October 25, 1925 - December 13, 2017
William Theodore Carney II “Mr. C.”
Mr. C. was a native Philadelphian who began playing violin in his early years before switching to drums and percussion. At the age of 18 he served in the Montford Point Marines, named for the segregated facility where they were trained in North Carolina from 1942 until 1949. Mr. C. was among the honorees in 2013 at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington with the Congressional Gold Medal, the country's highest civilian honor for distinguished achievement. William T. "Mr. C" Carney, acclaimed drummer and jazz band leader, a private first class.
Asked about his time in the Marines, Carney, known for his work with his late wife, organist Trudy Pitts, and other key Philadelphia musicians, said his experience was both good and bad. "It depends on your nature and attitude. You can take anything and make it negative or positive," Carney said. "It pays to make it positive." He said his time on the aircraft carrier USS Hornet in the Pacific and his Montford Point training "made me be more profound in life. I had some proud moments. "When I came home on liberty, black folks would be looking at me, and kids wanted to touch my uniform because they hadn't seen any black Marines," Carney said.
Back home, Mr. C. formed music groups with notable musicians like Pat Martino, Shirley Scott, John Coltrane, Ben Webster, Gene Ammons, George Benson and Sonny Stitt, to name a few. When Shirley Scott left his group to go on the road with saxophonist, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Mr. C. became in need of a new Keyboardist.
According to him, "I called the union," Carney says. "They said, 'Well, we have a young lady down here that plays everything — funerals, cocktail lounges. She coaches classical musicians.' I said, 'Well, I have to meet her.'" That’s how Trudy Pitts began her career in jazz and on the B3. Carney says they feel that they are "missionaries of the Almighty's private language — and that's music." "My biggest love is my partner, who is my queen," he says. "And sometimes she's so spiritual and plays so much, I say, 'Well, God sent me an angel.... Amen.'"
Jazz made its way into Trudy's life and was nurtured by her soul mate and later, her husband, Bill Carney (a.k.a. Mr. C). They unified their efforts and forged ahead. Trudy became a sensation on the Hammond organ.
Together Trudy and Mr. C. produced and performed at many festivals and venues, to include: The Mellon Jazz Festival Organ Jams (produced by Mr. C.), Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival, San Jose Organ Festival, Cliveden Jazz Festival, West Oak Lane Jazz Festival, to name a few. They produced the “Jazz in the Sanctuary” concerts which hosted great musicians such as Grover Washington, Jr., Etta James, Houston Person, Benny Golson, and Lionel Hampton. Trudy’s “Jazz Suite entitled A Joyful Noise” was performed at the oldest African American church in Philadelphia, Mother Bethel and included such jazz dignitaries as Terell Stafford, Tim Warfield, Bobby Watson, Clifford Adams, Reverend Joe, Barbara Walker, Laura Hall, Anysha T. Carney, TC III, Marlon Simon and many more.
Mr. C. produced the fundraiser for the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts aka the “The House that Jazz Built,” in the 1990’s before moving to Broad and Fitzwater in 1995. Mr. C. worked long and hard to get the ear of friend Bernard Watson of the William Penn Foundation and well as then Mayor Ed Rendell to get funding for such an undertaking. As “Ambassador-at-Large” for the Clef Cub, Mr. C. felt it was his duty to make jazz the forefront of the Philadelphia music scene.
When raising a family took front and center, Mr. C. and Trudy started playing closer to home. Mr. C. worked for the US Post Office and for a time also drove a trolley for the Philadelphia Transit Company (PTC). In later years, Trudy was asked to perform on Friday nights at MeiJi En Restaurant on Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia as a solo pianist for one year. In the second year, the Trudy Pitts and Mr. C. Trio with bassist, Lee Smith performed Friday and Saturday nights and for the Sunday Jazz Brunch for 11 years. They hosted jazz dignitaries as Bootsie Barnes, Larry McKenna, Bob Howell, Tim Warfield, Terell Stafford, Bobby Watson, Al Grey, Jerry Weldon, Lilly White, Byard Lancaster, and hosted special holiday events with vocalists, Barbara Walker, Evelyn Simms and their son TC III.
In the 1990’s the Mellon Jazz Festival ask Mr. C. to produce the classic “Organ Jams,” at 3801 Market Street. They featured Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Charles Earland, Bill Doggett, Shirley Scott, Trudy Pitts, Groove Holmes, Joey and Papa John DeFrancesco on organ as well as world class instrumentalists, Bootsie Barnes, Randy and Michael Brecker, George Benson, Larry McKenna, Wallace Roney, to name a few.
Mr. C. leaves to mourn his passing son, TC III (Laura), daughter, Anysha (Randall), grandchildren, William IV, Syncere and Cyndall; brother, Jim Carney and a host of family and friends.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The Carney Family at www.gofundme.com/TrudyPittsMusic