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Chuck Wayne, Sonny & Solar

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(photo by Tom Marcello)

Chuck Wayne [Charles Jagelka 1923-1997] was a guitarist and teacher who helped bridge the swing era with the modernist bebop revolution of the mid-1940s. Wayne worked along 52nd Street and took part in recording sessions with Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, Barney Bigard and many others. He was a member of Woody Herman’s band and worked with George Shearing’s Quintet from 1949-52. Wayne toured and recorded with Tony Bennett in the 1950s and eventually became a staff musician for CBS television from 1959-71. He later taught at the Westchester Conservatory of Music and wrote four books on theory for jazz guitarists.


When the Music Division acquired the Chuck Wayne Collection last year, we were expecting to find the guitarist’s music scores, manuscripts, photographs, correspondence and other paperwork. There was one item, though, that proved somewhat startling;  an unpublished 10″ acetate disc of a  recording session from 1946.

(Larry Appelbaum, Diane Wayne)

While any unpublished recording by Chuck Wayne would be reason to celebrate, this disc documents part of a session in Oklahoma City and contained an intriguing original song by Wayne loosely based on the chord changes to How High the Moon. Wayne titled it Sonny, for the trumpeter Sonny Berman, who is heard on the recording with Wayne.

To hear Wayne and Berman together (they met in Woody Herman’s Orchestra) is a pleasure, but the revelation is that the tune Wayne called Sonny is remarkably similar to a song made famous years later by Miles Davis under the title Solar. With permission from Wayne’s wife Diane, here is an excerpt from the original acetate disc. The grooves are worn and the disc is quite noisy, but the melody is clear, especially to those who know the now famous jazz standard.


Wayne failed to register this song for copyright. Seventeen years after the recording of Sonny was made, Prestige Music Co., Inc. registered Solar for copyright. The copyright registration paperwork is dated Aug. 8, 1963 and shows the composer of the song as Miles Davis.



Wayne told people over the years that his song had been appropriated, and in fact The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz entry for Wayne states: “He performed and recorded with Woody Herman’s First Herd (May-December 1946), and while with Herman composed Sonny, which Miles Davis later appropriated and claimed as his own composition, under a new title, Solar.” This story has circulated for years but only a few have heard the song Sonny as recorded by Wayne and friends, at least not until now.


Comments (61)

  1. Bravo!

  2. Yet another example of Miles’ tendency to make dubious claims of composership. I hope that the Wayne estate is able achieve economic justice in this matter.

  3. Thanks Larry; great work!

    Is there a happy ending to this story for Mrs. Wayne or was Chuck’s inaction the spoiler?

  4. Not surprising, as Miles Davis was known for “borrowing” tunes from other musicians and making them his own. There is a similar story about a tune “Four,” that is listed as Miles Davis’ tune.The story I’ve heard, however, attributes this tune to a trumpeter from West Coast, who later showed Miles the tune. And a tune “Blue in Green” on the famous “Kind of Blue” album clearly sounds very Bill Evans like. He was the one who played the first two chords for Miles, from which the tune was created. But again, Miles is typically credited as it’s composer.

    Nevertheless, the history of Jazz can not exist without the artistic contribution from Miles, in writing, playing, and leading the bands.

  5. Wow! What an interesting find! — Since I’m a big fan of Sonny Berman, I tried to imagine him, improvising on “Sonny” a.k.a. “Solar” before I heard the above acetate sound — And indeed: It’s very much reflecting his trumpet style.

    By the way: There is a reason why Miles called it “Solar”: The 12-bar chord sequence is pointing strongly up to heaven, namely to “How High The Moon”.

    Certainly only for making it not too obvious, Miles hasn’t entitled it “Lunar”.

  6. Slightly simpler turnaround, but that IS Solar.

  7. Announcement: Whenever I will perform “Solar” with my students in the future, I will point to Chuck’s authorship, and I will also call it “Sonny”.

    Maybe that I’ll even rename the original line I wrote on the changes in 1989 from “Miles” to “Chuck” :)))

  8. There are some subtle differences between the Miles and Chuck version (namely the first chord is C major in Chuck’s version and C minor/Maj7 in Miles’) While some may argue it is not a big difference please note the corrupt practice of several contemporary music publishers to change ONE word in a song and thus gain a new copyright on it!

    Further, it is NOT the changes to How High the Moon,which is a 32-bar tune, not 12 measures.

    Thank you for bringing this to light! What a wonderful story and I sincerely hope the Wayne estate is able to recoup some of the royalties after all these years!

