Charlie Burrell was born in Toledo, Ohio but spent much of his childhood growing up in poverty in Detroit. While in Detroit, he studied music at Cass-Technical school and Wayne State University. He also spent some time serving in the Navy. He was a bassist and was known as the Jackie Robinson of classical music as he looked to break the color barrier being the only african american to play in a classical band. He started playing the bass when he was just 12 years old. He originally came to Denver to visit his mother in 1949 when he met John VanBuskirk, in which he ended up getting a tryout and landed the job. He began his playing career with Denver symphony. In 1959 while getting his bass fixed in L.A., he drove to San Fransisco and talked his way into an audition in which he landed that job of playing with the San Fransisco symphony. Then the San Franscico earthquake happened in 1965 which pushed him back to play with Denver’s symphony which is where he finished his career off and retired in 1999. He still currently lives in Colorado as he has a house in Estes Points.
Written by: Christian Powell
Charlie Burrell, his bass, and his cigarMitch Handelsman
Source: Colorado Public RadioPhotography
Image Source (Top): Mitch Handelsman - Colorado Public Radio - 2006-2014