Wednesday, June 15, 2022

This definitely isn't a rock!


I've been sitting on this information since December.

Craft Recordings went public with the news today, which makes it fair game for this blog.

As I describe in my fresh liner notes, this is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: the sigh of rapturous satisfaction from Guaraldi fans who for decades believed — nay, insisted — that original Great Pumpkin recording session tapes must exist. Somewhere.

(Yes, I had to borrow a note from one of Charles Schulz's most famous quotes: With this set of liner notes, I had to write the same thing without repeating myself. You can tell me whether I succeeded.)

I guess we can thank Covid.

Assuming one managed to escape getting sick, pandemic-enforced isolation had a few benefits, such as encouraging some of us to finally tackle massive, long-postponed projects of one sort or another. Honestly, what else were we able to do with our time?

The folks over at Lee Mendelson Film Productions spent a year and change spelunking in the darkest corners of their voluminous archives. Marvelous Guaraldi artifacts — some believed lost forever — were unearthed.

This is the first.

Craft's official announcement includes quite a lot of detail, so check it out.

Craft also released a short promo video, which can be seen here. (And I was pleasantly surprised by the shout-out.)

This release actually is better than we could have hoped for, because it includes a number of alternate takes ... and, yes, full-length versions of iconic Peanuts themes heard only partially during the TV special.

"The Great Pumpkin Waltz" (Alternate Take 2) can be heard on various digital platforms, including YouTube.

Barring supply-chain issues, all formats should be available on August 26.

The sole vexing note is that the cover of this new release is almost identical to its inferior 2018 predecessor; fans will need to be extremely careful — particularly with online orders — when purchasing a copy. Yes, the 2022 copyright date is helpful; and yes, the presence of the aforementioned alternates takes, in the track list, is a giveaway. But the quickest distinction is that the 2018 release is called "Music from the soundtrack" (above the album title), whereas the 2022 release is an "Original soundtrack recording."

Even so, I do fear that some casual buyers may not look that closely.

To anticipate the obvious next question, yes, there may be more to come. The Mendelson vaults have yet to be fully archived, and future plans also will depend upon this release's sales (so tell all of your friends and family members to buy one!).

Meanwhile, Linus would be pleased: The Great Pumpkin really did show up this time!


Friday, May 20, 2022

Another sales milestone!

Guaraldi’s soundtrack to 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas has just been certified quintuple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

 

Back in the day, such a count would have been tabulated by physical album sales: LPs and CDs. The RIAA included streams beginning in February 2016, so this Charlie Brown Christmas milestone is based on more than 4 million copies purchased over various formats, and 1.14 billion streams.

 

(The formula is 1,500 on-demand audio and/or video song streams = 10 track sales = 1 album sale.)

 

As always gets mentioned in the same breath, this makes A Charlie Brown Christmas the second-best-selling jazz album of all time, behind Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which went quintuple platinum in 2019. And as I always point out — most recently in this post, when A Charlie Brown Christmas went quadruple platinum in December 2016 — these RIAA figures are 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 those earlier years, a precise figure has been impossible to determine.

 

It’s therefore entirely possible that Guaraldi’s album has surpassed Kind of Blue … but we can only speculate. (In fairness, Davis’ album also sold plenty of copies prior to 1991.)

 

Meanwhile, this is merely the latest in a long line of accolades showered upon Guaraldi’s score. The album first was certified platinum in 1996; was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007; and was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2012. Just last December, as detailed in this post, the album reached its highest-ever Billboard chart position, 56 years after its original release. Nor can we overlook Billboard citing A Charlie Brown Christmas at the top of its 50-position Greatest of All Time Holiday Albums List (followed, for those who are curious, by Michael Bublé’s Christmas, Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas, and Mannheim Steamroller’s A Fresh Aire Christmas and Christmas).


Good ol’ Charlie Brown may not have shone during baseball and football place-kicking, but he’s certainly no slouch when it comes to album sales! 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

More great stuff from the magazine archives!