  9. Très intéressant. Merci pour ce travail.

  10. Won’t you let (genius) deadmen in peace?

  11. Sonny>>> Sunny >>>Solar
    Reconnaissons tous de même à Miles le CmM7 (2 first bars) de Solar, par rapport au C6 de Sonny, change franchement le caractère du morceau de Chuck Wayne,

    Miles, truand de grande classe !!

  12. On review several comments posted here did not fall within our comment policy and we have removed them and will not post comments that quote those comments in full.

  13. Oh, man! There you go again…
    Well done, Larry!

  14. I think back in those days the record companies did a lot of that, without the actual artists being to blame….

  15. Thank you very much for this eye-opener of an article, Larry. And of course it’s an ear-opener, too.



  16. Deeelightful! Thank you!

  17. It’s so fantastic that truth prevailed after more than 60 years.

    Anyway, it’s an immortal tune, regardless of the composer.

    Vielen Dank from Germany.


  18. Great job.

  19. Miles should be dig up an punished….along with mozart…some of those notes had already been used……give it a rest…..i think the truest statement was “failed to register for copyright”….great songS let it go…..

  20. Does any one know if Chuck ever owned and played a sunburst ES 175D?

  21. Wow. I hope this can be resolved in the Wayne estates favor. Unbelievable!

  22. Has the excerpt been removed? There is only a blank space–no link or file–following the “here’s an excerpt” paragraph.

    • @Gregory: The excerpt has been restored. Thanks for responding.

  23. Thanks for the restoration. That is clearly the same song as Solar, even if Davis made slight changes to it. It would be interesting to know how Davis heard it, given that Wayne did not record it.

  24. Recently I was given a CD recorded by a local Albuquerque DJ, of his daily radio show. Though the DJ clearly stated Solar was a Miles Davis tune, I looked it up anyway–since I’d never heard it before. I’m sure glad I did! What an interesting story! The composer line on my iPod will say, “A Chuck Wayne song appropriated by Miles Davis!”

  25. Unless Chuck played this tune in Miles’ presence, I don’t see how Davis could have heard it without Chuck playing it for someone else who then played it for Miles. The only connection I can find between Miles Davis and Chuck Wayne is George Shearing. Chuck Wayne was an early guitarist for the George Shearing Quintet. A reasonable explanation might be Chuck played it for George Shearing, who remembered it, and played it (probably messing around) during a session with Miles Davis in Jan, 1951 (Metronome All-Stars, with Shearing on piano). They recorded Shearing’s Local 802 Blues–perhaps Sonny was a number they were going to record and changed their minds. Miles could have easily gotten this “idea” from overhearing old George or George discussed it with him.

    • @Tim: Thanks for your comment. You might consult the interview with Chuck Wayne in the August 1996 issue of Cadence magazine. In it, Wayne talks about Miles Davis coming to see him when they were both playing on 52nd St., adding that Miles would always ask him to play the song, “Sonny.” If true, it would certainly explain how Miles might have heard it directly from Wayne. One more possibility is that Miles was friends with trumpeter Sonny Berman, for whom the song was written. Miles might have heard Sonny play it. Of course, this is speculation. I see no evidence that George Shearing played or recorded this song in those years.

  26. Thanks, Larry. I agree about the absence of evidence for Shearing playing or recording the tune. My speculation was more along the line of Shearing being aware of the song and perhaps playing it for Miles or discussing it at the ’51 session.

    Your information on the Wayne interview sounds more reasonable to me. I suppose Wayne either did not know about the existence of his acetate or, if he did, he decided that fighting the Davis copyright with it was not worth the trouble.

    • @Tim: Wayne certainly knew about the acetate disc. It was in his possession and he referred to it in the Cadence interview. I cannot speculate on his reasons for not fighting the Prestige Music Co., Inc. copyright registration.

  27. Very interesting and thanks for all the research. I share the view already expressed that the CmMaj7 of Miles’s version creates a different, very plangent sound compared to Chuck Wayne’s original. The rest of the sequence is not exactly derivative, but uses a device that was to become fairly familiar in bebop. Having said that Wayne’s 1946 acetate is early in the development of bebop, so that should be recognised.

  28. Apropos the discussion of the opening chord of this tune, unlike melodies, chord changes can not be copyrighted. The harmony is irrelevant … the melody is clearly Chuck’s.

    … and it’s worth noting that some of the fake books have the first change as C major, which up until now I thought was wrong!

    This is a REALLY interesting find. Now I’d like to know more about the details. I wonder if anyone who might know about this will come forward.


