Born in Rocky Mount NC
In 1922, at the age of 5, his family moved to Manhattan NY
Started playing music at 6 and was largely self taught until going to Juliard and studying musical theory, harmony, and arranging. He was also a student at stouyvesant High but did not graduate
Early to mid 1940’s is when he started to play at the famous Mintons Playhouse, where he seemed to really come into his own being around other great jazz musicians such as Dizzy Gillepsie, Charles Parker, Miles Davis and many others
His involvement in Minton is one aspect which drove Minton’s playhouse to be one of the biggest influences on the formation of Bee-Bop. One of the top genres of Jazz at the time.
Monk said one of his biggest influences was Duke Ellington
"So, the boppers worked out a music that was hard to steal. I'll say this for the 'leeches', though: they tried. I've seen them in Minton's busily writing on their shirt cuffs or scribbling on the tablecloth. And even our own guys, I'm afraid, did not give Monk the credit he had coming. Why, they even stole his idea of the beret and bop glasses." Mary Lou Stevens- mentor of monk and other jazz musicians at Miltons Monks first recording was in 1944 with the Coleman Hawkins quartet, who he would later invite to play with him in a johnny Coltrane production in 1957
He recorded his first album with the Blue Notes in 1947, the same year he got married to his wife Nellie Smith. He had a son in 1949 named T.S Monk
And a daughter in 1952 named Barbara
Monk would get his cabaret card taken from him 1951 after being found in a car with narcotics and not testifying against his friend. This would really throw a wrench in monks work because he could no longer play where alchohol was being served. So he would play out of town gigs and little shows and spent the the years intermittently recording songs of the blue notes between 1947 and 52.
In 1952 Monk would sign with prestige records. In his two year stint he recorded a couple great projects that were underated in public eye, where he worked with greats such as max roach and art blakely, sonny Rollins
In 1954 monk participated in more recordings in which he got to work with Miles Davis. Sources say he and Monk did not get along but Miles Davis denies those reports
Monk visisted Paris in 1954 where made many new friends and recorded a show for a French radio program
In 1955 he was bought out by riverside records where he quickly released two jazz records Thelonious monk plays the music of Duke Ellington (1955) and The Unique Thelonious Monk (1956)
He also recorded an LP “Brilliant Corners” in 1956 in what some say was his first big splash
After extended negotiations, Monk signed in 1962 to Columbia Records, one of the big four American record labels of the day along with RCA Victor, Capitol, and Decca. Monk's relationship with Riverside had soured over disagreements concerning royalty payments and had concluded with a brace of European live albums; he had not recorded a studio album since 5 by Monk by 5 in June 1959.
Working with producer Teo Macero on his debut for the label, the sessions in the first week of November had a stable line-up that had been with him for two years: tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse (who worked with Monk from 1959 to 1970), bassist John Ore, and drummer Frankie Dunlop. Monk's Dream, his earliest Columbia album, was released in 1963.
Columbia's resources allowed Monk to be promoted more heavily than earlier in his career. Monk's Dream would become the best-selling LP of his lifetime, and on February 28, 1964, he appeared on the cover of Time magazine, being featured in the article "The Loneliest Monk". He CONTINUED to record studio albums, particularly Criss Cross, also from 1963, and Underground, from 1968. But by the Columbia years his compositional output was limited, and only his final Columbia studio record Underground