Snoopy dogged

A Charlie Brown Christmas doesn't come without its (good) grief

When Marshall called, Belmont was actually in the middle of putting together the just-released Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits, featuring songs from A Charlie Brown Christmas and several previously unreleased tracks Guaraldi wrote and performed for 14 other Charlie Brown specials. Belmont didn't know what the hell Marshall was talking about and didn't much believe him, even though Marshall and Granelli were well known as part of Guaraldi's trio during the mid-1960s. Belmont had always believed that the credits listing Budwig and Bailey--two members of Guaraldi's early '60s trio--were correct, though Guaraldi was notorious for his indifference to keeping exact records of who played what and when.

Besides, Belmont says, "Where was Fred Marshall for 30 years?"
Likely, the confusion stems from the fact that Bailey and Budwig did in fact perform some music that appeared in the Charlie Brown Christmas TV special. But, you see, the album isn't the soundtrack to the special. Actually, it's the other way around: The record was cut before the cartoon was made and, in some ways, served as the inspiration for the crudely drawn special that became the first of 58 Peanuts half-hour cartoons.

It's not as confusing as it seems.
Vince Guaraldi, Fred Marshall, and Jerry Granelli recorded two albums of music based on the Peanuts characters before the Christmas special even appeared 34 years ago. During the early 1960s, Guaraldi and his trio, which featured a rotating roster, were appearing regularly at a club called the Trident on the pier in Sausalito. Guaraldi had already recorded two albums with an entirely different trio and had also appeared on albums with vibraphonist Cal Tjader and Brazilian guitarist Bola Sete.

In 1962, Guaraldi and his trio--which then included Bailey and Budwig, who was about to quit the band and move to Los Angeles--recorded their own album titled Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus, which spawned the Grammy-winning jazz-pop hit "Cast Your Fate to the Wind." The tune is recognizably Guaraldi's--the sound of a self-proclaimed "reformed boogie-woogie" pianist fusing his cool-jazz leanings with his Afro-Cuban fetishes. That same year, the Vince Guaraldi Trio, which by then featured Marshall on bass and Bailey on drums, cut a live record at the Trident, titled In Person. Shortly after that, Bailey also split for L.A. and was replaced by Jerry Granelli.

In 1963, Guaraldi had been contacted by television producer Lee Mendelson about providing the music to a documentary about Charlie Brown and his creator, which Mendelson was going to produce and sell to a network. Guaraldi had been recommended to Mendelson by Ralph Gleason, who was an enormous fan of Guaraldi's from the pianist's days on the San Francisco scene, including a brief stint with the Lighthouse All-Stars.

Guaraldi, Marshall, and Granelli went into a San Francisco studio and cut the record originally titled Jazz Impressions of A Boy Named Charlie Brown, which featured the first-ever recording of "Linus and Lucy" (or "The Peanuts Theme," as it's known among fans and anyone who's seen the Nissan commercial featuring the dog pushing the man in a recliner down the street). The documentary, titled A Boy Named Charlie Brown, never aired, though Fantasy did release an album of the same name and labeled it as "the original sound track recording of the CBS television special."

The original vinyl version of A Boy Named Charlie Brown didn't make any mention of who played on the record. The only people pictured on the sleeve were Guaraldi, Schulz, Mendelson, and Bill Melendez, the director of the aborted documentary. So when Fantasy reissued the disc several years ago, Budwig and Bailey were listed as the Guaraldi Trio. No one at the label, which had changed hands several times since its formation in 1949, knew any better.

Around the same time, Guaraldi, Marshall, and Granelli also recorded a second record of Christmas music, which Guaraldi wanted to do because only a handful of jazz Christmas records existed. With his own children around the same age as Charles Schulz's Peanuts characters, Guaraldi thought it a delightful idea--a jazz record for children and their parents to enjoy together.

"The other Christmas things were maudlin," Marshall says. "It seems like our Christmas heritage had come from the war and were about people suffering. This [A Charlie Brown Christmas] isn't like that. It doesn't make you feel sad when you hear it. Sometimes when you're making a record, you get a funny feeling that a lot of people are going to hear this, and I remember getting that feeling when we made this record. Nobody can predict a hit, but I had that feeling."

Mendelson liked the result so much that he convinced Schulz to create a half-hour cartoon that would feature music from the recordings. Inevitably, A Charlie Brown Christmas would also cannibalize music from the never-released documentary, using such songs as "Charlie Brown Theme" and "Linus and Lucy." But when it came time to put the music in the final cartoon, Mendelson and director Melendez realized they needed shorter versions of some of the songs. So Guaraldi went to L.A., rounded up the old band of Budwig and Bailey, and went into a Hollywood studio and laid down some abbreviated versions, referred to as "cues."

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