Charlie Biddle was born in 1926 and raised in Philadelphia
until the age of 22, when he made the exodus
from the US to Quebec
. He is quite arguably the man personally responsible for the beginnings of Montreal
's jazz scene. In 1967 he was playing nights at Montreal's 'Black Bottom
', and even managed to get a stint at Expo 67
, introducing artists such as John Coltrane
to its Youth Pavillion.
When the Biddle Family opened the 1995 Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, they were introduced as "the royal family of Montreal music". It is the absolute truth.
If it weren't for Mr. Biddle, the Montreal International Jazz Festival may never have come to be. Since introducing his Jazz Chez Nous in 1979, Montreal has become a hot spot for jazz enthusiasts and performers alike. Oliver Jones created his first live album in Charlie Biddle's own restaurant, "Biddles Jazz and Ribs". This place can be found on Aylmer ave. in Montreal to this day. (Note: since Mr. Biddle's passing in 2003, the place is now called "Maison du Jazz")
Oliver Jones Trio featuring Charles Biddle with Bernard Primeau - Live at Biddles Jazz & Ribs (1983)
Oliver Jones & Charlie Biddle - Live at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (1985)
Charlie Biddle - In Good Company (1996)
In the summer of 1997, I had the honor of personally meeting one Mr. Charlie Biddle. I had just turned 20 and was visiting Montreal with my friend Vanessa. We stole a map and went all over the place. Picture a hot muggy August evening and two silly girls, all arms and legs, stumbling down Aylmer street in search of adventure. From Biddle's came the most intoxicating music, Mr. Louis Armstrong belting out "Dream A Little Dream Of Me" over their stereo system. Adventure had found us! We entered the place without any further ado.
Even in August, at the end of summer vacation, the place was packed. We managed to find a small corner at the bar and got ourselves some drinks. All the while across from us was this man, with a black shirt and white suspenders decorated with piano keys, staring thoughtfully at us and smiling to himself. We noticed but decided not to say anything. We talked some, laughed some, and then the man went over to some instruments and started to play with the live band. And it was like magic, pure magic. We were in awe. After a few sets, the man approached and introduced himself. "Hello young ladies, the name's Charlie. Charlie Biddle."
I have never met a friendlier and kinder stranger in my life. He talked with us, made us feel comfortable to be there (we were the youngest people in the bar). He told us we reminded him of his daughter. He bragged a bit about his family. He talked of everything and nothing. He reminded us we had a soul.
Of all the things that happened in Montreal, this stands out the most. I found a book of matches from Biddles while cleaning out old boxes of memorabilia today. And instantly I was carried back to that place and that man's music. Thank you, Mr. Biddle. God Bless.