Charles A. "Charlie" Mussen Jr., a retired teacher and leader of traditional jazz bands for many years, died Sunday in his Amherst home. He was 73.
Honored by the Buffalo Jazz Society last year for lifetime achievement, he was a founding member of the society and the Buffalo Banjo Band.
A versatile instrumentalist who sang and played banjo, guitar, ukulele, bass and trombone, he was associated with the Salt City 5 and Salt City 6 for more than 40 years.
He also led two groups -- the Queen City Stompers and the I Love Jazz Band -- which played with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, at numerous jazz festivals and for the city's three major sports teams.
He also played with Salt City 6 bandmate Jack Maheu in the Mississippi Mudders and played with the Lock City Levee Loungers in Lockport. After suffering a stroke in 1989, he retired from playing professionally, but occasionally sat in with bands and performed informally.
He was born in Vallejo, Calif. Both his parents had worked as entertainers and he learned ukulele from his mother as a child. He was a graduate of Buffalo Technical High School and Buffalo State College and served in the Air National Guard. Right after he got his first teaching position, he had a difficult choice to make.
"I took my first teaching job in 1960 and within two weeks of starting got offers to play with Bob Scobey's Frisco Jazz Band and Clyde McCoy's Dixielanders," he recalled in a biographical sketch he wrote for the American Big Bands Web site. "Although both were great offers [especially when compared to teacher's starting pay], I really wanted to start a family."
He was the first male kindergarten teacher in the Buffalo schools and taught art at Sweet Home Junior High School for 26 years. He retired in 1989.
During the 1950s, he hosted the TNTeeners and Hi Teen talent shows on WEBR radio and wrote award-winning radio commercials for Tobin's First Prize Hot Dogs. He also wrote and did artwork for numerous jazz publications.
Surviving are his wife of 47 years, the former Bernadette Collins; two sons, Chip and David; a daughter, Kelly Kinnaird; and two sisters, Donna Lee Hughes and Judy Schwallie.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday in Amigone Funeral Home, 2600 Sheridan Drive, Town of Tonawanda.