Renowned as “one of the greatest and most musical trumpet players in the world—and most recorded too—” Charles “Chuck” Findley first picked up a trumpet at age 3.
Born into a musical family in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Findley grew up having regular jam sessions in the house with his father, who played the sax and violin, and his brother Bob playing trumpet or piano. He would join in on the cornet. His trumpet influences were Clifford Brown, Bobby Hackett, Freddy Hubbard, Conte Candoli and Doc Severinsen.
Findley learned to play trombone by listening to records of greats like JJ Johnson, Kai Winding, Tommy Dorsey, Carl Fontana and Frank Rossolino.
When Findley was 17, his father passed away and his older brother was on the road with the Tommy Dorsey Band. Findley worked five nights a week at Paderewski’s, a supper club in Cleveland, playing two shows a night to help his mom and sister financially, while learning many tunes he didn’t know, which helped him later in his career.
Findley’s talent earned him a full scholarship to the renowned Cleveland Institute of Music, which he attended while studying with the renowned Bernard Adelstein who was the principal trumpet player with the orchestra.
Findley later toured with the great Buddy Rich Big Band, kicking off an award-winning career that includes performing and/or recording with a Who’s Who list of artists, including B.B. King, Steely Dan, Miles Davis, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, The Rolling Stones, Wrecking Crew, Al Jarreau, Earth Wind and Fire, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, John Mayer, Pharrell, Maroon Five and George Harrison, to name a few.
Findley joined “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson in 1989, and then with Jay Leno from 1994 to 2001. A career highlight for Findley was performing the Concert for Bangladesh with George Harrison and Ravi Shankar at Madison Square Garden in 1971, which raised millions of dollars for UNICEF and the country of Bangladesh.
Findley enjoys playing in local clubs here in Westlake Village and finds time to play golf in the Conejo Valley. Writing and teaching are a few things he likes to do.
Findley says to be able to express yourself through music, whether with a trumpet or a pencil, writing songs to make people smile makes his life rewarding. His wife of 40 years, Zelee, has made his life very special, and he says she has made him a better person.
“Music is all about making people feel good,” he says.
Encouraging aspiring musicians, Findley says, “You can have whatever you want, you just need to get out there and do it—there’s always room for great talent.”
“Music is all about making people feel good.”