Palmieri’s parents migrated to New York from Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1926, and settled down in the South Bronx where Palmieri was born. As a child, Palmieri taught himself to play the piano by ear. He attended the public school system. At age seven, his father enrolled him at The Juilliard School, where he took piano lessons. By the time Palmieri was 14 years old, he and his five-year-old brother, Eddie, participated in many talent contests, often winning prizes. It was at this time that his godfather introduced him to the music of the Latin bands – an experience which inspired him to become a musician. Charlie Palmieri suffered another heart attack upon his arrival at New York where, as the musical director of the Joe Cuba Sextet, he was to arrange a concert. He died later that day at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx.