While the Peanuts comic strip appeared daily in newspapers across the world, Vince Guaraldi’s music helped bring the gang to wider audiences through his jazzy Peanuts television and film soundtrack recordings. Charles M. Schulz created the world of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy from his outpost in the Midwestern city of St. Paul, Minnesota. Meanwhile, westward in California, pianist Vince Guaraldi was helping put San Francisco on the jazz map through a series of early recordings with the likes of Cal Tjader, Woody Herman and Conte Candoli.
In early 1964, when Lee Mendelson began work on a television documentary about the world of Peanuts, he heard Guaraldi’s Grammy Award-winning instrumental hit “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” on the radio, while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Mendelson knew he’d found precisely the right musical foil for Peanuts. Over the next decade, Guaraldi composed and performed scores for numerous Peanuts TV specials — including the evergreen A Charlie Brown Christmas — along with a feature film, A Boy Named Charlie Brown.
In September 2015, Fantasy Records/Concord Music Group will release Peanuts Greatest Hits, a 12-song survey of some of the most popular music from the Guaraldi Peanuts soundtracks. The compilation features “Linus and Lucy,” the song that most frequently comes to mind when one thinks of Peanuts soundtracks, as well as “Oh, Good Grief” and several seasonal pieces (“Great Pumpkin Waltz,” “Thanksgiving Theme,” “Christmas Is Coming” and more).
Most selections feature Guaraldi backed by one of his longtime trios: Monty Budwig, bass; and Colin Bailey, drums; or, in later years, Fred Marshall, bass; and Jerry Granelli, drums. You’ll also hear some notable additions to the core trio format: “Little Birdie” features Guaraldi's own vocals, with the addition of horns as well. Two versions of “Christmas Time Is Here” appear: one by the trio, the other adding the young members of the St. Paul's Church Choir from nearby San Rafael, California.
Television producer Mendelson, who orchestrated the conversion of Peanuts from comic strip to successful TV and movie franchise, thereby spawning a 37-year collaboration with Schulz, said of Guaraldi: “Vince’s music was so right, and so perfect, for Charlie Brown and the other characters. Something deep inside of me said, ‘This is gonna make the whole thing work.’ Vince's music was the missing ingredient that would make everything happen.”
Guaraldi died unexpectedly at the young age of 47 in 1976, ending his 26-year musical career. He had just finished recording the soundtrack for It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown. His life is chronicled in Vince Guaraldi at the Piano, authored by Derrick Bang, who wrote the liner notes for this and other Fantasy reissues.
Vince Guaraldi Trio Peanuts Greatest Hits Track Listing:
1. Linus And Lucy
2. Charlie Brown Theme
3. Baseball Theme
4. Oh, Good Grief
5. Happiness Is
6. Little Birdie,
7. Great Pumpkin Waltz
8. Thanksgiving Theme
9. Christmas Is Coming,
10. Christmas Time Is Here
12. Christmas Time Is Here