Wednesday, April 2, 2014

When did Vince become Guaraldi?

Public records are amazing.

Information about Guaraldi's childhood is sketchy, despite his mother's devotion to her only child. Carmella preserved quite a few mementos and photographs; she also began a diary when Vince was quite young, but — alas! — didn't maintain it for very long.

As a result, I was able to obtain some broad strokes about Dr. Funk's boyhood self, and a bit more data came via interviews. Sadly, Carmella died before I began my book; the same was true of Vince's ex-wife, Shirley; and longtime girlfriend, Gretchen; and his two uncles (Carmella's brothers), Joe and Maurice "Muzzy" Marcellino. All that information lost.

Makes me wish I'd started this project a decade or two sooner. But woulda/coulda/shoulda is a sure and certain path to madness and frustration, so we do the best we can, in the moment.


I know that Vince grew up in San Francisco's North Beach area; I know that he was born to Carmella (Marcellino) and a brick-layer named Vince Dellaglio. (Yes, Vince was named after his father.) The elder Dellaglio moved out of the house when the boy was 4, and a divorce followed. Carmella soon met and married Anthony (Tony) Guaraldi, generally known as Secondo. Initially, at least, Carmella and Secondo lived on their own; Vince was "booted upstairs" (that's a quote) to live with his grandmother.

At some point during the next few years, Secondo Guaraldi adopted Vince, giving the boy the name by which we now know him. Sadly, though, Carmella's second marriage fared no better than the first; she and Secondo eventually divorced, and she never married again.

That's what I know. Here's what I don't know:

• The dates of Carmella's first marriage and divorce;

• The dates of Carmella's second marriage and divorce;

• The date Vince was adopted.

Ah, but thanks to a much-appreciated note I recently received from a fellow Guaraldi fan named Jeff, we have some very solid clues.

Jeff enjoys trolling through public records; he's pretty good at it. He informs me that full census forms become available to the public after 70 years, and you can imagine the wealth of data that presents.

As a result, Jeff called my attention to census records which verify that, as of April 25, 1940, young Vince was indeed living with his grandmother, Jenny L. Marcellino, at 1555 19th Avenue, San Francisco. You can view the relevant census page here; look in the left column, toward the middle of the page.

Note Vince's full name: Vincent Dellaglio. Having been born July 17, 1928, Vince would have been 11 years old, not quite 12. Not yet Guaraldi.

[Just in passing, this census form also supplies the answer to another mystery, since it gives me his grandmother Jenny's middle initial. A bit of underscore from the 1975 Peanuts TV special, Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, is titled "Jenny L." I — and the folks at Fantasy Records — always have wondered about that cue, and whether the title had a particular significance. Clearly, it did!]

A few pages further along in the census records, we come upon an entry for 1557 19th Avenue, home of Guaraldi's parents, Secondo and Carmella. They're the fifth listing from the top of the page. Indeed, then, as of the 1940 census, young Vince was in fact living with his grandmother Jenny, and not with his parents.

Moving on...

Carmella's carefully preserved mementos include a photograph of her son during his days as a Boy Scout; that picture is shown above. Better yet, she also saved his Boy Scout handbook, shown below...

...and at least three of his merit badge certificates, one of which also is shown here:

Note the date, and name, typed into the handbook. Vince registered for the Scouts some time in 1941, for "the year ending February, 1942." At this point, his last name is Guaraldi.

Therefore, Vince's step-father adopted him between April 25, 1940, and some time in 1941 ... when he was 11, 12 or 13. That narrows the field considerably.

So ... what else can we learn from public records?

Well, Jeff didn't confine his research to census data. Vintage city directories — precursors to telephone directories — also are online. (Who knew?) Jeff supplied a few links that fired up my desire to probe further. And there went several days of my life.

Time well spent, to be sure.

