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. 

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