Sharp-eared Guaraldi fans love to analyze every single note heard in A Charlie Brown Christmas, in part because that’s the only Peanuts TV special to have generated its own soundtrack album. Many times over the years, I’ve fielded this question: “What’s being played about seven minutes into the show, as Charlie Brown watches Snoopy decorate his doghouse? That music isn’t on the album!” Answer: “Air Music,” also known as “Surfin’ Snoopy” ... and while it’s true that tune doesn’t appear on the soundtrack album, it is included on the CD Charlie Brown’s Holiday Hits.
For quite awhile, my interest is this particular topic was confined solely to such easy album/soundtrack comparisons. But when what we can call the “sidemen controversy” erupted anew late last year — regarding which of Guaraldi’s bassists and drummers performed on the special’s TV soundtrack, and/or the subsequently album, as detailed at length in this blog’s previous post — I realized that Fantasy’s long-standing justification for the credits, as given since the album’s re-release in 1998, required further scrutiny.
The assumption, as I explained, is that one set of sidemen (bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey) recorded the show’s actual soundtrack, in Hollywood; and a second set of sidemen (bassist Fred Marshall and drummer Jerry Granelli) subsequently recorded the album’s music, in San Francisco.
But can this theory be supported by the evidence?
In a word ... no.
At least, not completely.