  29. As a Jazz trumpeter, in the mid fifties and for some time later, Miles Davis was a great crowd puller at clubs, concerts and festivals and
    certainly was considered to be a premier Jazz trumpeter.

    In his personal and public life, Davis was a disaster; not announcing songs, turning his back to audiences and telling an admiring lady who said, ‘Miles, I have all yours LPs”; Davis retorting by saying , “So what ”B—h”.

    Another time , as he lay unconscious in the street of New York under
    the ”influrence of drugs”, trumpet player Clark Terry took him over to
    his (Terry’s) apartment so Davis could rest and get cleaned up. Leaving him alone, Terry went off to take care of his own business;
    upon his return, he was dismayed to find Davis had taken off with
    Terry”s horn and some clothing and hocked them.

    Who the composer the of ”So What” is also suspect.

    Shame Chuck Wayne did not get to enjoy the fruits of Sonny/Solar
    in his life time.

    • Commenters speak for themselves. And so does Miles Davis’ music.

  30. Sorry to be late to the party but I was doing some research and found your work here. I am glad that these ambiguities are finally being cleared up as it is important to give credit where it is due.
    Thank you for this. Best regards, Wayne

  31. To Mr. Trivedi: There’s no doubt Miles could be a bastard sometimes, but he had a more gracious side, as many will attest. Re: the Clark Terry story, Miles was a junkie at the time. That doesn’t give him a free pass, but you have a look at an action like that in the context of his addiction. Charlie Parker did the same stuff!

  32. When Can we Hear the Entire Cut!? It’s incredible!

    • The intellectual property for the recording is owned by the Chuck Wayne Estate. If Diane Wayne wants to release it, she may do so. There are four songs in all on a very noisy disc.

  33. As to how Miles might have heard it, according to the discography at, Chuck Wayne did play once with Miles at Birdland in 1952. The “Sonny” record was cut years earlier, and “Solar” came out under Miles’ name on the Walkin’ album in 1954.

  34. Mr. Larry Appelbaum, Thank you to add me this knowledge. Could you give me one more another knowledge? When did you know this story from, or just you have known from the item was found?

    • Takahashi-san,

      Thank you for your note. Stories about the origin of this melody have circulated for years. Wayne himself discussed it in the Aug. 1996 issue of Cadence magazine, but very few had ever heard the recording he made in 1946 until his widow, Diane Wayne, donated her husband’s collection and allowed us to put an excerpt from the disc on our website. Once I heard the disc, I began to dig a little deeper to find the copyright registration legacy, which is now part of the article you are responding to. There are still, as you might imagine, some unanswered questions.

  35. Having personally known Chuck, a close friend was a guitar student of his, he once told us that one night he was playing in a trio with Horace Silver and Miles Davis walked in. In front of Chuck, he asked Silver why he was playing with this “honky” (politer version) and Silver told Miles to “get the f__k out of here.” Chuck spoke warmly of Horace Silver and mentioned how he was above those sort of games.

  36. Several years ago I called the tune “Solar” on a gig, then announced it as Miles Davis’s composition. My guitarist said, “No, it’s by Chuck Wayne.” That was the first I’d heard of it but this recording is “Solar” almost note for note.

  37. I guess I read “Sunny” in handwritten letters on the Melodisc label, and not “Sonny” . The word “Sunny” would have much more to to with “(How high the)Moon”, and “Solar”!

  38. @ Marcello. I agree, “Sunny” is clearly written four times in green , pink and faded grey letters on the label of the Melodisc.
    This will possibly excludes any relation with trumpeter Sonny Berman, at least in the beginning

  39. Larry,

    Five years after you posted this but I just came across it.

    I remember very well reading Chuck’s interview in Cadence and his discussion of the tune (though if he mentioned that he had called it “Sonny”, that I didn’t remember).

    I too have always noted the relation of the A part of “Sonny” to “Moon” and assumed that’s why Miles called it “Solar.”

    Just wonderful to have this.

  40. Following up:

    Yes, “Sunny” in green, and twice in faded gray is visible on the label. The pink lettering appears to have originally been written “Sonny” and then the top of the “o” whitened out to create a “u”.

    However…I went back to the 1996 Cadence interview.
    Chuck talks about the relation to the “Moon” changes
    and next says, “Miles Davis came and visited the band [i.e. Woody Herman]. He was visiting Sonny because he was a trumpet player and they were friendly. Sonny said, ‘Hey, let’s play that tune that you wrote.’ It was that song and Miles picked up on the tune.

