Saturday, May 12, 2012

Vince Guaraldi at the Piano: The publicity machine sputters into life

Writing a book, and then getting it published, is only half the battle these days. Absent the sort of name-brand recognition granted a William Shakespeare, an Agatha Christie, a Leo Tolstoy or a J.K. Rowling, today's authors are pretty much left to fend for themselves, when it comes to marketing and promotion. And since all authors are in the same boat, attempting to row faster toward salvation at the hands of the same radio, television or Web outlets, it can be hard to rise above the tide (he said, beating the metaphor to death).

I'm luckier than some; Vince Guaraldi has become a popular topic once again, and his life is filled with the sort of engaging narrative material that generates good sound bites. I've therefore secured some nice publicity already, with (one hopes) more to come. Such appearances will be archived in this post, mostly so I have all of them in a single place, and also so that my parents can find them easily. And I dearly hope that the links here will increase in number, at least for a little while.

Yes, this is self-serving; my apologies, and I'll try not to stoop this low too often. But -- in my defense -- I've always wondered, when reading or hearing other interviews, how much "prep time" interviewers allow themselves. Do the questions suggest a level of familiarity that bespeaks having actually cracked the covers of the book? Or are we simply getting the obvious talking points?

Again, I've been fortunate; jazz radio hosts want to read the book, and I've even fared well with National Public Radio folks. The burden has been on me, then, not to recycle the same anecdotes with each interviewer. I'm working on that...

If you're curious, then, I'll try to hold your interest during these pieces...

• My first radio interview, airing April 24, 2012, on Davis, California's homegrown radio station, KDRT 95.7, "where the grass roots grow." Host Bill Buchanan prepped extensively for our half-hour chat, having made notes as he read the book: a level of dedication for which I was grateful.

• Jazz buff Kevin Kniestedt, who hosts Jazz on the Grooveyard on Seattle/Tacoma's KPLU 88.5, chatted with me for about half an hour; he deftly edited the results into this engaging podcast, which he posted on May 2, 2012.

• KXJZ 90.9, one of Sacramento's NPR stations, very generously offered me a spot on their morning public affairs show, Insight, on May 7, 2012. Emmy Award-winning Beth Ruyak, in the host's chair, led me through several good questions, concluding with one that still gives me pause: What words would I use, to describe Guaraldi to somebody who didn't know his music? That's a challenge, and I tried to do it justice.

• The following day, May 8, 2012, our local newspaper -- The Davis Enterprise -- granted me a very nice spread on Page 3: right-hand side of the page, where the story couldn't be missed by readers. Reporter Jeff Hudson clearly spent some time with the book, before walking me through an intense 40 minutes of questions; he skillfully distilled the responses into a solid story that blends personal anecdotes (mine) with plenty of good, hard information and "bullet points" about Guaraldi's career.

• All About Jazz, the Web's premiere information source for all things jazz, surprised me with an offer to post an excerpt from the book. I was pleased to comply, and on May 8, 2012, they kindly published my book's prologue, as a "teaser" designed to whet reader appetite.

FoundSF, an historical web site devoted to sharing essays, memoirs, oral histories, personal anecdotes, photos, videos and book extracts about the life, times and history of San Francisco, California, graciously included a short excerpt from my book, which I titled "Vince Guaraldi at the hungry i." This debuted May 22, 2012.

• That same evening, May 22, 2012, the Davis radio station KDRT delighted me with another slice of publicity. Don Shor, host of the weekly show "Jazz After Dark," devoted his entire program to Guaraldi: selections by the San Francisco pianist himself, and covers by later "keepers of the flame" such as Dave Brubeck, David Benoit and George Benson. Don also mentioned my book: darn decent of him!

• Guaraldi spent his final decade living in Marin, California, where his activities were followed by the region's daily newspaper, the Independent Journal. I'm therefore quite pleased by this article/interview that ran May 25, 2012, in what once was Guaraldi's "paper of record." Longtime IJ reporter Paul Liberatore did a very nice job (and I'm pleased that he enjoyed the book so much!).

• Short but very sweet: Chris Smith, a longtime reporter and columnist for the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, California, gave me a nice plug on June 28 for my reading and multi-media presentation that was scheduled for the following day (June 29) at the Charles M. Schulz Museum. Chris has been a kind and generous friend and colleague over the years, and I'm always grateful for the attention he pays to my various appearances in his home city. 

• A few months back, I had a lengthy and very enjoyable chat with Jon Norton, music director of Illinois State University's Jazz Radio WGLT. This resulted in three short podcasts, the first of which went live Saturday, July 7; the second followed on July 17, and the third on July 23. You can find them here, at WGLT's Jazz Next site. You also can sign up for it as an iTunes podcast here.

• Jazz journalist and historican Doug Ramsey gave the book a nice shout-out on July 15, on his Rifftides blog. If this is your first visit, be sure to poke around; you'll find a lot of great reportage.

