born on 17/7/1928 in San Francisco, CA, United States
died on 6/2/1976 in Menlo Park, CA, United States
Vincent Anthony Guaraldi // (July 17, 1928 – February 6, 1976), born Vincent Anthony Dellaglio, was an American jazz pianist noted for his innovative compositions and arrangements and for composing music for animated television adaptations of the Peanuts comic strip, as well as his performances on piano as a member of Cal Tjader's late 50s ensemble and his own solo career which included the radio hit Cast Your Fate to the Wind.
Early career and Grammy Award
Guaraldi was born in San Francisco's North Beach area, a place that became very important to his blossoming musical career. His last name changed to Guaraldi after his mother, Carmella (née Marcellino), divorced his biological father (whose last name was Dellaglio) and married Tony Guaraldi, who adopted the boy. His maternal uncle was musician, singer, and whistler Muzzy Marcellino. He graduated from Lincoln High School, attended San Francisco State College, and served in the U.S. Army as a cook in the Korean War.
Guaraldi's first recording was made in November 1953 with Cal Tjader and was released early in 1954. The 10-inch LP was called The Cal Tjader Trio, and included "Chopsticks Mambo", "Vibra-Tharpe", and "Lullaby of the Leaves". By 1955, Guaraldi had his own trio with Eddie Duran and Dean Reilly. He then reunited with Tjader in June 1956 and was an integral part of two bands that the vibraphonist assembled. The first band played mainly straight jazz and included Al Torre (drums), Eugene Wright (bass) and Luis Kant (congas and bongos). The second band was formed in the spring of 1958 and included Al McKibbon (bass), Mongo Santamaría (congas and bongos) and Willie Bobo (drums and timbales). Reed men Paul Horn and Jose "Chombo" Silva were also added to the group for certain live performances and recordings.
Guaraldi left the group early in 1959 to pursue his own projects full-time. He probably would have remained a well-respected but minor jazz figure had he not written an original number to fill out his covers of Antonio Carlos Jobim/Luis Bonfá tunes on his 1962 album, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus, inspired by the French/Brazilian film Black Orpheus. Fantasy Records released "Samba de Orpheus" as a single, trying to catch the building bossa nova wave, but it was destined to sink without a trace when radio DJs began flipping it over and playing the B-side, Guaraldi's "Cast Your Fate to the Wind". A gentle, likeable tune, it stood out from everything else on the airwaves and became a grass-roots hit. It also won the Grammy for Best Original Jazz Composition. While "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" by Guaraldi achieved modest chart success as a single in 1963, a cover version two years later by British group Sounds Orchestral cracked the Billboard top 10 (in the spring of 1965). Unlike many songwriters who grow weary of their biggest hits, Guaraldi never minded taking requests to play it when he appeared live. "It's like signing the back of a check", he once remarked.
Guaraldi then recorded an album called Vince Guaraldi, Bola Sete and Friends with guitarist Bola Sete, Fred Marshall (bass) and Jerry Granelli (drums). This began a period of collaboration between Guaraldi and Sete where Guaraldi began experimenting with bossa nova-influenced music as well as with the electric piano. This experimentation may have led to the loss of Fred Marshall, who left the group in 1964 citing "personal differences" after Guaraldi purportedly threw a cup of coffee at Marshall during the 17th Berkeley Jazz Festival. This led to the recording and release of his album The Eclectic Vince Guaraldi. Shortly after this, Guaraldi undertook the role of composer and pianist for the Eucharist chorus at the San Francisco Grace Cathedral. Utilizing his Latin influences from his bossa nova days with Bola Sete, Guaraldi composed a number of pieces with waltz tempos and jazz standards and later recorded this performance in 1965.
Guaraldi appreciated the potential in some of the radio waves' pop tunes of the day. For instance, he recorded his own version of "I'm a Loser", written by John Lennon and originally a hit for the Beatles.
Compositions for Charles Schulz's Peanuts
While searching for music to accompany a planned Peanuts television documentary, Lee Mendelson (the producer of the special) heard a single version of "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" by Guaraldi's trio on the radio while traveling in a taxicab. Mendelson contacted Ralph J. Gleason, jazz columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, and was put in touch with Guaraldi. He proposed that Guaraldi score the upcoming Peanuts Christmas special, and Guaraldi enthusiastically took the job, performing a version of what became "Linus and Lucy" over the phone two weeks later. The soundtrack was recorded by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, with drummer Jerry Granelli and bassist Fred Marshall. Guaraldi went on to compose scores for seventeen Peanuts television specials, as well as the 1969 feature film A Boy Named Charlie Brown and the unaired television program of the same name.
