Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The De Maupassant connection

On July 16, 1964, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Ralph Gleason reported that Guaraldi and Bola Sete were scheduled to record some short programs — known as “fills” — for National Educational Television (NET) member stations; San Francisco’s KQED Channel 9 was one such station. (NET existed from 1952 to October 4, 1970, at which point it was replaced by the PBS network we know today.)

Guy de Maupassant
As with PBS, NET programming aired without the advertising spots found on commercial networks such as ABC, CBS and NBC. The aforementioned short spots therefore were used when a series — often imported from the UK — ran only 54 minutes or so, which required the NET network to “fill” the remaining time with a short subject of some sort.

On January 27, 1965, Gleason reported that “a series of solo ‘fills’ of five and six minutes, which Guaraldi did for Educational TV, now is being shown on KQED before dramas.”

Despite the fact that numerous copies of these fills must’ve circulated among the country’s many NET stations, none has surfaced. (I can’t help feeling that tapes are Out There somewhere, in some station’s storage room, or some retired line producer’s attic.) These fills therefore remain high on the list of Guaraldi’s most-wanted video appearances.

Indeed, until just a few weeks ago, I hadn’t even figured out how many existed, and how they were used. That said, I’d seen tantalizing clues over the years, although their significance was difficult to judge. Scattered among the results of generic Internet searches on “Vince Guaraldi,” I’d see occasional newspaper TV listings at odd hours of the evening, which read something like this:

Channel 7, 10:55, “Vince Guaraldi: Twilight of Youth.”

(Since I didn’t learn that “Twilight of Youth” was an unrecorded Guaraldi composition until several years after my biography was published, I didn’t immediately suspect it might be one of the aforementioned fills; it sounded more like a short interview segment.)


Time passed; such odd little items went into a folder marked Further Analysis Required.

Thanks to the recent deep dive back into newspapers.com, and the presence of many more publications in their archives, the picture became clearer. Armed with additional hints — and more detailed television listings — the answer has emerged.

Stories of Guy de Maupassant — also known, more simply, as Maupassant — was a 13-episode Granada-TV anthology series broadcast throughout the UK in the summer and autumn of 1963. Each episode featured between one and three vignettes adapted from works by the celebrated 19th century French author, regarded as an early master of the short story form. The tales often depicted people as grasping, integrity-challenged schemers who got what they deserved, rather than what they wanted.

The series was picked up by NET, and began airing in some U.S. markets in January 1965 (the episodes arbitrarily broadcast in a different sequence). Because NET lacked a uniform nationwide schedule, the series — slightly re-titled Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant — continued to pop up across the country through at least 1967. The series appears to have been “anchored” by San Francisco’s KQED, which — as Gleason reported, in the summer of ’64 — hired Guaraldi, Sete and concert trumpeters Roger Voisin and Armando Ghitalla, to perform the short music “fills” that would occupy the rest of each hour … after a given episode, rather than before (as Gleason erroneously claimed in his January 1965 column).

This is undoubtedly why Guaraldi was a special guest during an afternoon gathering of the National Educational Television Group, on January 29, 1965. The series had debuted two weeks earlier on KQED, on January 15.

Guaraldi and his trio handled eight episodes. Sete did two; Voisin and Ghitalla also did two. (Episode six, Yvette, occupied the entire hour and did not required a fill.) Individual episodes of Short Stories ran varying lengths, so the fills correspondingly could be anywhere from 3:45 to 8:10.

Here, then, is the U.S. schedule, in original broadcast order:

1) War — “Linus and Lucy,” Vince Guaraldi Trio, 3:50
2) Women and Money — “My Dear,” Bola Sete, 4:40
3) Fathers and Sons — “Sevillana,” Bola Sete, 4:55
4) Getting Married — “Waterstreet,” Vince Guaraldi, 4:55
5) Secrets — “Treat Street,” Vince Guaraldi, 5:00
6) Yvette (no fill necessary)
7) Wives and Lovers — “Star Song,” Vince Guaraldi, 3:55
8) The Inheritance — “Linus and Lucy,” Vince Guaraldi Trio, 3:55
9) Husbands and Wives — “Twilight of Youth,” Vince Guaraldi Trio, 4:55
10) Story of a Farm Girl — “Treat Street,” Vince Guaraldi, 3:45
11) Bachelors — “C Major Concerto for Two Trumpets,” Voisin and Ghitalla, 8:10
12) Consequences — “Star Song,” Vince Guaraldi Trio, 3:55
13) Foolish Wives — “E Flat Concerto for Two Trumpets,” Voisin and Ghitalla, 7:44

The second story in Women and Money, "A Family Business," concerns
a scheming wife (far left) who, upon the unexpected death of her
mother-in-law, can't wait to get her hands on several of the old
woman's prize possessions. The doctor, right, is holding a mirror over
 the deceased, to ensure that she actually is dead. In point of fact,
everybody is in for a rather rude surprise...
Some points of interest:

• The information above is lifted from the NET Microfiche Special Collection in the U.S. Library of Congress. One would expect it to be precise, so does this mean that Guaraldi performed some of these as a soloist — where only he is named — while the others were done by his trio? That’s particularly intriguing, since one version of “Star Song” appears to be a solo, while the other is with the trio.

• The two versions of “Linus and Lucy” differ by only 5 seconds; are they truly different takes? On the other hand, it seems clear that the two versions of “Treat Street” are different takes, since their running times differ by more than a minute.

And the biggie:

• Aside from “Twilight of Youth,” which never has been recorded, I’m equally riveted by “Waterstreet,” a title that appears here and nowhere else: a total “new discovery.”

Unfortunately, these are only data records. I may know more precisely what I’m looking for, but that doesn’t alter the fact that the fills themselves have yet to surface…

(I know. Maddening!)

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