A few observations, before we get started:

Spelling is inconsistent, year by year, and obviously only as good as the individual recording the information. Carmella's maiden name, Marcellino, occasionally pops up as Marcellina and Marcellini. Secondo's name sometimes is spelled Secundo and Segundo. Perhaps most intriguing, Vince's grandmother Jenny's name is spelled in that fashion on the aforementioned census form, but as Jennie in every city directory.

The directories are annual, with the exception of a few combined volumes following World War II. And while the online records are impressive, a few years are missing.

Similarly, not everybody turns up each year, and we can't necessarily draw any conclusions from that; it could be that nobody was home when the directory agent came calling. Sometimes folks "vanish" for several years but then pop up again at the same address; it's probably safe to assume, in such cases, that they were there all along, and simply overlooked.

So let's start at the beginning. 

In 1928, the year Vince was born, his parents Vince and Carmella Dellaglio were living with her mother, Jenny(ie), at 935 Vallejo in San Francisco. Jenny's listing indicates that she is widowed from Salvator Marcellino. Carmella is employed as a binderyworker (an occupation generally associated with the publishing industry). 

Two years later, in 1930, the elder Vince is employed as a chauffeur.

Nothing else changes through 1931. As of the 1932 directory, everybody has moved to 1233 Broadway. The elder Vince, Carmella and little Vince still are living with Jenny. The following year, Carmella's brother Muzzy — listed as "musician" — joins the gang at 1233 Broadway. He's not listed in 1934, but Carmella's other brother Joe — also listed as "musician" — appears to have taken his place.

The relevant "Marcellino" page of the 1935 directory wasn't scanned properly, and comes up blank. That's particularly frustrating, because the 1936 directory shows only Jenny and Carmella at 1233 Broadway; the latter no longer shares her entry with Vince Dellaglio, although she has kept her married name. Unfortunately, there are no Dellaglio listings — at any San Francisco address — in 1933, '34 or '35, so it's impossible to know precisely when the divorce occurred. It seems likely that the elder Vince, Carmella and their son were living elsewhere during those years, and then Carmella and young Vince moved back in with her mother in 1936. A late 1935 divorce is a reasonable assumption, but — remember the occasional listing gaps — we can't be sure.

Muzzy rejoined his mother, sister and nephew in 1937, still at 1233 Broadway; Joe Marcellino moved to his own digs, at 2855 Franklin.

Muzzy departed again in 1938 (likely for Southern California, based on what I know of his bandleading career). Carmella's job description is more precise; she's now a bookbinder for the E.L. Bosqui Printing Company. 


Secondo Guaraldi has been a longtime resident at 2258 31st Avenue. As of the 1930 directory, he's a salesman for the People's Baking Company. His marriage to Carmella obviously takes place in late 1938 or early '39, because as of the 1939 directory she has joined him at 2258 31st Avenue; Jenny remains behind at 1233 Broadway. Young Vince likely is living with his grandmother. 

Everybody moved the following year: Secondo and Carmella to 1557 19th Avenue, Jenny and young Vince to 1555 19th Avenue. Joe Marcellino moved to 40 Clover.

Secondo, Carmella and Jenny remained in their respective 19th Street apartments for the next several years; we can assume that Vince eventually joined his mother and step-father. As of 1941, Secondo was a salesman for the Knight-Counihan Company; Joe Marcellino, meanwhile, moved to 226 Caselli Avenue, where he and his family would live for many years.

In 1944, at the age of 16, Vince finally appears in that year's city directory himself: He's definitely living with Carmella and Secondo at 1557 19th Avenue, and he's employed (in an unspecified capacity) at the San Francisco Examiner.

I'm reasonably certain this is Vince and his grandmother Jenny, in a photo likely taken
during the late 1940s.

Little changes during the next several years, although Vince goes off the grid (in part because of his Korean War service from 1946 to '48). Secondo, apparently something of an employment butterfly, is listed as a waiter in the 1948/49 directory, and as manager of Langendorff Bakery in the 1953 directory.

