Charlie Biddle, a leading figure in the Montreal jazz scene in the 1950s and ’60s who played bass with Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker, died Feb. 4 after a battle with cancer. He was 76.
Biddle was a native of Philadelphia who moved to Canada in 1948. Over the next five decades, the World War II veteran and former car salesman became synonymous with jazz in Montreal. (He became a Canadian citizen in 2000.)
Biddle opened a club, Uncle Charlie’s Jazz Joint, in suburban Ste-Therese in 1958. He later performed in such legendary local nightspots as the Black Bottom and the Penthouse, where he worked with the likes of Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Parker and Lionel Hampton. He also played smaller Quebec cities with the group Three Jacks and a Jill.
Until recently, Biddle played four nights a week at Biddle’s Jazz and Ribs, a Montreal landmark for nearly 25 years. Coincidentally, the club closed Feb. 4 for planned renovations, which include erecting a wall of fame to honor Biddle and others who have played at the club.
In 1979, he organized a three-day fest that some say paved the way for the renowned Montreal Intl. Jazz Festival.