Charles Valdez “Truck” Parham, a long-time fixture in the Chicago music scene, died on this day in 2002. Before Parham found a career in music, he was an athlete who spent time both as a boxer and as a member of the professional football, the Chicago Negro All Stars.
Born and raised in Chicago, Parham sold newspapers at the town’s famed Dreamland Café, where he first became familiar with the sound of jazz music. Young Parham met and formed a friendship with some of the musicians that played at the venue, including Freddie Keppard and Louis Armstrong, both for whom Parham would do chores. It wasn’t long before Parham picked up an instrument himself, but it wasn’t the bass first: it was the tuba. Soon after, he switched to the bass after a bandleader asked him to fill in for a bassist who failed to show up for a performance.
Parham was soon allowed to tour along with Walter Page as a bodyguard. He was given the nickname “Truck” because he was often assigned to driving the bus van. Parham played with local bands regularly and by the 1930s, he toured throughout the Midwest.
He eventually returned back to Chicago, where he played alongside drummer Zutty Singleton. It was not long before Parham made a name for himself being known as one of the area’s most skilled bassists. During the 1950s, Parham played as part of cornetist Muggsy Spanier’s Dixieland Band, in addition to brief gigs with singer Pearl Bailey and drummer Louis Bellson. Although he never recorded as a leader, Parham appeared on many records through the years with other big name artists.
Parham died in 2002, he was 95.