My previous post concerned the exciting discovery of a searchable online archive for Record World, during its time one of the three primary U.S. weekly music industry trade publications.

 

In my delight over focusing on Record World entries related to Guaraldi, I initially neglected to investigate more about the host site: worldradiohistory.com

 

Oh. My. Goodness.

 

Record World is just one of dozens of magazines and journals offered with similarly searchable archives; you’ll find the list here.

 

Alternatively, clicking on the “Music Magazines” button, along the top row, will open a sub-menu allowing quick access to a given magazine’s entire archive.

 

The depth and scope of this site are simply jaw-dropping.

 

It remains a work in progress; some archives aren’t complete, and occasional issues have missing pages. But it’s still astonishing.

 

Having thoroughly examined Record World, I subsequently turned my attention to BillboardCash Box and Down Beat (as it was known, in the early days). 

 

Billboard began publishing in 1894. The entries are spotty until 1936, after which each year is pretty much complete. (Most crucially, it’s much easier — and more reliable — to search here, than in the Google Books Billboard archives, which return only some hits for a given search term.)

 

Cash Box ran from 1942 to 1996, and its archive is solid.

 

Down Beat, which debuted in 1934, is the most haphazard. 1934-36, 1938 and 1963 are entirely (or mostly) missing, and the entries are thin in 1971-77, and 1979-83.

 

All three magazines yielded plenty of fresh information about Guaraldi. I was particularly pleased by bits and bobs in the early 1950s, a period where information about his activities is quite scarce.

 

That said, the absence of 1963 in the Down Beat archive was vexing, since that was a busy year for him. Additionally, several of the Down Beat entries are weeks — even months — out of date, in terms of the information presented, which also is frustrating.

 

Some highlights:

 

• Thanks to Down Beat, I now have this earliest known photo (by far!) of Guaraldi performing with a combo. The quality isn’t terrific, but that’s him at far left. Until now, I was aware of Guaraldi performing with this quartet solely in the spring of 1951, but this photo ran in the November 16, 1951, issue. That’s intriguing, because Guaraldi had joined Cal Tjader’s trio as of mid-September. Was he simultaneously moonlighting with Chuck Travis? Unlikely, as the schedule with Tjader was full. But Guaraldi’s activities were sparse for most of 1951, until he joined Tjader, so it’s entirely possible that the gig with Travis was off and on throughout the summer. (Regardless, this Down Beat photo and caption obviously ran months after Guaraldi had left Travis.)

• This gig was new to me: On March 9, 1955, Down Beat reported that “Jerry Dodgion now leading the house band at the Black Hawk [sic], with Dottie Grae on drums, Dean Riley [sic], bass, and Vince Guaraldi, piano.” (Dodgion was part of the Guaraldi Quartet, with a different bassist and drummer, on Modern Music from San Francisco, recorded in August of the same year.)

 

• On December 28, 1955, Down Beat reported that “Vince Guaraldi drawing a lot of comment for his piano playing these nights at hungry i.”

 

• On March 7, 1956, Down Beat gave a thorough review of the Woody Herman band’s performance at New York’s Basin Street. (Guaraldi had joined Herman’s band the previous New Year’s Eve.) The lengthy piece includes this comment: “In the rhythm section, Woody has a find in pianist Vince Guaraldi, a San Franciscan recommended by Ralph Gleason. Guaraldi plays with rare economy of means, much warmth and taste, an excellent beat, and a real feeling for the blues vein in jazz.”

 

• Billboard gave a very nice review of Guaraldi’s first album, Vince Guaraldi Trio, on September 29, 1956: “Altho sales are unlikely to be spectacular, this is one of the pleasant surprises of the month. Guaraldi is a young San Francisco pianist who has been getting rave notices with the Woody Herman band. Evidence here says he’s a tasteful, authoritative and facile modernist, and that he swings. Further, he has a sense of humor. Guitarist Eddie Duran and bassist Dean Reilly are worthy colleagues. Try their version of John Lewis’ ‘Django’ for a real delight.”

