Charlie Drayton

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Charles Henderson Drayton (5 May 1919 Brooklyn, New York – 31 July 1953 Los Angeles) was an American jazz bassist who performed and recorded from the late 1930s until his death with artists that include Louis Jordan, Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Pete Brown, Ben Webster, Joan Edwards, Timmie Rogers, Savannah Churchill, the Basin Street Boys, Barney Bigard, Billie Holiday, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Julia Lee, Jack Teagarden, Louis Armstrong, Fletcher Henderson, Russell Jacquet, Marion Abernathy, The Treniers, Billy Taylor, Helen Humes, and Teddy Bunn.[1] In 1946, he played several times with artists at Jazz at the Philharmonic.[2]

Drayton's performances — including the known fifty-two jazz recording sessions from 1938 to 1953[2] — with artists at the vanguard of bebop during the height of its development, placed him in the flow of many historic settings in jazz that marked the careers of musicians. In one such setting, Drayton was the bassist for Ben Webster's first recording session — February 8, 1944, World Broadcasting Systems, New York City — with Hot Lips Page (trumpet), Clyde Hart (piano), Denzil Best (drums).[2][3] That session has been released multiple times. A 1993 release on CD is titled The Horn, by Progressive Records (OCLC 53833333).


Drayton was born May 5, 1919, in Brooklyn to George Leslie Drayton (1889–1946) and Albertha Eugena Bynoe (1885–1979). Both parents were born in Bridgetown, Barbados, and immigrated to the United States from Barbados – both arriving in the Port of New York in 1907. Drayton arrived June 7, 1907, aboard the SS Parima and Bynoe arrived October 29, 1907, aboard the SS Soldier Prince.[4][5] They married in Manhattan October 24, 1912.[6]

Charlie Drayton married Lois Ola Robinson (maiden; 1922–1997), who had been Pearl Bailey's hairdresser. Lois' brother, "Red" Minor William Robinson (1920–2008), was a Los Angeles-based jazz drummer.[7] One of their sons, Bernard "Bernie" Drayton (born 1941), is a studio audio engineer and producer of recording artists and jingles. He was the audio engineer of John Coltrane's last recording, April 23, 1967, The Olatunji Concert: The Last Live Recording.[8] Another son, Leslie Clem Drayton (born 1950), is a professional trumpet player and arranger in the Los Angeles area who also has been an advisor to the Live Music Movement Foundation since its inception in 2011. Leslie was a founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire.[9]

Charlie Drayton's grandson, Charley Drayton (born 1965), is a drummer.


Drayton's death certificate states that he died at the Los Angeles County General Hospital at 1200 North State Street in East Los Angeles after an apparent attempt to commit suicide from strychnine poisoning that he had ingested at his home in South Park neighborhood of Los Angeles at 451 East 48th Street.[10]


  1. ^ The Mercury Labels: A Discography — The 1945–1956 Era; Volume I, Michel Ruppli (born 1934) & Ed Novitsky, Greenwood Publishing Group, pg. 661 (1993), ISBN 0-313-29031-8, ISSN 0192-334X
  2. ^ a b c The jazz discography, West Vancouver: Lord Music Reference OCLC 182585494
  3. ^ "More Jazz Treasures From the Past," by John S. Wilson, The New York Times, April 24, 1983
  4. ^ "U.S. Naturalization – Declaration of Intention" Re: "George Leslie Drayton," September 26, 1923, New York Supreme Court of Kings County, U. S. Department of Labor, Naturalization Service, Vol. 323, No. 161139, p. 139 (image 74 of 271; form 14-735)
    Accessible via FamilySearch (free, but registration required) – "New York, County Naturalization Records, 1791–1980," database with images, September 13, 2019, Kings, Declarations of Intention, 1923, Vol 323, Nos. 161001–161500, image 74 of 271
  5. ^ "List or Manifest of Alien Passengers for the U.S. Immigration Officer at Port at Port of Arrival," Re: "Albertha-Eugena-Bynoe," October 21, 1907
    "New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892–1924," database with images, FamilySearch, January 26, 2018, Roll 1028, Vol. 2269, image 168 of 426; Citing NARA microfilm publication T715 and M237
  6. ^ Re: "Marriage of George L. Drayton and Albertha E. Bynoe," New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Manhattan, Vol. 8, License No. 30724 (accessible via; subscription required)
  7. ^ Swingin' on Central Avenue: African American Jazz in Los Angeles, by Peter Vacher (born 1937), Rowman & Littlefield (2015), p. 283; OCLC 1004734085
  8. ^ The John Coltrane Reference, by Chris DeVito, David Wild, Yasuhiro Fujioka, and Wolf Schmaler, edited by Lewis Porter, Routledge (Taylor & Francis) (2008; paperback 2013), p. 768; OCLC [ 940620370; ISBN 0-4156-3463-6; ISBN 978-0-415-97755-5 (hardcover); ISBN 978-0-415-63463-2 (paperback); ISBN 978-0-203-94005-1 (e-book)
  9. ^ Official Website of Leslie Drayton
  10. ^ "Certificate of Death," "California, County Birth and Death Records, 1800–1994", database with images, FamilySearch, "Charles H Drayton," Date-of-death: July 31, 1953, Los Angeles