Clip | Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker - How Charlie “YardBird” Parker got his nickname

Charlie Parker’s nickname “Yardbird” came to be while he was on the way to a gig with some fellow musicians and involved a bird in a yard that had an unfortunate fate.

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- [Narrator] Jay McShann arrived in Kansas city broke, but determined to organize a band of his own.

By 1939, he had recruited the city's best young musicians for an outstanding orchestra with a penchant for the blues.

Charlie was a major asset as a dazzling soloist, and an able section man.

While traveling with McShann, Charlie was to acquire a permanent nickname.

- We used to go up there and play for fraternities and sororities in Lincoln, and this particular day, we went up, and we were driving up.

We had automob- you know, I think we had about three or four cars, and the car that Bird was riding in, driving along the highway, it's two lane, one going and one coming, you know.

And you pass through these little settlements, the farmers' chickens would run all out on the highway, right outside of the car, you know.

So they hit one of the chickens, you know, and he said, 'Hey man, did you know you hit that yardbird back there?'

Well, the driver says, 'Well, what about it?'

He said, 'Man, stop this car and back up, let's pick up to the yardbird.'

So they did, they stopped.

Backed up, picked up the yardbird, Bird took it on into Lincoln.

And during those times, you know, we stayed at people's houses, you know, and this lady's house where he stayed, he took it in and asked her, he said, 'Miss, we hit this yardbird comin' up here, would you cook this yardbird for me?'

She said, 'Sure,' so Bird had him a feast.

(big band jazz music) - [Narrator] Musicians now called him Yardbird, for yard and bird, so the name seemed to act as an impetus.

(jazzy saxophone solo) (clapperboard clacking)