• I spent a delightful hour chatting with DJ Alan Rock, at WUCF in Orlando, Florida, on the morning of July 17: what would have been Guaraldi's 84th birthday. Sadly, this hasn't been archived at WUCF, and could only be heard live that day.

• That same day — also by way of celebrating Guaraldi's birthday — WJSU in Jackson, Mississippi, aired a nicely edited piece from an interview I had with Larissa Hale a few weeks earlier. This piece has been posted at WJSU; scroll down to the "Take 5" button, and look for my name.

• Jeff Dayton-Johnson's lengthy, thoughtful and quite complimentary review of my book debuted July 31 at the indispensable allaboutjazz web site. I spent a lot of time at allaboutjazz, referencing biographical information about many of the music giants whose paths crossed Guaraldi's. Jeff defends his points well, and obviously knows whereof he speaks, with respect to so many other aspects of jazz in general, and Guaraldi's career in particular. I'm very grateful for the review, and I'm equally sure that it'll be the most scholarly commentary I'm likely to receive.

• Jazz journalist, author and broadcaster Bob Bernotas gave my book a nice plug in the September issue of his e-newsletter, Just Jazz, which hit subscriber e-mailboxes on August 30. (I love it when folks cite my "meticulous research." Makes all those dark hours spent at the library's newspaper microfilm readers seem worthwhile!)

• On July 16, I spent close to 90 minutes taping a session with DJ Alisa Clancy at KCSM in San Mateo, California. Alisa also interviewed Colin Bailey, Eddie Duran, Dean Reilly and other individuals who once worked with Guaraldi; the result — Vince Guaraldi: The Story of Dr. Funk, an impressive feature running close to two hours — aired at 7 a.m. (PST) Friday, September 7, as part of KCSM's pledge drive. Copies of my book were offered during the breaks, as pledge gifts. The program was so well received that it repeated at 10 a.m. (PST) Sunday, September 16. Unfortunately, the show doesn't seemed to be archived at KCSM, which is really a shame; Alisa did a superb job, and I wish more people could hear the results.

• I gave a reading and audio/visual presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 13, at the St. Helena (California) Public Library; this was very much like the program I delivered to a full house at the Charles M. Schulz Museum theater, on June 29, in Santa Rosa, California. Alas, the St. Helena event was sparsely attended, although the few folks present were polite and attentive.

• I got up early on Friday, October 26, for a nice chat with Derrick Lucas, one of the DJs on WGMC, out of Rochester, New York. He got a kick out of the fact that "two Derricks" were chatting on the air (and so did I, particularly since he spells his name the same way!). The chat ran about 25 minutes, with some Guaraldi tunes sprinkled throughout, and was one of the "special events" taking place during the station's pledge break. Sadly, the interview isn't archived on the station's Web site, so I can't point you to a link.

I returned to the Charles M. Schulz Museum at 4 p.m. Saturday, November 3. This was a truly special event; I supported pianist David Benoit, who performed a selection of Guaraldi's signature tunes. The music was blended with information and anecdotes about Guaraldi, which I supplied between songs: a bit of history, leading to a particular tune, which Benoit then performed, repeat a dozen or so times. We filled the Museum's Great Hall, and a marvelous time was had by all. I wish we could take that show on the road!

• Way back in early June, I spent a very enjoyable 90 minutes in the studio at Portland, Oregon's KMHD, chatting with operations manager Raoul van Hall. He's clearly an avid Guaraldi fan, and often plays at least one Guaraldi track during his weekly show; we covered all sorts of territory during an interview that lasted so long, that the engineer finally placed a hand-scribbled sign against the studio glass, which read "Do you really plan to use all this?" That might have been nice, but no; of course not. Raoul worked hard and edited our talk down to just shy of half an hour, and it finally aired Saturday afternoon, November 24. It was archived in the "Blog" section of KMHD's web site, and can be found here.

• Publicity went international on November 26, when I was included in a brief discussion of A Charlie Brown Christmas on Germany's Deutschlandfunk. The result is rather trippy; each time I began to talk, the first words are at regular volume, and then my voice dials back for a radio station voice-over in German. You can hear the 5-minute spot here, and read the transcript here ... assuming you read German, of course!

• Producer Simone Wienstroer was able to place a longer version of that same feature on a second German radio network, WDR5, where it aired Monday, January 28, on the program Neugier Genügt. Alas, this version wasn't posted on the Web.

That'll probably be it for the "immediately after publication" wave; things have pretty much stopped at this point. But I'm not complaining; I got a lot of publicity from quite a few sources during most of 2012. Now we'll see if the book has "legs," as they say in Hollywood. Fingers crossed!


  1. Hey, it's a blog. No need to apologize for any of this. There was an important Union organizer named John L Lewis, and he is reputed to have said "He who tooteth not his own horn, his horn shall not be tooteth."

  2. John L. Lewis was a wise man. I wonder if he ever had to shop his own book...

  3. KMHD's full interview with Derrick is located in the blog section of our website:

    Although the segment says "part 1," both parts are included.


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