Jerry Granelli, Vince Guaraldi Trio Drummer Behind A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dies at 80

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Jerry Granelli, Vince Guaraldi Trio Drummer Behind A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dies at 80

The drummer behind the holiday and jazz classic hosted a workshop at Halifax Jazz Festival earlier this week
Jerry Granelli in 1980
Jerry Granelli in 1980 (Denver Post via Getty Images)

Jerry Granelli, a drummer whose credits include his work on A Charlie Brown Christmas as a member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, died at his home in Halifax on Tuesday, CBC Music reports. He was 80 years old.

Born and raised in San Francisco, Jerry Granelli received drum lessons from jazz greats like Gene Krupa and the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Joe Morello. At 21, he began playing with the Johny Hamlin Quartet. Soon after, he joined Vince Guaraldi Trio. 

Granelli spoke to Pitchfork in 2015 about Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas’ recording and legacy. “Part of the magic of the whole thing is that nobody had any big plans while making the soundtrack, like, ‘This is it,’” he said. “We just played, man. It’s a jazz record. It was pretty natural and real.” He continued: 

“People heard the heart in it. Honestly, I turned left creatively with my career after that and never thought about it for a while; jazz musicians are sometimes not as open as they may seem when it comes to people having hits or things crossing over—everybody gets all uppity. But then I matured enough to realize that it went way beyond music. It was the first entry point to jazz for a lot of people. And now that I’ve got my credentials as an artist, I’m proud and delighted to be a part of it.”

After leaving the Vince Guaraldi Trio in 1964, he worked with artists including Mose Allison, the Kingston Trio, and more. Granelli started the pioneering psychedelic rock collective Light Sound Dimension, and his first trip to Europe happened in 1971 alongside the Grateful Dead. In addition to a prolific recording career, he was an educator and co-founder of the Atlantic Jazz Festival. Two days before he died, he hosted a workshop at Halifax Jazz Festival.

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