Charlie picked up the fiddle at the age of 6 and kept at it till he
could play Vivaldi and his hero, Bach. He benefited from a series of
loving violin teachers, but the last one, Mrs. Cunningham, was rather
upset when he switched his attention to playing double bass and hanging
out in jazz clubs in his home town Oxford. Charlie's first gig was singing
in the choir at Worcester College, Oxford. He followed this up by playing
a home-made bass in a local covers band called The Tribe.
When still at school in the sixties, Charlie appeared at Oxford Jazz Club with Pete Brown, trumpeter Mal Dean and violinist Rab Spall, and this gave him a taste of the enticing world of underground jazz. College seemed tame after that so Charlie spent a lot of time at the old Ronnie Scott's in London. This was paralleled by a rising interest in blues and soul.
As a student Charlie played organ in the psychedelic band 117. The group appeared frequently at the Middle Earth/UFO clubs and recorded at a legendary session with Mick Jagger and Andrew Oldham at Olympic Studios. By that point, Charlie was heavily into black music and the most sensible plan seemed to go to Africa, so he spent a year in Ghana. Highlife and traditional music became an obsession and the next year Charlie returned to sit in with highlife bands and study marimba.
After college he was asked to join Pete Brown's Battered Ornaments with Chris Spedding, Dick Hextall-Smith and George Khan and he was introduced to the delights of the M1 and the Blue Boar. At that time he also started playing double bass with the People Band - Terry Day, Mel Davis, Lyn Dobson, Mike Figgis, Davey Payne and they toured with the People Show. With Davey Payne and Terry Day he formed OMMU and they toured Holland frequently.
OMMU then joined Ian Dury, the eccentric art-school lyricist and Kilburn and the Highroads were at the front of the early 70s Pub-rock boom, free jazz meets rock and roll. Wreckless Eric was in the same stable, and Charlie played keyboards on his first LP.
Charlie left and joined Ruan O'Lochlainn, Johnny Duan in St. James' Gate, a band which soon metamorphosed into Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance. Charlie played mostly fiddle and accordion and lived at Ronnie's farm, the Fishpool. He worked on numerous albums and hung out with a lethal combination of rock and roll A-list Clapton, Townshend, Small Faces etc. and Shropshire farmers. The band toured Europe by train and boat with Clapton's band and influenced a host of future bands.
Charlie then returned to London and started playing bass with Geraint Watkins, Ed Deane, Diz Watsonand Ron Kavana in Juice on the Loose. They worked with Alexis Korner, Clarence Frogman Henry and Jay McNeely. Charlie worked with Ian Stewart's Rocket 88, Chris Farlowe, Mose Allison and others.
He travelled to New York with Charlie Ainley and met Andy Warhol who adored his luminous pink socks. He then produced Diz and the Doormen's recently reissued Bluecoat Man, featuring the legendary New Orleans sax players Lee Allen and Walter Kimble
In 1990 Charlie appeared with the People Band in Mike Figgis ' first feature film Stormy Monday with Sting, Tommy Lee Jones and Melanie Griffiths. They then re-emerged as Mummy.
He then travelled to Africa and met Samba Mapangala, lead singer of the much-loved Orchestra Virunga. This lead to Samba touring in U.K. and releasing the CD Feet on Fire which Charlie produced. In 1991 he also worked on an album with the Morrocan Sidi Seddiki.
After forming his own band, 251, playing rootsy jazz, african and blues he co-founded the cajun-inclined Disorder on the Border with Geraint Watkins andGary Rickard.
Charlie had been cultivating another career composing music for the TV and film industries. In the 1980s he had been providing music for documentaries and dramas. Later he worked extensively with the animator Erica Russell. This collaboration lead to the ground-breaking animated films, Feet of Song and Triangle. Triangle was nominated for an Oscar in 1995.
Since then he has recorded three albums and appeared at many festivals with Chris Jagger. They played for the Dalai Lama on one of his visits to UK. Charlie has also appeared in the National Theatre production of The Good Hope, directed by Bill Bryden, and has recently been touring Germany with David Knopfler.
In April Charlie acted as Musical Director for a re-formed Slim Chance that performed at the Ronnie Lane Memorial Concert at the Albert Hall. Slim Chance backed Pete Townshend, Sam Brown, Paul Weller, Ronnie Wood, Chris Jagger, Glen Matlock and others. The concert was well received and eventually lead to the reforming of Slim Chance and a resurgeance of interest in Ronnie Lane's music.
In 2008 Charlie released his first solo CD 'Grooves and Roots' on FRW records. He then embarked on a series of recordings in his own Equator Studios and produced artists including George Khan, Billy Jenkins, Dan Raza and Samba Mapangala. 2010 saw Charlie heavily involved in putting together a new – 'reformed but unrepentant' – Slim Chance, whose album The Show goes On he also produced.
More recently Charlie contributed music to 'Somewhere at Sea', the story of Timothy Spall's maritime adventures and has been working again with the animator Erica Russell. In 2012 the People Band re-emerged to play the Ignite Festival at the Royal Opera House and he toured in Australia with Chris Jagger. In that year he also played with Roger Daltrey at Teenage Cancer Trust events. He has also been appearing with his own band 'The Equators' and pursuing his own writing.