Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Credit where due?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Guaraldi’s first album of Peanuts music, Jazz Impressions of A Boy Named Charlie Brown, which debuted in December 1964. Next year, we’ll mark the same anniversary for the album soundtrack of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Half a century. As Charlie Brown himself would say, Good grief!

I don’t remember precisely when I bought both albums, but it likely would have been some time in 1966 or ’67. I still have both of those LPs, and they’re still in pretty good condition ... which is amazing, considering how many times they’ve been played.

Half a century. You’d think, by now, that Guaraldi’s essential collaborators — his bassist and drummer — also could be acknowledged properly, for both albums.

You’d think.

You’d be wrong.

Over the years, the most frequent Guaraldian queries I’ve fielded have concerned either the sidemen credits for one or both of those albums, or the degree to which the music on both albums does — or doesn’t — match what we hear when watching the corresponding short films. Attempting to suss out the credits remains a source of conflicting opinions to this day, as demonstrated by the recent squabble that took place behind the scenes of Guaraldi’s Wikipedia entry. (See this blog’s previous post for details.)

Comparing the albums to the actual scores, however, has been a long-gestating project delayed only by my awareness of the effort involved: a challenge that therefore sat on a back burner for several years. Gathering the resources certainly wasn’t a problem: Copies of the TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas are easy to find, and the never-aired documentary A Boy Named Charlie Brown is available on DVD, from the Charles M. Schulz Museum.

Now, thanks to considerable assistance on the part of my good friend and fellow Guaraldi fan Doug Anderson, it’s time to shed some light on both issues. What follows raises fresh questions (with respect to credits) and contains some intriguing surprises (with respect to how the music was used). I’ll divide the results of recent analysis into three posts, starting with this one, which will concentrate on who did — or didn’t — play what on which.

As Bette Davis comments in 1950’s All About Eve, “Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night!”