 

• On May 2, 1957, Down Beat reviewed Introducing Gus Mancuso; Guaraldi performed on three of that album’s tracks. The review includes this comment: “Guaraldi is a particularly stimulating soloist (and isn’t it time for another LP by him?)” And, indeed, Guaraldi next album, A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing, arrived a few months later.

 

• On February 19, 1959, Down Beat reported that “Pianist Vince Guaraldi, scheduled to leave the Cal Tjader Quartet this month, is planning a musical partnership with drummer Johnny Markham and bassist John Mosher.” Guaraldi actually split with Tjader on January 18 or 19, and his next known booking followed immediately: at Lenny’s, in Oakland, every Tuesday evening, as part of tenor saxman Harold Wylie’s Quartet, alongside Markham and bassist Jerry Goode. I’ve no evidence that Guaraldi ever headed a trio with Markham and Mosher.

 

• Billboard noted the rising interest in Guaraldi’s Black Orpheus album on December 15, 1962: “Vince Guaraldi on San Francisco’s Fantasy label is grabbing solid sales action. Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus has gone over 7,000 in album sales within six weeks, and is spreading to other areas. The single ‘Cast Your Fate to the Winds' [sic], a segment of the album, started in Sacramento, spread to all of Northern California with 10,000 discs out, and is now moving strongly in Southern California.”

• Fantasy ran a cute ad in Cash Box, on February 2, 1963; check it out at right. (Note Fantasy's address: As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s Treat Avenue, not Street!)

 

• On June 8, 1963, Cash Box tagged the Guaraldi Quintet single “Zelao”/“Jitterbug Waltz” — from the album In Person — as a Best Bet: “Vince Guaraldi, who scored last time out with ‘Cast Your Fate to the Winds’ [sic], could duplicate that success with this top-flight bossa nova follow-up stanza. The tune is a contagious, easy-going lyrical ballad with a danceable, rapidly-changing beat.”

 

• On September 18, 1965, Billboard noted that Guaraldi’s single, “Theme to Grace” — taken from the Grace Cathedral Jazz Mass LP — was “predicted to reach the Hot 100 Chart.” (Alas, it didn’t happen.)

 

• On August 6, 1966, Cash Box tagged Shelby Flint’s vocal cover of “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” — on a single backed by “The Lilly” — as a Best Bet: “Shelby Flint could make lots of playlists with this sweet, lyrical reading of this oft cut ditty. The lark does a smooth, lilting job on the tender lyric. Watch closely.” (Indeed, her single made Billboard’s Top 100 chart for six weeks, peaking at No. 61.)

• Finally, this was an eye-opener: Guaraldi’s first album for Warners, Oh Good Grief, made Billboard’s Best Selling Jazz LPs chart for two consecutive weeks, on June 29 and July 6, 1968. He’s at the bottom of the chart both times … but that’s still charting! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Tidbits from Record World

I recently discovered a searchable online archive devoted to Record World, which — during its reign, from 1946 to 1982 — was one of the three primary U.S. weekly music industry trade publications, alongside Billboard and Cash Box. Record World actually debuted under the name Music Vendor, then switched in 1964, and continued under that new name until its final issue (April 10, 1982).

The archive is an obvious labor of love, with (thus far) most of its content running from spring 1964 to end of publication. Guaraldi likely wouldn’t have been more than an occasional blip until 1960 or ’61, but I’m sure he’d have been mentioned a lot in 1962 and ’63; I hope those issues will be added to the archive at some future time.

 

Meanwhile, a search on Vince turned up a couple dozen results, a few of which are worth noting here.

 

Talk about luck: The sole 1962 issue in the archive — June 23 — includes early mention of Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus, as a coveted “Album Pick.” The brief write-up certainly is encouraging:

Pianist Guaraldi has a cleverly swinging, inventively saleable jazz product here. There is Brazilian music blending Latin African rhythms which were featured in tunes presented in this 1959 Cannes Film Festival winning pic. Proper exploitation could make it a chart album; it has the musical ingredients.

