Arranger, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist from Brooklyn, New York, who appeared on Carolyne Mas’s 1981 album, Mas Hysteria, and went on to join Pat Benatar’s band. They performed on Catch a Rising Star’s 10th Anniversary special on television in 1982. Albums on which he appeared include Get Nervous and Wide Awake in Dreamland, on which he played keyboards. He can also be seen and heard on the videos, Choice Cuts – The Complete Video Collection, Live in New Haven and Pat Benatar: The Visual Music Collection.
In 1988, his arrangement of “Brown Eyed Girl” was featured in the Bill Murray comedy, Scrooged. He played accordion on Lucy Kaplansky’s album, The Tide, which was released in 1994 and re-released in 2005. In 1995, he did the same on the soundtrack of the film, Other Voices, Other Rooms, then appeared on Madeleine Peyroux’s Dreamland in 1996. He performed keyboard duties on Marc Ribot’s ambitious soundtrack project, Shoe String Symphonettes, in 1997. In 1998, he teamed up with Rebecca Pidgeon on her album, Four Marys.
He made his splash on the big screen in 1999, appearing as—what else—an accordionist, in The Cradle Will Rock. The turn of the millennium found him collaborating with Bucky Pizzarelli on his folk-opera-swing hybrid, Italian Intermezzo. He lent his accordion talents to a short-lived production of The Spitfire Grill, a musical based on the 1996 movie, in the fall of 2001, at the Duke Theater in New York. In 2002, he teamed up with Roma Downey on her album, Castles of Gold: Songs & Stories of Irish Immigration, and joined the revival version of ? and the Mysterians.
He turned his attention to the small screen in the mid-2000s, performing on the soundtracks of television’s Anytown, USA, Love, Ludlow, and Naked World: America Undercover.
In 2006, he was hired by The Boss to multi-task on the Pete Seeger tribute, We Shall Overcome, The Seeger Sessions: Charles played accordion, Hammond B-3 organ, piano, pump organ, and pitched in on vocals. He also took part in the subsequent tour and Great Performances concert. The band was received so well, they released another album in 2007 entitled Bruce Springsteen with The Sessions Band: Live in Dublin. When Bruce decided to get the E Street Band back together, Charles was invited to fill in for Danny Federici on a temporary basis. Danny was struggling with complications from melanoma at the time.
Showing off his versatility, Charles accompanied cabaret artist Barb Jungr in January 2008 at New York’s Metropolitan Room.
In April 2008, Danny passed away and was eventually replaced on a full-time basis by Charles, who continues to tour with the E Street Band to this day. It has not precluded him from pursuing other projects or working with other artists. He performed with Southside Johnny and the La Bamba Big Band in October 2008 and played keyboard on John Phillips’ Pussycat, released the same year.
He has contributed his accordion stylings to the soundtrack of the children’s TV program, Lomax: The Hound of Music, on PBS. He performed with Bruce and the band at Super Bowl XLIII on 1st February 2009 and has continued to tour with the E Street Band throughout the 2010s.
Here he is playing accordion with the Andy Statman Trio on “Oy Susanna”…