Thursday, May 19, 2016

A little of this, a little of that: The spring 2016 edition

I’m always delighted when fresh information allows a new entry to be placed in my timeline of Guaraldi’s activities ... and even more pleased when said information simultaneously solves a mystery.

My good buddy Doug — a frequent contributor to this blog — has been investigating Dave Brubeck of late, via various archives that included expanded subscription access to, a fabulous site that I frequently consulted while researching my Guaraldi bio. My (roughly) year with was back in 2010 and ’11; the nifty thing is that the site continuously expands, as more digitized publications are added to the archive. Thus, when Doug also indulged a whim to investigate Guaraldi a bit, he came across several items I’d not seen before.

The first is a TV program description. The Thursday, April 20, 1961, issue of San Rafael’s Daily Independent Journal, in writer Hal Case’s “Checking the Channels” column, includes this paragraph:

Another KQED attraction [Friday] night, at 10:30, will be a one-time-only battle of talent between three artists in different fields: illustrator Don Freeman, jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, and pantomimist Bernard Bragg. The trio will challenge each other to ad lib performances.

In an earlier Independent Journal issue (Saturday, April 15), the actual TV listing titles this half-hour special Trio, with a brief explanation that reads “artist Don Freeman, pianist Vince Guaraldi and pantomimist Bernard Bragg.”

The program likely was broadcast live from San Francisco’s KQED Channel 9 studio, and there’s no evidence that a recording has survived. (More’s the pity.)

Freeman died back in 1978, after a successful career as an author and illustrator of children’s books; his best-known title likely is Corduroy. His son has mounted a loving tribute website. Bragg had a long and successful career as a performer, playwright, director and poet; his website is filled with information, photos and video clips.

But here’s the really cool part:

The first printing of my book incorrectly identified the individuals in this photo, on Page 162, as Guaraldi, director Lee Mendelson and animator Bill Melendez. Several people quickly pointed out the error, including Mendelson himself (which once again demonstrates the folly of relying on a single, so-called “authority” for information, and the need to double- and triple-source everything). Subsequent printings corrected that error, but nonetheless left me clueless regarding the identities of the other two men. Well, early 1960s photos of Bragg and Freeman have left no doubt: This photo, reprinted above, must’ve been taken at KQED either before or after the show. From left, we’re looking at Guaraldi, Bragg and Freeman.

And, so, another mystery yields to determined investigation. Way to go, Doug!


Elsewhere on the small screen...

The June 11, 1967, Lubbock [Texas] Avalanche-Journal — gotta love the name of that newspaper — reported that Art Linkletter’s House Party show would spend the next several days “traveling the musical gamut.” Guaraldi was the guest scheduled for Wednesday, June 14.

That’s the first I’ve heard of such a booking. If it took place, it’s another of Guaraldi’s many television appearances likely lost to us.


On a more amusing note, my book briefly discusses an incident that occurred at The Trident on August 30, 1963 (bottom of Page 128). Guaraldi, performing with his trio one evening, apparently became annoyed by the noise made by three women at the bar. As detailed in the September 28 issue of The San Francisco Chronicle, one of the women filed a criminal battery complaint against Guaraldi, outlining a series of charges; Guaraldi’s attorney insisted, in response, that the accuser was guilty of assault herself. Doug uncovered an Independent-Journal squib (also September 28) that tells the story slightly differently, with some additional information. The big eyebrow-raiser is that Guaraldi failed to appear before Judge Joseph G. Wilson at the Marin Municipal Court, which resulted in a bench warrant being issued for the absent Dr. Funk (and this detail likely is what caused the incident to reach the inquisitive eyes of reporters at the two newspapers).

Details regarding final dispensation of the case finally appeared on October 26, also in the Independent-Journal. Marin Municipal Court Judge Harold J. Haley found Guaraldi guilty of disturbing the peace on the evening in question, and fined him $110. The separate charge against Guaraldi, of battery, was dropped. Guaraldi did not appear in court, but his attorney promised that the fine would be paid by Tuesday, October 29.

And that appears to have been the end of it.


Speaking of amusing...

The August 16, 1969, edition of the Detroit Free Press reprinted portions of a recent Herb Caen column from the San Francisco Chronicle (which is intriguing all by itself; I wouldn’t have thought Caen’s Bay Area-centric musings had any appeal to readers outside of California). One sentence is worth quoting in its entirety:

Pianist Vince Guaraldi’s Fu Manchu moustache caught fire at Les Crepes on North Point the other night, and was saved from extinction only by the heroic efforts of owner Peter Slizyk, wielding a bottle of 7-Up.

Now that would have been something to witness...


The May 11, 1973, Independent-Journal included a good-sized display ad promoting a KQED Channel 9 Fun Fair, scheduled for the following day at Mill Valley’s Town & Country Village. Attendees had a chance to win a Swiss watch, and were encouraged to “guess the weight of the big cheese.” Meet ’n’ greet sessions were scheduled with luminaries such as KPIX-TV news anchor Ron Magers; San Francisco-based sportscaster Barry Tompkins; Emmy Award-winning songwriter Rita Abrams, perhaps best known for the hit tune “Mill Valley”; San Francisco radio personality Carter B. Smith; and a certain Vince Guaraldi.

As you can see, all of them were billed below Koko the Clown, Juggling Bakers and Goofus the Clown.

That’s a pretty low blow.


The early portion of my book’s Chapter 10 discusses the evolution of what eventually became director/producer Lee Mendelson’s half-hour documentary, A Boy Named Charlie Brown, with Page 163 citing the drastic trim — the program’s original running time had been an hour — that left guests stars Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Arnold Palmer on the cutting-room floor, along with much of Guaraldi’s music. (As far as we know, Mendelson’s original 60-minute version no longer exists.)

Before that unhappy development, a May 4, 1964, article in Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh Press (of all places!) offered a few tantalizing details about what we never got to see. Mendelson, quoted in the article, mentions that the show “has been in production for more than five months,” and that one of the guest artists would be “jazzman Cal Tjader” (who isn’t mentioned in any of the several other articles discussing the film’s production).

Here’s the story’s key paragraph:

[For the special], Mendelson has roamed the country: St. Paul, Minnesota (where Charles Schulz and Charlie Brown were born); in Hawaii (for a “Happiness” scene at a children’s luau); at the Rose Bowl (construction of a Linus-Snoopy float); and at the Crosby Pro-Amateur Golf Tournament (Schulz was one of the amateurs playing the ocean-side course).

Well, the Rose Bowl float survives in the existing 30-minute version of the documentary, available on DVD from the Charles M. Schulz Museum. But all the rest, backed by great Guaraldi themes, obviously got excised.

As Charlie Brown would say, Rats!

No comments: