Vince Guaraldi

Vince Guaraldi (July 17, 1928February 6, 1976) was an American jazz musician and pianist best known for composing music for animated adaptations of the Peanuts comic strip. Guaraldi was born in San Francisco, California. He graduated from Lincoln High School, attended San Francisco State College, and served as an Army cook in the Korean War.

In his first serious gig, he had to fill in for Art Tatum.

Life and career

His first recording was made in November 1951 and came out early in 1953. The early 10 inch LP was called The Cal Tjader Trio, which included the tunes "Chopsticks Mambo," "Vibra-Tharpe," and "Lullaby of the Leaves." By 1955, Guaraldi had put together his own trio with Eddie Duran and Dean Reilly. He then reunited with Cal Tjader in June, 1956 and was an integral part of two great bands that the vibraphonist assembled. The first band played mainly straight jazz and included Al Torre on drums, Eugene Wright on bass and Luis Kant on congas and bongos. The second band was formed in the spring of 1958 and included Al Mckibbon on bass, Mongo Santamaria on congas and bongos and Willie Bobo on 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 in order to pursue his own projects full time. Though he was best known for composing the music for the popular animated Peanuts television holiday specials, he was a Grammy award-winning jazz pianist prior to the Peanuts series. Nevertheless, his most recognized tune is "Linus and Lucy" from A Charlie Brown Christmas, a song which is known by fans worldwide as the musical signature of the Peanuts franchise.

Guaraldi's Cast Your Fate to the Wind won a Grammy for Best Original Jazz Composition. The track appears on the 1962 album Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus, inspired by the French/Brazilian film Black Orpheus, which won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 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).

Compositions for Charles Schulz's Peanuts

While searching for just the right 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 Vince Guaraldi's trio on the radio while traveling in a taxicab on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California. 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, whose other members were bassist Fred Marshall (who later married Bev Bivens of the folk-rock group We Five) and drummer Jerry Granelli. Guaraldi went on to compose scores for sixteen Peanuts television specials and the full-length movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown.


Guaraldi died of a sudden heart attack at age 47 on February 6, 1976. He was found in a room at the Red Cottage Inn, where he had been relaxing between sets at Butterfield's nightclub in Menlo Park, California. Guaraldi had just finished recording the soundtrack for It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown earlier that afternoon. Guaraldi was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, California.

After Guaraldi's death, the music for the Peanuts series was composed first by San Francisco film and television composer Ed Bogas, who scored several Peanuts TV specials and motion pictures up to the early 1990s, along with his future wife Desirée Goyette, and occasionally, Judy Munsen. A few times, Bogas did his own arrangements of Guaraldi's "Linus And Lucy" theme as a nod to the musician (most notably in It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown and What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown!.

Noted 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.

In 2003, a heretofore unknown live performance of the eight-part "Charlie Brown Suite" was released, restored from tapes in private collection of pianist George Winston.


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 The Eclectic Vince Guaraldi
  • 1970 Alma-Ville
  • 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 late 1960s)
  • 2005 Oaxaca (previously unreleased material from late 1960s/early 1970s)
  • 2006 North Beach (previously unreleased material from late 1960s/early 1970s)
  • 2006 [[A Charlie Brown Christmas (album)|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 Vince Guaraldi and the Lost Cues from the Charlie Brown Television Specials: Volume 2

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
  • 1958 Mas Ritmo Caliente (Cal Tjader)
  • 1958 Stan Getz/Cal Tjader Sextet (all-star studio session that includes a long version of Guaraldi's piece "Ginza")
  • 1958 Latin Concert (Cal Tjader Quintet)
  • 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)
  • 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 Vince Guaraldi's music


  • Liner notes to the 2006 re-mastered CD release of A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.

External links

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