Guaraldi died at age 47 on February 6, 1976. The evening before, he had dined at Peanuts producer Lee Mendelson's home and was reportedly not feeling well, complaining of indigestion-like chest discomfort that his doctor had told him was nothing to worry about. The following evening, after concluding the first set at Butterfield's Nightclub in Menlo Park, California, with his interpretation of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby", Guaraldi and drummer Jim Zimmerman returned to the room they were staying in that weekend at the adjacent Red Cottage Inn, to relax before the next set. Zimmerman commented, "He was walking across the room and just collapsed. That was it." His cause of death has been variously described as a heart attack or an aortic aneurysm. Guaraldi had just finished recording the soundtrack for It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown earlier that afternoon.
Guaraldi's death was a blow to his colleagues. "It was totally unexpected", said Mendelson. "The day of his funeral, they played the Charlie Brown music over the sound system in the church. It was not an easy day; he was so young. It was one of the saddest days of my life. He was up to my house the night before [his death], and said he had not been feeling well, and didn't know what it was." Peanuts animator Bill Meléndez added, "He was a real good guy and we miss him." He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.
A book-length biography of Guaraldi was published in March 2012. Vince Guaraldi at the Piano, by author and Guaraldi archivist Derrick Bang, chronicles Guaraldi's career and role in the Northern California jazz scene, and also includes a complete discography and filmography, as well as an appendix of quotations from Guaraldi's former sidemen.
Jazz musician David Benoit has often credited Guaraldi and the original Peanuts Christmas special music for his interest in jazz. In 1985, Benoit recorded a cover of Guaraldi's "Linus and Lucy" for an album called This Side Up, which enjoyed considerable radio airplay and helped launch the smooth jazz genre. He released "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" on the album Waiting for Spring in 1989.
Pianist George Winston released a Guaraldi tribute album in 1996 entitled Linus and Lucy – The Music of Vince Guaraldi. Winston performed many Peanuts songs that had not been released by Guaraldi himself. "I love his melodies and his chord progressions", Winston said of Guaraldi. "He has a really personal way of doing voicings." The album was very successful, leading Winston to record a follow-up entitled Love Will Come – The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Volume 2, released in early 2010. In 2003, a live performance of the eight-part "Charlie Brown Suite" was released on the album The Charlie Brown Suite & Other Favorites. The performance was culled from tapes in Winston's private collection.
Albums as leader or co-leader
- 1955 Modern Music from San Francisco
- 1956 Vince Guaraldi Trio
- 1957 A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing
- 1962 Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus (also known as Cast Your Fate to the Wind: Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus)
- 1963 Vince Guaraldi in Person
- 1963 Vince Guaraldi, Bola Sete and Friends
- 1964 The Latin Side of Vince Guaraldi
- 1964 Jazz Impressions of "A Boy Named Charlie Brown"
- 1965 From All Sides (with Bola Sete)
- 1965 The Grace Cathedral Concert
- 1965 A Charlie Brown Christmas
- 1966 Live at El Matador (with Bola Sete)
- 1968 Vince Guaraldi with San Francisco Boys Chorus
- 1968 Oh, Good Grief!
