Don't Blame Me
Biography for Charles, (Chuck,) Nathan
(Revised from the obituary for Chuck
published in The Eugene Register Guard)
1921 - 2012
Chuck was born on April 17th, 1921 in London, England. He and his family arrived in the US by boat when he was age three. He grew up in Los Angeles, California, where he became a naturalized citizen. At age fifteen he quit high school to work playing the jazz trumpet. Chuck studied trumpet under Lloyd Reese and Louie Maggio. He became an accomplished jazz trumpet player and big band arranger. Chuck served in the US Army Air Corps during WWII, was assigned to several prestigious US Army Air Corps Bands, and in addition, lead a band of his own.
In 1942, he married singer Tonie Nathan (yes, her maiden name was also Nathan,) at the age of 21. She was 19. Tonie would often say that she married Chuck for his sense of humor, and Chuck would add "...and our marriage has been one big joke ever since!" Chuck and Tonie were happily married for 70 Years. They had three sons: Paul, Larry, and Greg.
Chuck and Tonie moved to Sun Valley, California in 1951, where, at the age of thirty one, Chuck studied how to play the piano with pianists Harry Fields and Larry Green, and took advanced studies in music theory instructed by Ed Loe at the American Operatic Lab in Los Angeles. In 1953 Chuck's interest in songwriting led to the successful recording of "Say You're Mine Again" by Perry Como, (music by Charles Nathan and words by Dave Heisler). It climbed to number six on the nation’s Hit Parade.
Soon after Chuck’s success with "Say You're Mine Again", the new popularity of Rock & Roll and Country Western music shrunk the market Chuck so dearly loved. The wide acceptance of these new music markets ended his dreams for continued success as a songwriter following in the footsteps of such Tin-Pan Alley greats as the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Learner and Lowe, and so many other songwriters that he admired. Chuck also loved the music of Tchaikovsky and Chopin, the arrangements of Michel Legrand, and especially the volumes of jazz piano works by Art Tatum which Chuck collected.
Needing a new career, Chuck entered the interior decorating business and soon established Mr. Charles Interiors. In 1962 he moved his family and business to Hacienda Heights, CA. After six years of decorating the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County with custom draperies and decorative shades, they sold everything, retired, and moved to Eugene, Oregon.
In 1971, at age 50, Chuck changed his focus back to his first love, music. He then composed a fresh big band arrangement of his song "South of the Blues," and two new big band arrangements entitled "Number One," and "Charlie's Theme." All three were performed by the South Eugene High School Stage Band at The Reno Jazz Festival, and were later recorded by Gene Aitkin and the Lane Community College Stage Band.
At about this time, Chuck began to assemble some select songs from the many dozens he had written over the years, for the purpose of writing a new musical comedy, "The Foursome." It would be 30 years before the work reached production.
During this period, Chuck also became an investment adviser. He believed in real money, gold and silver, and was a staunch advocate of individual rights, free markets and capitalism. He was an excellent advisor, making well-researched recommendations that almost always turned out right. Chuck saw the current currency crisis coming decades ago, and wrote hundreds of helpful articles for family, friends, and clients.
In September of 2001, his musical "The Foursome" was produced at The Actor's Cabaret of Eugene and, thanks to Chuck's sense of humor and musical talent, it was a local hit. "The Foursome" would be produced at the ACE again in June of 2010. ACE also produced a musical review of Chuck's work entitled "All About Love", which grew out of his second musical entitled "Girls and Poise." Then came a totally new musical, "Where the Heck's the Plot," which Chuck began in his eighties. ACE produced "Where the Heck's the Plot" in 2009.
Chuck was active with his musicals until the very end. He struggled to stay alive because he said he had about three more weeks of musical arrangements to finish.
A Celebration Of Life was held October 3rd, 2012, at the Actor's Cabaret for Chuck, who passed away peacefully on September 30th, 2012, from kidney failure and other complications. He was 91 years old.
On October 3rd, 2012 Chuck was laid to rest in Sunset Hills Memorial Park in Eugene, Oregon. His grave marker reads:
1921 - 2012
Trumpet Man - Composer
Beloved Husband, Father,
Grandfather, and Friend.
A Great Man who loved
Life, Liberty, Humor and Music
(On September 9th, 2013, the CD, "I'll Think of Something," (title track composed by Charles Nathan,) was released in Chuck's honor, and the 1st Annual Chuck Nathan Memorial Jam Session was held. Since then the Chuck Nathan Memorial Jam Session has become an annual event where the Jam has occurred five times. For the most recent, 2017 Jam, nothing but Chuck's songs were performed for the first, hour-long set. All of the jam-session events have occurred in Eugene, Oregon, where a good, swingin' time, including jazz-music listening and dancing, was had by all.)
Preparation for Hearing a Recording of Chuck's Trumpet Playing
Charles Nathan was not a life-long working musician, but he was a life-long music writer. Although he dropped out of high school to form his own band, and continued to play during the war years of the forties, his performing career essentially ended with his military discharge and his returning home to his wife and newly-born first son Paul, his family that he needed to support, which was more important to him than his performing career.
In my entire lifetime I am not aware of one paying piano or trumpet gig my dad accomplished, although there were a handful of free, public appearances that he made. Mostly, he kept his performing abilities to himself, playing a lot around the house. At the age of 70 he reached out with some home recordings of himself with the help of his second son Larry who is an advertising and media professional. Together they created a short album where the tracks were recorded with all instruments played by Chuck using a keyboard, a real piano, and trumpet. The trumpet playing appears on five of the album's tracks, and is clearly the real deal.
I have been hesitant about posting any of Chuck's music performing, but since the idea here is to make an effort that will allow people to get to know my dad better, I have come to realize that hearing Chuck's trumpet playing is essential. On this track, hearing Chuck's piano playing accompanying himself is helpful, but hearing the substantial, jazz-trumpet player he was puts one in contact with the foundation of his musical being.
Soaring is pleased to share the following track of Don't Blame Me with you for your enjoyment and appreciation. I'm sure my dad would agree with the lyrical sentiment expressed by the title in reference to today's music. After all my dad was an advocate for better music than what we have had throughout his life, and it is not his fault that you have been witness to such music earning so many dollars, and receiving various awards, when in truth, the seriousness of some of this music is not very serious at all, and destined to be ignored by historians of fine arts music.
Just this morning I was going through a box and came across many rejection letters from the year 1978, a result of song solicitations sent out by my mom. These letters were from large record companies that turned down my dad's material, and many of them returned the material without considering it, since it was their policy to not spend time with unsolicited material. My dad was trying, even back then. In a way, even today, through this website, he is still trying.
I have taught elementary kids that writing is like a miracle. Through writing you can know the thoughts of someone who is dead. Similar to prose, through music writing and music recordings, it is possible to know a musician's feelings after their mortal life has ended.