Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shelby Flint's 'Fate'

Research is an endless task akin to cleaning a house: No matter how meticulous the approach, no matter how much time and effort are put into the work, there's always another overlooked corner waiting to be scoured. At some point, though, one must call it a day and get on with life.

So it was, toward the end of the roughly three years I spent actively gathering data, conducting interviews, preparing outlines and then actually writing what became my book, Vince Guaraldi at the Piano. The writing too frequently was interrupted by a fresh quest prompted by a nugget of information in a newspaper article, or a casual aside in the transcription of an interview with one of Guaraldi's former sidemen. I love investigative research; it suits both my scrupulous nature and romantic notions of being a private detective. Writing is hard; sifting data is fun. No surprise, then, that I frequently postponed the former in order to indulge in more of the latter.

Too frequently, as it turned out. And each new bit of discovered information made the manuscript longer by a sentence, a paragraph or a page. A writer who yields too often to such impulses will a) wind up with a manuscript that's much too long; or b) never finish the book at all. Or both.

I finally had to stop, submit the final, polished edit to my publisher, and walk away ... knowing, with certainty, that the moment the contents of the book became set in stone (well, on paper), I'd think of something else that should have been included.

I therefore wasn't surprised, a few weeks ago — which was a few weeks after the book was released — when I woke one morning, having recalled something that hadn't properly registered when I first came across it. Something I read, something somebody said ... I didn't know which. A simple statement to the effect that the song "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" had "charted" three times, referring to landings on the Billboard pop chart. And that statement, freshly remembered, brought me up short.

Three times?

Only two leaped to mind: the 19 weeks that Guaraldi's own version of his song had spent on the charts, in late 1962 and 1963; and the 13 weeks of chart action enjoyed in 1965 by the cover version delivered by the British group Sounds Orchestral. I could not recall having come across a third artist or band that also had a hit single with the song.

So I went looking.

Mercifully, the hunt was short. California-born singer Shelby Flint enjoyed an eight-week run with "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" in 1966, from August 13 through October 4: six weeks on the Top 100 chart, and a slightly overlapping seven weeks on the Top 40 Easy Listening chart. It was Flint's second and final Top 100 single, after 1961's "Angel on My Shoulder." She enjoyed a modest but noteworthy pop career in the 1960s, releasing a handful of albums, one of them prompted by her success with Guaraldi's hit song. She was praised by jazz critic Leonard Feather, and cited as a role model by Joni Mitchell. Flint went on to work in film and television; she eventually gravitated more toward jazz, and her 1992 album Providence remains a high point of her later career. Like Guaraldi, she also enjoyed a Peanuts connection, albeit a brief one; she sang Lila's theme — "Do You Remember Me?" — in the second big-screen Peanuts film, 1972's Snoopy Come Home.

Obviously, she should have been mentioned in my book; neglecting her chart action with "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" was an unfortunate oversight.

An oversight which, happily, can be set right here.


Chris Lee said...

Derrick, I ordered the book right after I first heard about it and spent most of a weekend finishing it. Very impressive! I've been enjoying the blog too.

There was actually a 4th version of "Cast Your Fate To The Wind" that charted (5 if you count the Martin Denny cover that made the Bubbling Under chart that you mentioned in the book). Steve Alaimo released a vocal version about a year before Shelby Flint did (while Sounds Orchestral's was still on the charts). Here was its Billboard action:

Bubbling Under
5/22/65 #114
6/5/65 #123
6/12/65 #111

Hot 100
6/26/65 #90
7/3/65 #89

Easy Listening
6/5/65 #38
6/12/65 #40
6/19/65 #34
6/26/65 #27
7/3/65 #22
7/10/65 #38

Interesting coincidence: on both the Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts for 6/26, Alaimo's version was one position ahead of "Soul Sauce" by Vince's former boss Cal Tjader. Alaimo had a really interesting career, highlighted by the fact that he holds the record for having the most Hot 100 hits (9) without ever making the Top 40.

Derrick Bang said...


Outstanding find! Here I was feeling smug about having located Shelby Flint, and you one-upped me. Great job of research, and I appreciate the detailed listings; I'll add Alaimo to the Guaraldi timeline.

So ... now I wonder if any other charting covers of "Fate" might be Out There, waiting to be re-discovered!

Corry342 said...

As near as I can tell, Joe Walsh and the mighty James Gang reached #20 on the Billboard album chart with The James Gang Rides Again. In his solo in "The Bomber," from that album, Walsh quotes Ravel's Bolero and Vince's "Cast Your Fate To The Wind." Vince is cited with author credits on the cd release, anyway (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Gang_Rides_Again--Wikipedia can never be wrong, right?).

The James Gang are staples of beer commercials these days. Mainly "Funk 49" and "Walk Away," but I've gotta think "The Bomber' is used for something frosty, somewhere.

Chris Lee said...

I appreciate the nice words about my little nugget of trivia coming from someone who's done so much great research on Charles M. Schulz and Guaraldi. I have a bunch of the Joel Whitburn Billboard chart books, and when you mentioned Shelby Flint it jogged my memory about Steve Alaimo, so I looked it up then went to the Billboard Google archives to get more details. Guaraldi/Denny/Sounds Orchestral/Alaimo/Flint seem to be the only ones that charted in Billboard. There might have been others that charted in Cashbox or Record World or maybe got some local airplay but didn't chart nationally.

Derrick Bang said...

Indeed, isn't the Google Books Billboard archive a wonderful resource? It helped me nail down the release dates of several Guaraldi LPs. And as far as "Fate" and the charts are concerned ... well, as you can see here, we can sorta-kinda acknowledge one more, if only on a technicality!