Vince's grandmother Jenny also goes off the grid after 1948, disappearing for a decade.

The 1950 and '52 directories, alas, are missing; both could have provided significant information about where Vince lived after returning from Korea.

Vince married high school sweetheart Shirley Moskowitz on February 1, 1953. That year's directory shows their first home at 100 Lake, Apartment 1-A. Vince is listed as "musician," while Shirley is a teller at Bank of America. Joe Marcellino, still at 226 Caselli, has been upgraded to "band leader."

As of the 1954 directory, Vince and Shirley have moved to 696 27th Avenue, Apartment 2. They remain there through 1957: the last time Vince appears in the San Francisco Directory (where he's now listed as "musician Cal Tjader band"). He and Shirley are known to have lived at 368 Skyline Drive, in Daly City, from at least 1962 (and possibly earlier) through May 1965. The San Francisco Directories claim to include Daly City listings, so it's odd that they're not within its pages from 1962 through '65.

As of the 1955/56 directory, meanwhile, Vince's uncle Joe Marcellino is listed as "orchestra leader Forbidden City Nightclub."

Also in 1957, Secondo and Carmella finally leave their 19th Street apartment and move to 115 Buckingham Way, Apartment 203. That same year, grandmother Jenny finally reappears, living nearby at 115 Buckingham Way, Apartment 303; she'll remain there as far as this research took me.

The 1960 directory gives individual listings for Carmella and Secondo; she's now living with her mother at 115 Buckingham Way, #303, while Secondo is rather vaguely placed in "South San Francisco." According to the directory syntax, however, they still appear to be married, since Carmella is included parenthetically within Secondo's listing.

Nothing changes in 1961, except that Secondo now is employed at the Ocean Avenue Food Center, and his residence is even more vaguely placed in Reno, Nevada. Once again, a parenthetical entry suggests that Carmella and Secondo remain married.

But starting in 1962, Secondo vanishes from the San Francisco directory, never to be seen again. Carmella now is listed alone, apparently living with her mother Jenny at 115 Buckingham Way #303.

We therefore have partial answers to the questions posed at the top of this post:

• As already mentioned, Vince's step-father Secondo adopted him somewhere between April 25, 1940, and some time in 1941 ... when he was 11, 12 or 13.

• Although I still don't know when Carmella married Vince Dellaglio, it's obviously prior to 1928. (They're not listed in the 1925, '26 or '27 directories, which suggests they could have started elsewhere — some other city, some other state — and moved to San Francisco in late 1927 or early '28.) They divorced at some point between 1932 and '36, with a suggestion of late 1935/early '36.

• Carmella married Secondo Guaraldi in late 1938/early '39. It appears they were separated in 1960, likely divorced in late 1961/early '62.

Aside from the wealth of additional incidental data, two details surprised me, after all this research:

• I had assumed Vince was younger when adopted by his step-father, but he could have been as old as 13.

• Carmella and Secondo Guaraldi remained married much longer than other anecdotal evidence (and interviews) suggested.

So ... if McFarland ever gives me the opportunity to release an updated second edition of my book, I'll be clarifying quite a lot in the first two chapters.

Meanwhile, the next challenge is finding actual marriage/divorce records: probably more likely than ever seeing Vince's adoption records.

The truth is out there ... somewhere...


Anonymous said...

FANTASTIC research here, thanks Derrick! I teach at Francisco MS in N Beach + thanks to a student began looking up where Vince went to jr. high school --- probably not here, like DiMaggio (Francisco was the last school he graduated from). From your research I'd guess he went to a jr. high in the Avenues, maybe Presidio? Many many thanks, Michael M. Guenza

Derrick Bang said...

Where Guaraldi attended middle (junior high) school remains unknown, at this point ... but, rest assured, I continue to investigate!

Unknown said...