 

Mind you, this was a month before San Francisco’s Melody Sales issued a press release extolling the album, and another couple months before the impact of Sacramento radio station KROY’s success with “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” began to have a national impact. That makes Music Vendor quite prescient.

 

Moving ahead…

 

Now as Record World, the 9/25/65 issue’s “Money Music” column includes this brief item: “Much good music play in S.F. on ‘Theme to Grace’ — Vince Guaraldi, Fantasy — plus other areas.” Two months later, on November 27, the same column amplified the message: “ ‘Theme for [sic] Grace,’ Vince Guaraldi, Fantasy, selling well in Chicago and Detroit off good music play (plus California).”

 

These are the only industry mentions I’ve ever seen, regarding this particular Guaraldi tune’s chart and business activity. Pretty cool!

 

Elsewhere in that same issue, Record World says very nice things about Guaraldi’s just-released soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas:

 

Guaraldi plays the jazz score of the new cartoon coming by for Christmas consumption. Most of the album is Guaraldi improvisations on familiar seasonal standards and carols — all getting fresh treatment from the piano player. The movie should give buyers a big push toward counters.

 

(Given publication lead time, this proves review copies were sent out at least two weeks prior to December 4, which has long been assumed the album’s public release date.)

 

Moving forward to December 3, 1966, reviewer Del Shields waxed enthusiastic about Live at El Matador:

Eastern jazz fans have not had a chance to hear Bola Sete. Out on the West Coast, Bola is the “in thing,” and this album could be one of the big sleepers of the year. Guaraldi, whose “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” was a monster chart item a few seasons ago, lends sympathetic support to this Brazilian guitarist, and the result is pure pleasure. Again, the excitement of the crowd helps so much to project the feeling of “you are there” on quite a session. “Black Orpheus Suite” is particularly outstanding.

 

The 10/7/67 issue includes an intriguing little item, buried within an article which discusses the recent sale of Fantasy and Galaxy Records to Saul Zaentz. In a paragraph highlighting future activity, Zaentz mentions an “eight-LP release for October and November, featuring new albums by,” among others, Guaraldi. That never happened, and there’s no indication that Guaraldi had a new album ready to be released on such short notice. (Guaraldi’s final Fantasy album was the aforementioned Live at El Matador, released a year earlier.) And it’s odd that Zaentz would issue such a statement, given that Guaraldi was in the midst of suing to be released from his Fantasy contract, which was indeed dissolved just a few months later, on December 27.

 

Guaraldi didn’t waste any time. Record World’s 4/13/68 issue features a short article headlined “WB-7A Signs Guaraldi,” which reads, in part:

 

Vince Guaraldi, composer of “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” and the musical scores of the Charlie Brown television specials, has been signed to an exclusive contract as an artist by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts Records Inc., announces Joe Smith, Vice President and general manager.

 

Guaraldi, one of the more recent contributors responsible for interpretive jazz in church halls and theater, will produce his own sessions at Warners.

 

It’s nice to see an early article that acknowledges the impact of Guaraldi’s Grace Cathedral Mass.

 

Moving ahead again, the 1/17/70 issue includes one of the very few reviews I’ve seen of Alma-Ville, the final album Guaraldi released during his lifetime:

That subtle, fluid melodic mind of Vince Guaraldi’s is at it again. Vince has come up with some exquisite melodies on this album, and plays them better than anybody else can, or probably ever will. He also does a striking guitar solo. Watch every cut.

 

(Goodness; you can’t ask for better than that!)

 

The final Guaraldi entry is somewhat bittersweet, as it comes more than a year after his passing in early 1976. The 12/24/77 issue features a round-up of “good Christmas records” by columnists David McGee and Barry Taylor. Along with paragraphs devoted to Elvis’ Christmas Album, Phil Spector’s Christmas Album, Merry Christmas: The Supremes and several others, we get this endorsement of A Charlie Brown Christmas:

 

Nothing like it anywhere. Vince Guaraldi fused classical, pop and jazz in writing the mellowest of scores for the Emmy Award-winning television show. Light and lyrical, with boundless good humor, it is enough to make you believe in Santa Claus and man’s inherent goodness.

