Born: 1965 Albertville, AL

Rock Guitar, Songwriter Group Terrell

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

charles allen terrell

Charles Allen Terrell was born on March 15, 1961 in Birmingham, Alabama. His daddy was a men’s prison counselor and his momma was a school teacher. After moving around the state, the Terrell family settled in the small town of Albertville. Charlie got his first taste of fame and music at a young age. It was about dusk and Charlie was riding his bike through the neighborhood. He shot through a hole in an overgrown hedge where a fruit bat attacked him. Charlie had bites and scratches about his back and neck. Fame came when he was featured in the local paper -- "Boy Bitten by Vampire Bat." During the attack, he managed to injure the bat and capture it. He put it in a jar and took it to Show-And-Tell. It didn't have rabies, but Charlie says he’s been a freak ever since. As for the music, Charlie’s grandmother gave him his first guitar unexpectedly one day. He could never play other peoples music so he just started making up his own songs. Charlie continued to write songs and play guitar in various bands through high school. After high school, Charlie planned to attend Auburn University to be an architect or commercial artist. While standing on line to register, Charlie realized what he wanted to do with his life. He stepped out of line and left for Nashville to attend Belmont University, a Baptist college with a music program and recording studio. Soon after arriving, he met HAWK, a young percussionist. Charlie had found a kindred spirit musically and otherwise. They formed a guitar-conga duo called Innuendo and played in clubs across the south. Charlie and HAWK returned to Nashville to form a full band, Rococo. The lineup released an EP called "Photograph My Dream" but, the project didn't really go anywhere and Charlie became ready to leave the South. He even submitted himself for medical experiments at Vanderbilt University to earn the money for his liberation. HAWK stayed in Nashville for a while and became a respected commercial DJ and engineer. Charlie continued to write music and find his voice.

In 1988 Charlie landed in Los Angeles, California. HAWK met back up with him in Los Angeles, and they put together another band. Soon after the group was fleshed out, they became a hot band on the Los Angeles club circuit. One night, a couple of music industry big wigs, Irving Azoff and Miles Copeland, came to see the band perform. After the show, Copeland offered to sign Terrell on the spot to a record deal with his label, IRS records. Azoff wanted them too for his own label, Giant Records, a Warner Brothers imprint. Terrell went with Azoff and Giant as a label and Miles Copeland signed on as the band’s manager. In August of 1990, "On the Wings of Dirty Angels" was released to critical acclaim. Billboard said, "(a) surprising and thoroughly delightful album." The album was full of energy; you could almost hear how hungry these guys were. As luck would have it, a great album and extensive tour did not translate to commercial success. One morning in Dallas, Texas the band woke to find their equipment truck stolen. Heartbroken, they returned to Los Angeles to begin recording a new record for Warner Brothers that was to be called "Speed A Sound". In the midst of all this, the management deal with Miles Copeland self destructed. Charlie sites his youth and arrogance and Copeland’s old age and stubbornness as the reasons for the split. The deal with Warner Brothers also fell through. Frustrated, HAWK headed back to the South. Charlie haunted Los Angeles for three to four years, lost everything, and ended up living in his car. Then one day, a friend invited him to a party. In a strange twist of fate, she asked him to bring along his guitar. At first, Charlie declined the invitation stating, "I'm bitter"

Reluctantly, Charlie attended the party with guitar in tow. After playing some of his songs, a crowd began to form in the room where Charlie was playing. Pretty soon, the entire party was in there listening to Terrell's music. A producer approached him at the end of the night and told Charlie that he liked what he heard and wanted to record some music with him. Charlie described the event as not so much a dream come true, but a "very nice evening, like a good day". Charlie recorded a four song demo with the producer and shot a video for one of the songs. Through a person that knew somebody, that knew somebody, that knew somebody, the demo and video made it into the hands of John Wooler, the president of Pointblank Records. He liked what he heard and agreed to see Terrell play at Molly Malone's in Los Angeles where Charlie had a regular gig. Mr. Wooler called Charlie and signed him three days later to a record deal. In April of 1995, Pointblank Records released "Angry Southern Gentleman." Terrell toured all around the world with Joan Osborne, G Love and Special Sauce, and The Ian Moore Band. Charlie’s touring band, Rich Meijer, J Swanson, and Jim Doyle, went by the name the Strawdogs. At some point on that tour, The Vibe Assassins were born. The group's fruition as a live band would greatly affect the sound of their next studio album. They sold enough records to stay on the road and when they returned home went straight into the studio.