Wonderful research I must say, very interesting, I really love this fantastic musician :) Outra Vez is one of my favorites, but of course I love all his music. He was beautiful <3 I would like more information on his marriage, how long was he married? I have not yet read anything about him having children. I would love to find out more about his personal life. This man intrigues me. I wish I could have met him.

Derrick Bang said...

Those questions are answered in my book; I encourage you to pick up a copy. :-)

Echinops ritro said...

Your devotion to telling the complete story of Vince Guaraldi is formidable: a musician that has achieved his level of success demands a serious biographer and you have filled that role more than adequately! Learning more about Vince's upbringing has only enhanced my appreciation of his music. While I certainly loved the music I heard as a kid on Charlie Brown specials (and even then had a definite preference for the ones featuring Vince and in particular on acoustic piano), it was not until my piano teacher brought me a copy of the Charlie Brown Christmas album. He told me he had been shopping at Tower Records here in NYC and they were playing the album in the store. He heard Vince's take on the Christmas Song and stopped in his tracks: he had to know who it was and once he did, he picked up a few copies of the album for his piano students.

At any rate, my comment here regards Vince's ancestry. As an Italian American and an amateur genealogist, I am curious about Vince's roots. Judging from the 1940 census it looks like both his mother and grandmother were born in USA, so that branch of his family was at least here from the start of the 20th century, a long while! Do you know where in Italy his ancestors were from, when they came here, their migration within the States, etc. Jenny or Jennie is certainly no Italian first name (nor is Vince, though the derivation is obvious), but it was a common Americanized version of the common first name Vincenza. Perhaps that was her real name and also explains the whimsy with the spelling.

Can you or your citizen researched shed light on Vince's more distant past?

Derrick Bang said...

Everything I've been able to investigate and (very important) authenticate is either in my book or within my blog (mostly in this post). I simply have no further information -- at this time -- about Guaraldi's ancestors.

Echinops ritro said...

Mr. Bang, I wanted to share some information with you regarding Vince's more distant roots, following up on my earlier post back in 2017. Perhaps you've seen this information...

Someone prepared a family tree for Vince Guaraldi here:'Aglio-6. It's very well-documented. Vince's father, Vincenzo Dell'Aglio, a brick mason, was born in 1900 in the city of Montescaglioso in the southern Italian province of Basilicata. His parents were Rocco Dell'Aglio and Isabella Russo.

Vincenzo immigrated to the USA on January 20, 1921 and married Carmella Marcellino on February 14, 1926. There's a picture of Vincenzo included in the link; Vince resembles him quite a bit. The picture is from his declaration of intent to naturalize, which he filed on January 4, 1933. He was still married to Carmella at that time, unemployed, and living at 1233 Broadway.

Carmella Marcellino was the daughter of Salvatore (born 1878 in Italy) and Giovanna ("Jennie") Fannoni (also rendered as Fannone, though both could be incorrect) Giovanni/Jennie was born in the USA but her parents, Mauro and Carmella were born in Lavello and Barile, respectively, both in the province of Basilicata. This reference here ( suggests that Salvatore Marcellino was born in the province of Calabria, though I cannot confirm this information as of yet.

Derrick Bang said...

This is great new information, much more detailed than I've previously seen. Thanks for sending it along!

Echinops ritro said...

You're welcome! I'm a genealogist and Italian American, so I'm happy to help in whatever capacity I can with Vince's Italian roots, Italian translation, etc.

Back in 2012, an Italian American from San Francisco wrote to the town of Montescaglioso, where Vince's father was born, and they posted his note on their community website with the heading: "Famoso pianista di Jazz ha origini montesi" See here:

In the previous link I sent you, there's a link to an obituary for Vince's father from the Santa Cruz Sentinel. It is odd that Vince is not listed as one of his survivors. I understand they were estranged, but still that is unusual. See here:

Anonymous said...

Whenever I visit Washington Square park in North Beach, I wonder if I'm treading on ground walked upon by Vince Guaraldi. But it looks like most of his residences were closer to Golden Gate park.