- 1969 A Boy Named Charlie Brown (feature soundtrack)
- 1969 The Eclectic Vince Guaraldi
- 1970 Alma-Ville
- 1989 Greatest Hits (compilation album by Fantasy Records)
- 1998 Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits
- 2001 Jazz Casual: Paul Winter / Bola Sete & Vince Guaraldi (1963 television recording)
- 2003 The Charlie Brown Suite & Other Favorites (previously unreleased material from the late 1960s)
- 2005 Oaxaca (previously unreleased material from the late 1960s/early 1970s)
- 2006 North Beach (previously unreleased material from the late 1960s/early 1970s)
- 2006 A Charlie Brown Christmas [Original Recordings Remastered] (reissued 1965 album with additional recordings and more complete versions of some tracks)
- 2006 Vince Guaraldi and the Lost Cues from the Charlie Brown Television Specials (previously unreleased recordings from 1972–1975)
- 2008 Live on the Air
- 2009 Essential Standards (compilation album by Fantasy Records)
- 2009 The Definitive Vince Guaraldi (compilation album by Fantasy Records including two previously unreleased tracks)
- 2010 Vince Guaraldi and the Lost Cues from the Charlie Brown Television Specials: Volume 2 (previously unreleased recordings from 1973-1975)
- 2012 A Charlie Brown Christmas (Remastered & Expanded Edition)
- 2015 An Afternoon with The Vince Guaraldi Quartet (1967 club performance also featuring Eddie Duran)
Notable appearances on other albums
- 1953 The Cal Tjader Trio (Guaraldi's first recorded session)
- 1956 Introducing Gus Mancuso (w / Cal Tjader)
- 1957 Jazz at the Blackhawk (Cal Tjader Quartet)
- 1957 Cal Tjader (Cal Tjader Quartet)
- 1957 Conte Candoli Quartet
- 1957 Frank Rosolino Quintet
- 1958 Mas Ritmo Caliente (Cal Tjader)
- 1958 Cal Tjader-Stan Getz Sextet (all-star studio session that includes a long version of Guaraldi's piece "Ginza")
- 1958 Latin Concert (Cal Tjader Quintet – another all-star group with Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo and Al McKibbon)
- 1959 A Night at the Blackhawk (Cal Tjader Sextet)
- 1959 Latin For Lovers (Cal Tjader with Strings)
- 1959 Tjader Goes Latin (Cal Tjader)
- 1959 West Coast Jazz in Hifi (Richie Kamuca / Bill Holman)
- 1959 Latinsville! (Victor Feldman)
- 1960 Little Band Big Jazz (The Conte Candoli All Stars)
- 1974 Jimmy Witherspoon & Ben Webster – Previously Unissued Recordings (1960s session from Verve Records archive; the Black Orpheus incarnation of Guaraldi's trio supports the two leaders)
Albums showcasing or featuring Guaraldi's music
- 1970 James Gang Rides Again
- 1988 Quiet as the Moon (Dave Brubeck)
- 1989 Happy Anniversary, Charlie Brown (various artists including B. B. King, Chick Corea, Gerry Mulligan, Dave Brubeck)
- 1995 Joe Cool's Blues (Wynton Marsalis and Ellis Marsalis)
- 1996 Linus and Lucy – The Music of Vince Guaraldi (George Winston)
- 2000 Here's to You, Charlie Brown: 50 Great Years! (David Benoit)
- 2000 A Charlie Brown Christmas (Cyrus Chestnut Trio)
- 2000 The Seventh Song (Steve Vai)
- 2006 Wintersong (Sarah McLachlan)
- 2010 Merry Christmas II You (Mariah Carey)
- 2010 Love Will Come – The Music of Vince Guaraldi, Volume 2 (George Winston)
- 2010 BlackenedWhite (MellowHype)
- 2013 The Wolf of Wall Street: Music from the Motion Picture
- "Vince Guaraldi—the sound of Yuletide on these shores" i-ITALY, December 24, 2010
- Bang, Derrick (2012). Vince Guaraldi at the Piano. NC, USA: McFarland. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-7864-5902-5.
- "Downbeat: Vince Guaraldi Trio Takes A Permanent Coffee Break." Downbeat Magazine 1964 (August) p.9
- Derrick Bang "Vince Guaraldi", Peanuts Collector's Club Newsletter, 1993. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
- "Jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi dies at age 47". Lodi News-Sentinel. California. UPI. February 9, 1976. p. 3.
- A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition by Lee Mendelson, Bill Melendez, p. 91. HarperCollins Publishing, 2000
- McGarrigle, Dale (October 19, 1996). "Pianist pays homage to Guaraldi". Bangor Daily News. Maine. p. C1.
- Biles, Jan (September 5, 1996). "Pianist casts fate with unique style". Lawrence Journal-World. Kansas. The Mag. p. 4.
- Beauchamp, Lane (September 12, 1996). "Pianist tackles 'Peanuts' composer". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (Kansas City Star). p. 8B.
- Maples, Tina (November 20, 1996). "Music Just Happens To Winston". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- "Recent Projects at George Winston official website". Georgewinston.com. Archived from the original on February 5, 2009. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
- "Concord Music press release" (PDF). Jazzpublicity.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
- Vince Guaraldi on IMDb
- Vince Guaraldi official site (requires Macromedia Flash for all content)
- Vince Guaraldi on LP and CD (complete discography)
- Vince Guaraldi biography and discography at FiveCentsPlease
- 'Vince Guaraldi at the Piano' by Derrick Bang (ISBN 978-0-7864-5902-5) The definitive musical biography of Vince Guaraldi, published in March 2012.
- March 2015 radio interview (KDRT program "Davisville") with David Willat, who as a child sang in the 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' chorus and Grace Cathedral Jazz Mass choir, and Guaraldi author Derrick Bang
- Vince Guaraldi at Find a Grave