    “Later on we were in Oklahoma City, and we were doin’ a jam session. This guy wanted us to play some tunes. So I asked everyone, ‘What would you like to play?’ And Sonny, again, who was on this jam session said, ‘Let’s play your tune.’ So I said ‘Okay.’

    “We played and I have a record of it, I have one of those old fashioned records of it. And when we finished the tune the guy said, ‘What do you call it?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. Call it “Sonny”.’ And I called it ‘Sonny,’ and Miles called it ‘Solar.'”

    Could “this guy” have heard Chuck say “Sonny” and written “Sunny”? The green ink, presumably the first thing written on the label, begins with the words, “Chuck’s tune.” So presumably not written by Chuck himself.

  41. Wow … Maybe Miles was coming off a night of uppers and downers and thought he wrote it (an unlikely story … but they should put it in the next movie about Miles). Just learning “Solar” for a jazz class. I am going to start calling it “Sonny”.

  42. More correct to call it “Sunny” as I looked more closely at the record label. Thanks for this info.

  43. Let’s not make Miles the bad guy if you don’t dig Miles that fine. A lot of tunes Bird wrote he had no titles record producer gave than names. Chuck Wayne’s that says he wrote Butterfinger and Prospecting Zoot Sims has credit for those tunes.

  44. The irony of this story gets even deeper if you look at a photo of Miles tombstone…

  45. … and the story seems to be endless…
    After 35 years of musicology and many articles and books I wrote on Miles Davis, receiving respect from Miles Davis family too, yesterday I was verbally assaulted (on my FB page) by the Davis’Estate main character, after I put in discussion the chance that Solar wasn’t a MD composition. I mentioned this page and as reply I received a wonderful “F*** You Enrico Merlin” (plainly written, no asterisks). And he wrote it in my public page… Then he removed me from his contacts (after years of collaboration and information exchanges). They simply don’t want to even talk about these things. Probably they are afraid about possible copyright issues. It’s a bad world for truth researchers. But, let’s go on.

    • Comments posted on this blog do not reflect the views of the Library of Congress. Comments are not edited before they are posted.

  46. I visited Miles’ grave in Woodlawn cemetery in the Bronx. The first bar of ‘Solar’ in on the gravestone! Wonder how THAT happened…

  47. I was a student of Chuck’s many years ago and we also hung out quite a bit. Once at his house I started playing a bit of what I (and practically the entire jazz world) had known as ‘Solar’, and somewhat foolishly asked if he knew it. He shot me a hard look and immediately rejoined ‘I WROTE it!’. And damned if he didn’t. The proof is on the recording excerpted above, years before Miles Davis or his record company or whoever put Miles’s name on it. Chuck has a widow and one son I know of. I hope they eventually see some royalties…

  48. There is also speculation that BILL EVANS and NOT MILES DAVIS wrote FLAMENCO SKETCHES!

  49. You may be thinking of Blue in Green.

  50. On listening to Chuck Wayne’s “Sonny”, it’s clear to me that “Miles'” Solar is not his.
    Miles had a propensity to appropriate or transpose other people’s tunes. A point in case: Miles, and most (sur)Real Books put “Straight no Chaser” ( ridiculously translated in an edition I found in in Spain, in1971, as “En línea recta, sin cazador “) in F. Whereas Monk always played blues in Bb.
    I also heard an interview with Bill Evans, in which he catagorically states that Blue in Green is his.
    As for his behaviour as a person, I’ve had the luxury of seeing him, listening to him and hanging out with him in a variety of places and situations.
    I could write a (small) book of stories and anecdotes concerning Miles. But these will go to the grave with me (and a handful of close friends).
    Though in general most of my favourite musicians have also been wonderful, kind and generous people, I think it’s important to separate the man from the music. And nothing Miles has ever done can’t detract from the monument he left behind.

  51. Would it be possible to listen to the complete track some day? It would be very interesting to hear Sonny Berman’s solo on this particular tune.

  52. people are expressing shock at davis’s appropriation of wayne’s work, but such shenanigans proved typical in the jazz business. after all, as he was the leader of the band and davis was his trumpeter, charlie parker felt justified in taking credit for davis’s composition “donna lee.”

  53. I just noticed that the version on the recording above is in the key of Db Major (more or less) not in C. Would anyone know if that is the recording having changed the speed or if it actually is played in that key?

  54. Hello , I hear the likeness of SONNY and SOLAR – It is too much alike – and both Miles Davis and Chuck Wayne went to the grave probably always thinking about the likeness- this is very good to hear this after so many years this song not being brought to the attention of the fans of CHUCK WAYNE , Joe Nania

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