In August of 1996, Pointblank Records released their second Terrell record, "Beautiful Side of Madness." The album dealt with the dull hate, isolation and sudden bursts of joy the band discovered while playing music together. Once again, Terrell and the Vibe Assassins toured in support of their new album but didn’t quite get the kind of attention they deserved from Pointblank. Two songs from the album were featured on the cult hit TV show Homicide, Black and White Blues (Season 6 episode 78 Blood Ties) and Hopeful Sinner (Season 7 episode 117 Zen and the Art of Murder). The obvious choice for a single, Beautiful Side of Madness, a duet with Joan Osborne, was shot down by her label. 1996 ended and soon after 1997 began, Terrell started work on what could be his greatest artistic statement yet. From February to April of 1997, in Dean Menta’s studio in Santa Monica, Charlie recorded "Taking the Jesus Pill." The album was somewhat a soundtrack to a short story penned by Charlie of the same name. "Taking the Jesus Pill" was presented to Virgin Records and frankly, they didn’t get it. They saw Terrell as a "blues" artist and could not understand what he was doing. Charlie and Virgin/Pointblank Records soon parted ways, leaving "Taking the Jesus Pill" unreleased to this day. The record and subsequent live shows evolved into an anti musical stageplay. In 1998, “Taking the Jesus Pill” was work shopped in Stockbridge, MA at the Berkshire Theater Festival. The director at the time said what Charlie was trying to do “…couldn’t be done”. However, this would not spell the end for the Jesus Pill.

On July 1, 1998, Richard Smith died; Terrell fans knew him as HAWK. Richard was Charlie’s friend and musical partner for the “Dirty Angels” era. During the time after that album’s release, HAWK fell into heroin addiction. He fought that demon for many years and tried to settle down in Georgia with his wife and baby girl. In early Summer, he succumbed to his addiction and died of a heroin overdose. A husband, friend, and father was gone. In June 1999, Charlie Terrell released "3 Links in a Broken Chain" on his own label, Daddy Van Records. Charlie and the Vibe Assassins, with some special guests, cut the album in 36 hours. Jim Phillips from the “Dirty Angels” record even returned to contribute some guitar work. The record was for HAWK and dealt with all the mixed emotions that go hand in hand with love and loss.

In 2001 Charlie recorded an album called "WATER IS WATER." The project was funded entirely by Charlie himself and has never been commercially released. Charlie booked time in a studio and paid his musicians and producer out of pocket.The record serves as a sort of “gift” from Charlie to himself. Over the next couple of years Charlie and his music would find its way into the land of motion pictures. One of Charlie’s songs, Wicked Ways, from the “Taking the Jesus Pill” album, was featured in the movie, 3000 Miles to Graceland. In 2002, Charlie appeared in the movie Poolhall Junkies as the guitar player in a club band. The song Redneck Gigolo, from his album "Angry Southern Gentleman," was featured in the movie as well. Charlie is also an accomplished painter with several gallery shows over the last few years.

Charlie revived his original stageplay, TAKING THE JESUS PILL in February, 2004 at King King in Hollywood. The story is a Southern Gothic tale about a crazy preacher, his alcoholic wife, and their wild ass daughter. After seeing the play with a friend, Polly Parsons, daughter of the late Gram Parsons, hired Charlie to design the video production for a couple of tribute shows she was planning for her dad. Polly was so strongly affected by the play, she also signed on as Executive Producer and a dancer in the show. The next incarnation of the play opened late August 2004 with Mars Callahan (Poolhall Junkies) as director. Charlie and Mars reworked the story adding new characters and story arcs with some fresh cast members as well. Somewhere along the way, Charlie and Polly began dating. After a whirlwind courtship, Charlie asked Polly to marry him, she accepted and they got engaged. On May 28, 2005 the two were married at the Paramour Estate in Silverlake, California. They live together in a nice Victorian style house in downtown Los Angeles. On November 13, 2005 Polly gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter named Harper Lee Terrell. TAKING THE JESUS PILL continues to garner rave reviews and attract new interest. Charlie hopes the play can prompt more performer-audience interaction with people coming up to the stage while the preachers are preaching and have them yell things out. TAKING THE JESUS PILL is scheduled to open again in the Summer of 2006.

Terrell's Career

Began playing guitar and writing songs at age 11; moved to Nashville to study to become a preacher; relocated to Los Angeles, CA, 1988; released debut album On the Wings of Dirty Angels on Giant Records, 1990; signed to Virgin Records' Pointblank label, 1994; released Angry Southern Gentleman, 1995; released Beautiful Side of Madness, 1996; recorded Taking the Jesus Pill, based on his own short story, 1997; formed Daddy Van Records, released Three Links in a Broken Chain, dedicated to a friend (Hawk) who died of a drug overdose, 1999.

Selected discography

On the Wings of Dirty Angels , Giant/Warner Bros., 1990.
Angry Southern Gentleman , Pointblank/Virgin, 1995.
Beautiful Side of Madness , Pointblank/Virgin, 1996.
Three Links in a Broken Chain , Daddy Van, 1999.

Further Reading Source:

Book: Buckley, Jonathan, and others, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.

Sources: Official Website and


More info:

Taking the Jesus Pill


Amazon: Charlie Terrell
charlie terrell albums

Charlie Terrell: Water Is Water
Charlie Terrell: Taking the Jesus Pill
Charlie Terrell: Even Saint Steven
Charlie Terrell and the Murdered Johns: Alabama Steampunk Blues

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