 

We now take for granted that Guaraldi’s score for that cherished Peanuts special has become a must-play item every December … but it’s nice to see that Record World, way back in 1977, already was trumpeting its merits as a holiday chestnut. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Bits & bobs

Followers of this blog will recall that the various special releases promised for last year's Record Store Day — on Saturday, June 12 — included Guaraldi's “Baseball Theme,” pressed for the very first time as a stand-alone, 7-inch single. Alas, supply-chain issues and the ongoing vinyl shortage resulted in numerous titles being postponed or canceled; the Guaraldi single was one of the casualties.

Good news, folks: It now has been promised for Record Store Day 2022: Saturday, April 23. Mark your calendar!

By way of a reminder, the A-side features 1964's original soundtrack version of the song, while the B-side is an alternative studio take never before available on vinyl (although it is included on the album's 2014 CD re-release). 

“Baseball Theme” was one of many tunes Guaraldi wrote for the never-released 1964 documentary, A Boy Named Charlie Brown: to be used in a sequence devoted to Charlie Brown’s ill-fated efforts on the ball field. Guaraldi deftly leads his trio through the up-tempo instrumental track, accompanied by bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey. 

The limited-edition single is pressed on white vinyl and housed in a colorful jacket, featuring whimsical, baseball-themed images of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Visit recordstoreday.com for a list of participating indie retailers. 

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The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an excellent article concerning an honor bestowed to the famous Hyde Street Studios: a bronze plaque recognizing it as a legacy business in San Francisco, for its contributions to the history and identity of the neighborhood, and to the pantheon of pop music.

Way back in the day, when it was known as the Wally Heider Studios (and following his breakup with Fantasy), Guaraldi recorded many of his scores for Peanuts specials within its walls, starting with You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown, and concluding — on February 6, the day he later died — with It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown

On February 6, 1974, Guaraldi and his trio were in that studio to record a live concert broadcast by KPFA and KPFB, much later released as the CD Live on the Air.

Guaraldi also spent several studio sessions, over the course of his final few years, recording tracks for a never-completed album: among them "Autumn Leaves," "Billie's Bounce," "No. 1 Snoopy Place," "Special Song" and "Your Song."

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This isn't fresh news, but it was new to me.

Back in 2009, Fantasy released the two-disc Definitive Vince Guaraldi, which is a marvelous 31-song collection of Guaraldi's best work for that label, from early tunes such as "Calling Dr. Funk" to later Peanuts efforts, such as the title theme to A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. The package also included two previously unreleased tracks: "Blues for Peanuts" and an alternate take of "Autumn Leaves."

I somehow missed the fact that, in July 2019, Hal Leonard released a massive 216-page book in its "Artist Transcription" series, devoted to the music in this two-disc set, and bearing the same title.

It contains all 31 songs.

Let me assure you, these are not trivial arrangements; as promised by the series, they are "authentic, note-for-note transcriptions." Many of them — I'm looking at "On Green Dolphin Street" and "Manha de Carnaval" — are impressively dense; you'll need serious piano chops to play these puppies.

(But everybody loves a challenge, right?)

This is, without question, the most impressive Guaraldi song book released thus far. Better work on those finger exercises!

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Credits where due

By now, most avid fans know that all existing copies of A Charlie Brown Christmas, going back half a century — whether broadcast on television; or purchased on VHS, DVD or Blu-ray, or from iTunes and other such sources; or streamed — are absent the title credits acknowledgment of Coca-Cola's sponsorship. The credits now conclude after Snoopy blanket-whips Charlie Brown into a tree, with a vocal chorus of "Christmas Time Is Here" fading into silence rather abruptly.

But television viewers back in 1965 — and during the 1966 re-broadcast — got a bit more; Snoopy then blanket-whips Linus into a sign that reads, "Brought to you by the people in your town who bottle Coca-Cola." We also get a more reasonable fade of the song.

