remainder of his life.
  • 1952: For economic reasons, Mingus for the second time in his life took a job at the Post Office; persuaded to quit that job by Charlie Parker; celebrated his thirtieth birthday recording the first session for his newly formed record label, Debut Records.
  • 1954: Recorded his tunes Getting Together and Gregarian Chant.
  • 1955: Founded the Jazz Workshop, Inc.
  • 1956: Released Pithecanthropus Erectus in September; established Mingus as an innovative jazz composer.
  • 1959: Although Mingus composed the piece at the age of seventeen, he finally recorded Half Mast Inhibitions with a 22 piece orchestra conducted by Gunther Schuller.
  • 1962: With some difficulty, Mingus began search for a publisher for his autobiographical Beneath the Underdog.
  • 1964: Played concert at Monterey; started record company called Charles Mingus Enterprises, which recorded and released the Monterey concert as its first product under the title "Mingus at Monterey"; Mingus elected Jazz Man of the Year by Downbeat Magazine.
  • 1966: Suffering from psychological and financial problems, Mingus began self-imposed exile from public life and performing.
  • 1969: Resumed his music career in June.
  • 1970: Made final music tour of Europe in the fall.
  • 1971: Granted fellowship for composition from the Guggenheim Foundation; a one hour film titled "Mingus" was aired nationally in March and April; Beneath the Underdog was published by Knopf in April; performed at the Newport Jazz Festival in July.
  • 1972: Commissioned to write three-act ballet on "The Life of Malcolm X" for Alvin Ailey's Ballet for the spring of 1972.
  • 1976: Collaborated on album with pop singer Joni Mitchell.
  • 1979: After battling physical complications for several years, Mingus succumbed on January 5.

From the guide to the Charles Mingus Collection, 1939-1979, (Music Division Library of Congress)


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Ark ID:


  • Jazz--1951-1960--Scores
  • Music--Manuscripts--Facsimiles
  • Jazz
  • Jazz musicians--Portraits
  • Jazz--Lead sheets
  • Instrumental ensemble, Arranged--Scores


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