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 Additionally, several of the Down Beat entries are weeks — even months — out of date, in terms of the information presented, which also is frustrating.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

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