Sunday, January 27, 2013

Incident at a Coffee Shop

Although I've had the honor — and great joy — to chat with all sorts of folks who knew and worked with Guaraldi, I often think about the people I missed interviewing.

I first met Vince's son David, and his family, at an all-Guaraldi concert George Winston gave in November 1998, in Santa Rosa. David's group included his grandmother — yep, Vince's mother — and I walked her back to their car, when the evening concluded. She held my arm like a cultured lady at a society dance. So close, I reflect, so close ... but that was years before I decided to write my book.

Vince's ex-wife, Shirley, also died before I ever had a chance to meet her. As far as I know, she never was interviewed formally about their years together. That may have been by choice; she's not mentioned at all in Bob Deorchuck's excellent Guaraldi profile in the July 1981 issue of Keyboard Magazine — which definitely is worth seeking out, for those who've not read it — and there's no evidence she attended any of the annual Guaraldi reunion concerts at the Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, for as long as they lasted.

Gretchen Glanzer and friend. She modeled for Lilli Ann
during her early years with Vince, and therefore knew
how to "sell" a photo. Many of Guaraldi's LP covers are
droll, but this definitely is the best.

(Photo by Charles Weckler)
Number One with a bullet on my list of those who got away, however, is Vince's longtime girlfriend, Gretchen Katamay (Gretchen Glanzer, when he knew her). I missed her by inches ... well ... by a few months. She maintained a close relationship with Vince's two children, and particularly with Dia. Gretchen apparently was a cheerful, gregarious woman who lived life to the fullest and loved talking about Vince. I was lucky to gain access to an on-camera interview she gave in August 2003, for a project that never got off the ground; I was, as a result, able to spend about an hour listening to her share memories ... many of which put an even broader smile on her already beaming face.

But I sure wish I'd met her in person.

I therefore was quite pleased to receive a note from a gentleman named Brian McCormack, who thought I'd enjoy hearing a little story he had to tell. He thought correctly; he also agreed to share his anecdote in this wider forum. Take it away, Brian:

I've been a huge fan of Vince Guaraldi since I was a child, and have enjoyed playing his music on the piano for many years now.

On Labor Day weekend in September 2007, I was visiting two friends — Rob and Ted — in Morro Bay, California. We're all landscape architects, and a larger bunch of us got together one evening to drink wine at Rob's house, and enjoy the charm of his family and his small California coastal town. Some of us had worked together at the same landscape architectural firm in Southern California in the 1980s, while others had graduated together from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Rob, Ted and I drove to nearby Los Osos the following morning, to Celia's Garden Café, a locally owned coffee shop. We sat outside to enjoy our lattes and scones, and two very cool ladies about my Mom's age sat next to us. We all started talking; we explained about being landscape architects, and how most of us had started our own firms, and that the weekend was a reunion of sorts for us. The ladies were quite interested in our work, and I'm pretty sure we gave them our business cards.

We also talked about my heritage, as I'm a member of Idaho's Nez Perce Tribe. (Later that day, Rob took Ted and me on a hike to visit some local Indian archaeological sites along the California coastline.)

Eventually, we got around to asking the ladies about their professions.

One of them told us that she once was a concert promoter for Bill Graham in the Bay Area, and that she had toured with the Grateful Dead and other 1960s and '70s-era rock bands. She talked about some of the bands that she had managed. One in particular was Jefferson Airplane and Grace Slick. I was a huge fan of their music, and we talked about how I liked playing some of Jefferson Airplane's music on the piano. (I also was a piano major in college.)

She also mentioned having lived with Vince Guaraldi. She was surprised when I told her I loved his music.

I always think of this lady whenever I play any of Vince's pieces on the piano. (My favorite is "Manha de Carnaval.") I didn't get her name that day, and only learned that it was Gretchen after visiting this blog. I was hoping to run into her again during my next visit to Los Osos, but was sad to read in the Lost Live Dead blog that she had died in 2009. My condolences to her family and friends.

That was a memorable Labor Day weekend for me, to say the least.

By all accounts, Gretchen charmed everybody she met, and that certainly seems to have been the case here. I envy your chance encounter, Brian, and I'm grateful you got in touch.

It would be nice, one day, to hear you play "Manha de Carnaval."


  1. Photo credit goes to Charles Weckler. This was photographed in Sausalito in the basement of our house where my Dad had his studio and darkroom.

    1. I am a huge fan of your Dad Charles Weckler's there a page or any publication of his photographs?

  2. Great story as my dad and Gretchen were first cousins growing up together in Dinuba, CA. Gretchen was an incredible and fascinating woman and I feel like I missed out by not sitting and talking with her more before she passed of cancer. She went to a book signing of mine in San Luis Obispo in 2008 then passed away the next year. I picked up the piano but never once talked about her and Vince. Missed opportunity for sure.


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