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.
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.