|Birth: ||Mar. 27, 1906|
St. Louis County
|Death: ||Feb. 15, 1969|
Charles Ellsworth "Pee Wee" Russell was born in Maplewood, Missouri. He spent his childhood in Muskogee, Oklahoma where he studied the violin, piano, and later drums. But not really "taking" to any of them. Then his dad sneaked Pee Wee into a dance at the local Elks Club where New Orleans jazz clarinetist Alcide "Yellow" Nunez was playing jazz music with his band. Pee Wee decided right then that his primary instrument would be the clarinet and of course the music would be jazz. His first clarinet teacher was Charlie Merrill.
In 1920 his Pee Wee's family moved to St Louis, Missouri. Here he spent most of his time playing clarinet with different dance and jazz bands. He began touring professionally in 1922, and traveled with tent shows on river boats. His first recording began in 1924 with Herb Berger's Band in St. Louis. Pee Wee moved to Chicago where he performed with the popular bands of Frankie Trumbauer and Bix Beiderbecke.
His style was unique and "unorthodox". Quote "You take each solo like it was the last one you were going to play in your life. What notes to hit and when to hit them--that's the secret. You can make a particular phrase with just one note. Maybe at the end, maybe at the beginning. Sometimes I jump the right chord and use what seems wrong to the next guy, but I know what is right for me.
His style was truly ahead of its time and it's what made Pee Wee Russell totally unique. He died in Alexzandria, Virginia. In 1987 he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.
Created by: Gary and Nancy Clampitt
Record added: Apr 27, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 68983580