Perhaps a bit less well known is the fact that the same thing happens during the end credits, which — in all existing prints — conclude after acknowledging director/producer Lee Mendelson, animator Bill Melendez, and United Feature Syndicate; the gang's cheerful delivery of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" similarly fades rather abruptly. We no longer see the final title card, which reads "Merry Christmas, from the people who bottle Coca-Cola." And, needless to say, the song concludes properly.

Happily, these artifacts have been resurrected by intrepid Internet elves; they can be seen here and here.

Ah, but how many of you know that such shenanigans also compromised the next two Peanuts specials?

After Charlie Brown drops the high fly ball during the opening sequence of Charlie Brown's All-Stars, he dejectedly walks along a fence that credits Charles M. Schulz; he pushes a board up, to walk through the fence ... and that's all we see these days, as the music fades. But the sequence continues for another 10 seconds, as — now on the other side of the fence — poor Chuck trudges past signs that credit Coca-Cola and co-sponsor Dolly Madison Cakes. Check it out here.

(One suspects similar co-sponsor acknowledgments in the end credits, but — if true — they've yet to surface.)

The long-absent bits from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown are even more fun. In all existings versions of this special, the title credits and music fade out after acknowledging Schulz, as an owl flies directly toward the screen. Ah, but the original sequence continues for an additional 17 delightful seconds: first crediting Coca-Cola via a scarecrow, as the panicked gang flees behind it; and then Dolly Madison Cakes, as Snoopy dances atop a pumpkin. Again, the conclusion of Guaraldi's title theme is much more satisfying, as can be seen (and heard) here.

Existing end credits conclude after acknowledging Mendelson, Melendez and United Feature Syndicate; the musical fade is quite abrupt and clumsy. But the infuriated Linus continues to berates Charlie Brown for another 10 seconds, during which Dolly Madison and Coca-Cola are acknowledged ... and, more crucially for us Guaraldi fans, his perky arrangement of "Charlie Brown Theme" comes to a proper conclusion. Check it out here.

I believe this practice ceased when the next special, You're in Love, Charlie Brown, came along in June 1967; by this point, fewer shows and specials were being sponsored by just one or two entities. But I won't be certain until somebody verifies having seen an archival copy of that original broadcast.

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Speaking of A Charlie Brown Christmas, did sharp-eared viewers of the recent Marvel Universe series Hawkeye catch the use of the Guaraldi Trio's "Christmas Time Is Here"? The holiday-themed storyline included quite a few Christmas songs in each episode; Guaraldi's tune — the vocal version, sung by Charlie Brown and his friends — is the first heard in the fifth episode, "Ronin." it begins at 13:40, as Clint walks New York City's late-night streets to Grills' apartment, and continues for about 30 seconds while Grills welcomes him inside.

Needless to say, those showrunners have superb taste in music!

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Shortly after this blog's previous post, the folks at Lee Mendelson Film Productions added seven more online folios of Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts themes. I supplemented the original list, but of course that post wasn't sent a second time via email, so you wouldn't necessarily know about the additions. Ergo, this is fresh notification that these titles have been added:

• "Bon Voyage"
• "It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown"
• "Charlie Brown's Wake-Up"
• "Charlie Brown's All-Stars"
• "Sassy Sally"
• "Schroeder's Wolfgang"
• "Woodstock's Dream"

You'll find links within the previous post. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

New projects

Pandemic-enforced isolation has a few benefits, such as encouraging folks to finally tackle massive, long-postponed projects of one sort or another. I mean, really; what else were we able to do with our time?

The folks over at Lee Mendelson Film Productions spent the past year and change digging through their music archives, which prompted some happy discoveries: wonderful Guaraldi artifacts, some of which may have been thought lost; additional details will follow, as plans for mainstream release can be finalized.

