Not unlike another rocker named Elvis, Charlie grew up
in a close-knit family in a small town deep in the Deep South not so
very far from Memphis. He was raised on a healthy dose of equal parts
gospel (courtesy of parents and church) and blues (courtesy of Charlies
individual tastes) and a pinch of country, the perfect musical
foundation in the 1930s and 40s for first generation rockers.
Music was a constant, powerful force in Charlies life
throughout his adolescence and during his days in the Air Force. Early
on he set aside the guitar, his first instrument, and the saxophone that
was not capable of conveying the complex rhythms and emotions so
important to Charlie. Instead, he concentrated on his pumping piano.
Having settled back down in Arkansas after his military
stint was up, Charlie played clubs around Memphis by night after farming
500 acres all day. In a story sufficiently famous to bear repeating,
Charlies wife, Margaret Ann, made a decision that would change the
course of their lives: "I knew Elvis had gone to Sam Phillips so I
thought maybe Charlie could try his luck there also. I left our three
children at home with a babysitter, crossed the river, and went to Sun.
I brought a tape of Charlie that we had made at home. I cant remember
which tunes were on it, or whether they were even originals. Charlie
wasnt doing much writing back then. That came later."