Sunday, December 18, 2016

Tidbits from the newspaper archive

Of late my good buddy (and fellow Guaraldi fan) Doug has been researching Dave Brubeck's early work, in the course of which pursuit he has spent considerable time with the archives. I buried myself in the same site while gathering information for my Guaraldi biography, but that was seven years ago; it's clear, based on Doug's explorations, that the site has added considerable regional content since then.

Not one to waste a subscription fee, Doug also utilized the same access to investigate Guaraldi on my behalf. The results came to me on a thumb drive that contained roughly 140 full-page scans from various newspapers. I'd already seen many of them (mostly from the Oakland Tribune and San Mateo Times), but the San Rafael Daily Independent Journal hadn't been among the holdings, back when I did my research. Some of the relevant articles, photos and ads duplicated items and events I'd already seen in other papers, but an impressive amount proved new ... and, in some cases, quite enlightening. I've already updated and amended entries in my Guaraldi timeline, and added a few entirely new ones, but some of the more engaging discoveries definitely deserve additional exposure here. I'll present them in chronological order; unless otherwise specified, everything comes from the Daily Independent Journal.

By far the best ad is the one at left, which ran October 1, 1964. I'd already known that Guaraldi had been booked to perform at this particular event, but hadn't seen an ad for same. It's definitely a blast from the past; can you imagine a similar ad running today, in a newspaper, for similar candidates? For that matter, can you imagine a jazz performer being the featured entertainer, at such a function?

The Santa Cruz Sentinel's early March TV listings show that Guaraldi was a guest on Lloyd Thaxton's afternoon chat/variety show, at 5 p.m. March 3, 1965. Similar TV listings two months later cite one of the fabled 5-minute "bumpers" that Guaraldi and his trio recorded, to fill 30- and 60-minute time slots on National Educational Television (NET) channels which — as the precursor to the nationwide PBS network — ran without commercials. I've included the listing here; you can see that Guaraldi and his combo performed a tune titled "Twilight of Youth" ... which (more's the pity) he never recorded on an album. It's one of a dozen or so compositions that he registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, and no doubt performed live on numerous occasions, but never found the time to include on an LP.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Quadruple platinum!

Big news today, folks.

The milestone cited here actually has been public since August, but Concord/Fantasy waited for the official ceremony on Friday, December 9, before issuing the following press release:


From left, Jeannie Schulz, David and Dia Guaraldi, and Lee Mendelson
LOS ANGELES, CA -- Concord Bicycle Music and Fantasy Records announced the Quadruple Platinum certification of A Charlie Brown Christmas at a presentation today, with Vince Guaraldi's children David and Dia, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz's widow Jeannie Schulz, and the animated television special's producer, Lee Mendelson. The certification, awarded by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), marks four million units in album sales of the 1965 soundtrack by the Vince Guaraldi Trio. That makes it the second-highest certification of a jazz album, behind only Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.

Guaraldi's engaging score to the synonymous holiday television special --̶ which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year -- has introduced generations of children to the joys of jazz, with tracks such as the instantly recognizable "Linus and Lucy," and the yuletide favorite, "Christmas Time is Here." The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007, and the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry five years later, and it continues to be a perennial favorite, thanks in part to annual airings of the Christmas special. 

Guaraldi, a native of San Francisco, became one of America's best-selling jazz artists during the course of his life. Though his legacy is most famously tied to his association with Peanuts, he already was an established, Grammy Award-winning artist by the time that producer Lee Mendelson tapped him to score the first of many animated specials based on the Charles Schulz-penned newspaper strip. In a 2003 interview, excerpted from Vince Guaraldi At The Piano (Derrick Bang; McFarland Books), Mendelson declared, "There was no doubt in my mind that if we hadn't had that Guaraldi score, we wouldn't have had the franchise we later enjoyed."

Jeannie Schulz was equally taken with the musician. "Vince Guaraldi was already a legend when I first met him in the mid-'70s," she said. "What amazed me, and touched me, was his humility about his celebrity, and his complete joy in playing the piano for a group at a gathering. Music was like breathing to Vince."

"The combination of Vince Guaraldi's music and Peanuts continues to prove a magical marriage, which has helped push this iconic recording to being one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time," remarked Concord Bicycle Music's Chief Catalog Officer, Sig Sigwort.

"Celebrating this wonderful achievement with the families and principles involved is a great honor."


In point of fact, this sales figure is low, being based mostly on electronically recorded sales made subsequent to 1991, when Neilsen SoundScan began tracking data. Clearly, Guaraldi's album sold many, many copies during the previous quarter-century ... but because Fantasy's record-keeping was so sloppy during the early years, a precise figure has been impossible to determine.

Meaning, it's entirely possible that Guaraldi's score album already has surpassed Kind of Blue ... but we can only speculate. Meanwhile, the RIAA certification is indisputable.

(And yes: It was a nice surprise to see that the official press release cited a Mendelson quote from my Guaraldi biography.)

Congrats all around ... and onward to quintuple platinum!


In a droll bit of related news...

Back on November 21, USA Today interviewed Billy Bob Thornton prior to the release of his newest film, Bad Santa 2. When asked when folks should start celebrating the Christmas season, Thornton responded with the following:

"My 12-year-old daughter Bella is vehemently opposed to starting the holidays too soon, and I support that. She thinks it's unfair to whichever holiday comes before. She can't stand it when people put Christmas decorations on our street before Thanksgiving. It's, like, give Thanksgiving its due. If you want to start the day after, I'm cool with it.

"But I listen to Christmas music all year round. I always have a CD in a little boom box in my trailer on every movie. All I listen to is A Charlie Brown Christmas, by Vince Guaraldi. Doesn't matter what season. Every waking moment, I have that record on. It's my obsessive/compulsive nature."

I appreciate the sentiment, Billy Bob. It's nice to know I'm not the only one!