One of their many goals has been to enhance Guaraldi's sheet music library, by releasing more fulsome expressions of his genius Peanuts work. They've started with 18 of Guaraldi's less well-known themes and cues, which now are available via Hal Leonard Publishing as online folios. They aren't simple, "E-Z play" arrangements for all ages; these are solid transcriptions that'll require at least some keyboard chops.

Click each title to be taken to the relevant SheetMusicDirect page.






"Little Red-Haired Girl" (a preferable title for a cue originally called "Trio Ad Lib" when used in You're in Love, Charlie Brown)













Have fun! More will follow, as long as this initial set generates sufficient interest. 

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Across the border in Canada, the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia has unveiled the Jerry Granelli Legacy Fund, in recognition of the jazz drummer — and long-ago Guaraldi sideman — who passed last year.
The fund is dedicated to carrying on Granelli's unique approach to teaching, and to the nurturing of the improvising arts community he created in Nova Scotia, which was his home for many years, and where — in addition to his live performances — he worked as an educator and community builder.

His unique teaching approach is embodied in the Creative Music Workshop, established in 1996 with fellow Halifax musicians Don Palmer (sax) and Skip Beckwith (bass).

The Workshop has been run in collaboration with the Atlantic/Halifax Jazz Festival since its inception. Today it is an eight-day intensive program grounding participants of all ages, skill levels, and artistic disciplines in the fundamentals and practice of improvisation in music and life. 

This is a lovely honor ... and it makes me want to visit Nova Scotia!

(When such travel once again is safe and practical, of course...)

Monday, January 3, 2022

Chart success!

Guaraldi's score for A Charlie Brown Christmas has been popular ever since it debuted back in 1965, so it's no surprise that sales increase every year, as we approach the holiday season. What is surprising is that the album's popularity — as measured by sales, and recorded by Billboard magazine's various charts — has been increasing dramatically during the past several years.

The album didn't achieve any Billboard ranking until 1987, when (finally!) it debuted on the Top Holiday Albums chart. Two decades later — for the week ending January 27, 2007 — it peaked at No. 2 on that chart.

Its performance on the Billboard 200 (album) chart is more noteworthy, as this chart clocks all genres. A Charlie Brown Christmas always has posted respectable numbers during the final month of each year, but it finally reached the Top 10 — at #10 — just a year ago, on January 2, 2021.

Ah, but its performance this past holiday season has been spectacular.

The album entered the Billboard 200 chart on the week ending November 13, at #159. It rose to #63 the following week, then #51, and then #21. It hit #10 on December 11. Then it rose to #9 the following week, and #8 on Christmas Day.

Then — wait for it — the album hit #6 (!) on January 1, 2022. That's amazing.

(I suspect all those variants LPs, which have become an annual tradition, had a great deal to do with that ranking.)

UPDATE: With the holidays behind us, I guessed it would drop much lower the following week ... but that didn't happen. A Charlie Brown Christmas still placed a very respectable #8 for the week concluding January 8.

But this isn't even the best news.

Billboard's Hot 100 tracks the popularity of individual songs; way back in the day, that was measured by the sales of 45 singles. These days, as explained by Billboard, "The week's most popular songs across all genres [are] ranked by radio airplay audience impressions, as measured by Nielsen Music; sales data, as compiled by Nielsen Music; and streaming activity data provided by online music sources."

Guaraldi's only song to hit the Hot 100 was "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," which entered that chart — at #94 — on December 8, 1962. During a 19-week run that finally concluded on April 6, 1963, it peaked at #22 on February 23.

That song remained a Hot 100 Guaraldi one-shot ... until now.

The just-released Hot 100 chart — also dated January 1, 2022 — reveals two new debuts: "Linus and Lucy," at #37; and "Christmas Time Is Here," at #48.

UPDATE: "Christmas Time Is Here" rose to #41 for the week dated January 8, although (alas) "Linus and Lucy" vanished from the chart.

More than half a century after they were released.

This truly has been a magical Guaraldi Christmas!

[Note: The chart links above always default to the most recent week; you can dial back to any previous week by clicking on the blue circle calendar icon, directly below the chart title.]