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:


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 Additionally, several of the Down Beat entries are weeks — even months — out of date, in terms of the information presented, which also is frustrating.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.