A native of Asheville, North Carolina, Charlie attended Brevard College and Georgia State University. His principal teachers were bass trombonist Edward Kleinhammer and tubist Arnold Jacobs, both former members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Vernon joined the CSO in 1986, coming from the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he had served since 1981. Prior to that, Vernon held identical posts with the Baltimore Symphony from 1971 to 1980 and the San Francisco Symphony from 1980 to 1981. Vernon is also a former faculty member of The Catholic University of America, Temple University, New School of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts (now University of the Arts (Philadelphia)), and the Curtis Institute of Music.
Vernon is a clinician for the Selmer Instrument Company and a frequent guest artist for the International Trombone Association, and has made numerous appearances as a soloist throughout the world. In April 1991, with the CSO under Daniel Barenboim, he gave the world premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's Concerto for Bass Trombone, which was commissioned by the CSO for its centennial. In 2006, Vernon and the CSO premiered "Chick 'a' Bone Checkout" a new concerto for alto, tenor and bass trombone and orchestra, written by trombonist and composer Christian Lindberg.
As a part-time athlete, Vernon is an avid swimmer and is a member of the Evanston Masters Swim Team. He states that "as time passes, I realize that I must keep doing it, so that I can keep doing it!"