Erving Charles, Jr.
ErvingCharles.jpg - 81065 Bytes
Piano Night 2000 at Tipitina's Uptown, New Orleans

Longtime N.O. bassist

Saturday March 01, 2003

By Keith Spera
Music writer

Erving Charles Jr., a professional bassist featured on scores of recordings and concert stages since the 1960s, died Wednesday at his home of a heart attack. He was 61.

Mr. Charles worked with a who's who of New Orleans musicians, playing rhythm & blues, jazz and rock 'n' roll with Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew, Snooks Eaglin, Willie "Tee" Turbinton, Irma Thomas, Marva Wright, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Wanda Rouzan, Bob French and Juanita Brooks, among many others. His versatility and skill insured that he was among the busiest bass players in town.

Mr. Charles grew up as the son of a bassist and showed an early affinity for the craft. He became a professional musician before the age of 20 and never held another job. He supported a wife and four children as a musician, touring so extensively that he filled three passports with stamps.

For the past 20 years, Mr. Charles formed part of the backbone of Fats Domino's band. From his position near the piano, Mr. Charles caught the sidelong glances and musical cues from Domino that signaled which song he intended to play next in his nonstop sets.

"Erving was a unique bass player, because he was so creative and improvised so much," said rhythm & blues singer Reggie Hall, Domino's brother-in-law and longtime stage manager. "He put things around Fats that weren't (originally) in the song that boosted it up a whole lot, things that fit right to a 'T.' He was an asset to my band, the Twilighters, because he had that feeling about him. And he used to say some of the craziest things when we were on the road, and have us all laughing."

Mr. Charles never fully recovered from a stroke in March 2002 that paralyzed his left hand and rendered him unable to play bass or pursue his other passion, fishing. His friends in the music community staged two benefit concerts for him, in part to help lift his spirits.

Survivors include his wife, Catherine Bourgeois Charles; a daughter, Christy Charles Foster; three sons, Erving Sidney Charles III, Kevin Christopher Charles and Mark Anthony Charles; a sister, Frances Charles; three brothers, Henry Johnson of Maryland Heights, Mo., Donald Charles and Meredith Charles; and four grandchildren.

A Mass will be said Wednesday at noon at St. David's Church, 5617 St. Claude Avenue. Visitation will be from 8 to 10 a.m. at Majestic Mortuary, 1833 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., and from 11 a.m. to noon at St. David's. Burial will be in St. Joseph Cemeteries.

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