Charlie Parker's nickname Yardbird

Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,151
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
Some of this is from Wiki: A yardbird is post-Second World War African American slang for "prisoner", from the notion of prison yards. During the Second World War, in the armed forces it meant "basic trainee", as they spent most of their time in the yards.


In the Deep South of the United States, the word also means chicken. In one explanation for American saxophonist Charlie Parker's nickname being "Yardbird", jazz trombonist and blues singer Clyde E. B. Berhardt in his autobiography I Remember: Eighty Years of Black Entertainment, Big Bands, states:


[Parker] told me he got the name Yardbird because he was crazy about eating chicken: fried, baked, boiled, stewed, anything. He liked it. Down there in the South, all chickens are called yardbirds. Every

Jazz pianist Jay McShann backs up the story in an interview in 1999:
Charlie [Parker] yelled, 'Back up. You hit a yardbird!' He got out of the car and got it and carried the chicken on into Lincoln. He had it cooked and ate it all in one sitting.
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[FONT=&quot]Accounts of the actual origin differ, but all except Charlie himself seem agreed that the reference was to a chicken intended for the pot. This later became shortened for general usage to “Bird,” although Dizzy Gillespie, when reminiscing about Charlie even late in his life, still tended to refer to him as “Yard.”

[FONT=&quot]As to when I doubt there is a[FONT=&quot] satisfactory[/FONT] answer. Since he wrote "Yardbird Su[FONT=&quot]ite" in 1946[FONT=&quot], my guess is anytime in the early 40s. Perhaps even in the 30s.

[FONT=&quot]p.s. my older brother had the honor and pleasure [FONT=&quot]to hear him play live[FONT=&quot] one night long ago in [FONT=&quot][FONT=&quot]B[/FONT]oston.[/FONT][/FONT][/FONT][/FONT]
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Jax Historian

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
4,379
Here
Some of this is from Wiki: A yardbird is post-Second World War African American slang for "prisoner", from the notion of prison yards. During the Second World War, in the armed forces it meant "basic trainee", as they spent most of their time in the yards.


In the Deep South of the United States, the word also means chicken. In one explanation for American saxophonist Charlie Parker's nickname being "Yardbird", jazz trombonist and blues singer Clyde E. B. Berhardt in his autobiography I Remember: Eighty Years of Black Entertainment, Big Bands, states:


[Parker] told me he got the name Yardbird because he was crazy about eating chicken: fried, baked, boiled, stewed, anything. He liked it. Down there in the South, all chickens are called yardbirds. Every

Jazz pianist Jay McShann backs up the story in an interview in 1999:
Charlie [Parker] yelled, 'Back up. You hit a yardbird!' He got out of the car and got it and carried the chicken on into Lincoln. He had it cooked and ate it all in one sitting.
[FONT=&quot]
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Accounts of the actual origin differ, but all except Charlie himself seem agreed that the reference was to a chicken intended for the pot. This later became shortened for general usage to “Bird,” although Dizzy Gillespie, when reminiscing about Charlie even late in his life, still tended to refer to him as “Yard.”

[FONT=&quot]As to when I doubt there is a[FONT=&quot] satisfactory[/FONT] answer. Since he wrote "Yardbird Su[FONT=&quot]ite" in 1946[FONT=&quot], my guess is anytime in the early 40s. Perhaps even in the 30s.

[FONT=&quot]p.s. my older brother had the honor and pleasure [FONT=&quot]to hear him play live[FONT=&quot] one night long ago in [FONT=&quot][FONT=&quot]B[/FONT]oston.[/FONT][/FONT][/FONT][/FONT]
[/FONT][/FONT][/FONT][/FONT]
Thanks, Pedro. it doesn't matter just what the answer is, I just need a "the story goes.." or legend has it that..." for the people who asked me.

That's interesting about Dizzy calling him "Yard." I had assumed everyone shortened it to "Bird." That's cool your brother got to see him. I've talked to a handful of others who had and they usually said "the records are great, but...."
 
Aug 2019
1
DC
This is only 7 years after the original post, but in case someone else comes to look for the answer:

To backup Pedro's post, I recently stayed at the Oak Street Mansion in Kansas City, MO near the Kemper and Nelson-Atkins Museums of Art. Outside in the courtyard was a piece of art called "Bird" 67805297_10218861682106490_5629493963640537088_n.jpg According to the artist the story goes that Charlie Parker was in Lincoln, NE with Jay McShann when he had ran over a chicken. He stopped to collect it up and had someone in town prepare it for his dinner. When he would not share his dinner with the band he was given the nickname "yardbird" which was shortened at some point to "Bird". Not sure how true that is, but it makes for fun history.Cheers!