A Charlie Brown Christmas (soundtrack)

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A Charlie Brown Christmas
A drawing of some of the Peanuts gang running around a Christmas tree
Cover to the 2006 CD reissue, a slightly modified version of the original.
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedDecember 1965
StudioFantasy Recording Studios, San Francisco, California
GenreChristmas music, jazz[1]

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a 1965 studio album by American jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi (later credited to the Vince Guaraldi Trio). The album was released in December 1965[2] in the U.S. by Fantasy. It is the soundtrack to the Christmas television special of the same name.

Guaraldi was contacted by television producer Lee Mendelson to compose music for a documentary on the comic strip Peanuts and its creator, Charles M. Schulz. Although the special went unaired, these selections were released in 1964 as Jazz Impressions of "A Boy Named Charlie Brown". Coca-Cola commissioned a Christmas special based on Peanuts in 1965 and Guaraldi returned to score the special.

Guaraldi composed most of the music, though he included versions of traditional carols such as "O Tannenbaum".[1] He recorded some of the score at Whitney Studio in Glendale, California, then re-recorded some of it at Fantasy Records Studios in San Francisco with a children's choir from St. Paul's Episcopal Church in nearby San Rafael. The sessions ran late into the night, with the children rewarded with ice cream afterward.

Bassist Fred Marshall and drummer Jerry Granelli were credited as performing on the album.[1] It was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and added to the National Recording Registry of the Library Congress.

On August 19, 2016, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album quadruple platinum for sales of four million copies.[3] In November 2014, it was the 10th best-selling Christmas/holiday album in the United States during the SoundScan era.[4]


By the early 1960s, Charles M. Schulz's comic strip Peanuts had become a sensation worldwide.[5] Television producer Lee Mendelson acknowledged the strip's cultural impression and produced a documentary on the subject, titled A Boy Named Charlie Brown.[6] Mendelson, a fan of jazz, heard a song by Vince Guaraldi on the radio not long after completion of his documentary, and contacted the musician to produce music for the special.[7] Guaraldi composed the music for the project, creating an entire piece, "Linus and Lucy", to serve as the theme.[8] Despite the popularity of the strip and acclaim from advertisers, networks were not interested in the special.[8]

By April 1965, Time featured the Peanuts gang on its magazine cover,[5] and plans for an animated half-hour Peanuts Christmas special were commissioned by The Coca-Cola Company.[8] When Coca-Cola commissioned A Charlie Brown Christmas in spring 1965, Guaraldi returned to write the music.[5]

Recording and production[edit]

The first instrumentals for the special were recorded by Guaraldi at Glendale, California's Whitney Studio with bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Colin Bailey.[9] Recycling "Linus and Lucy" from the earlier special, Guaraldi completed two new originals, "Skating", and "Christmas Time Is Here".[9] In the weeks preceding the premiere, Mendelson encountered trouble finding a lyricist for Guaraldi's instrumental intro and wrote "Christmas Time Is Here" in "about 15 minutes" on the backside of an envelope.[10]

The special begins and ends with a children's choir from St. Paul's Episcopal Church in San Rafael performing "Christmas Time Is Here" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing".[11] One of the singers, Candace Hackett Shively, became an elementary school teacher and sent a letter of gratitude to Schulz after he announced his retirement in 2000.[11] In the letter, she recalls recording the choir at Fantasy Studios and going out for ice cream afterwards, while noting that she tells the story to her students every holiday season.[12] The recording sessions were conducted in late autumn 1965 in three sessions over two weeks. They often ran late into the night, resulting in angry parents, some who forbade their children from returning; as a result, numerous new children were present at each session.[13] The children were directed by Barry Mineah, who demanded perfection from the choir. Mendelson and Guaraldi disagreed, wanting "kids to sound like kids"; they used a slightly off-key version of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" in the final cut.[13] Children were paid five dollars for their participation. In addition, the children recorded dialogue for the special's final scene in which the crowd of kids shout "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!".[13]

Guaraldi brought in bassist Fred Marshall and drummer Jerry Granelli and re-recorded tracks such as "The Christmas Song" and "Greensleeves". The album credited Guaraldi solely, neglecting to mention the other musicians; Guaraldi was notorious for never keeping records of his session players.[14] Nearly three decades later, in an effort to correct the matter, Fantasy surmised that the recordings with Budwig and Bailey were employed in the television special while Marshall and Granelli recorded the album.[14] Despite this, other musicians have claimed to have recorded the special's music: bassists Eugene Firth and Al Obidinski and drummers Paul Distel and Benny Barth. Firth and Distil are noted as performers on a studio-session report Guaraldi filed for the American Federation of Musicians.[14]

Not all the music featured in the holiday special was released on the soundtrack. For example, "Surfin' Snoopy" did not make the cut, but it was released on Charlie Brown Holiday Hits.


Commercial performance[edit]

On August 19, 2016, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified the album quadruple platinum for sales of four million copies.[3]

A Charlie Brown Christmas first appeared on a Billboard magazine music sales chart on the week of December 19, 1987, when it debuted and peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Christmas Albums sales chart.[15] The album charted on the Billboard Christmas Albums chart every Christmas/holiday season from 1988 through 2003, peaking as high as No. 8 in both 2001 and 2002.[15] The album also charted on the Billboard Top Pop Catalog Albums chart during the Christmas/holiday season every year from 1991 through 2003, peaking as high as No. 6 in 2001.[15]

In November 2014, it was the tenth best-selling Christmas/holiday album in the United States during the SoundScan era.[4]

A Charlie Brown Christmas was also the tenth best-selling holiday album of 2011, a year that marked the sixth time since 2001 that the album had ranked among the year's top 10 Christmas albums.[16] It was also the ninth best-selling album of 2013.[17]

Critical reception[edit]

Guaraldi showed how a piano, bass and drums can capture a feeling and character in living color, particularly if those feelings are complex, conflicted or even simply too beautiful for words. It's the kind of realization that, even unconsciously, opens the door for later discoveries in Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Robert Glasper and everything beyond, to say nothing of all the other sounds and ensembles waiting to be heard with jazz at its pulse.

Chris Barton of the Los Angeles Times, 2012[18]

Allmusic reviewer Shawn M. Haney called it "joyous and festive meditation for the holiday season"[1] writing, "Guaraldi strings together elegant, enticing arrangements that reflect the spirit and mood of Schulz's work."[1] Dominique Leone at Pitchfork called the songs "small, observant miracles...If there's a muted quality to a lot of this music, it's smiling nonetheless."[19]

The soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas has been considered "one of the most beloved holiday albums recorded."[18] Chris Barton of the Los Angeles Times asserts that the soundtrack introduced jazz to an entirely new generation, having been heard by more individuals than the work of the genre's most influential players, including Miles Davis and John Coltrane.[18] The score influenced dozens of young aspiring musicians, among them David Benoit[20] and George Winston.[21] Haney wrote that the record "introduce[d] contemporary jazz to youngsters with grace, charm, and creativity."[1]

A Charlie Brown Christmas was voted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007.[16] In 2012 the album was added to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry list of "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" American sound recordings.[22][23]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
  1. "O Tannenbaum" (Ernst Anschütz)  – 5:08
  2. "What Child Is This" (William Chatterton Dix)  – 2:25
  3. "My Little Drum" (Vince Guaraldi / Katherine Kennicott Davis)  – 3:12
  4. "Linus and Lucy" (Guaraldi)  – 3:06
  5. "Christmas Time Is Here" (Instrumental) (Guaraldi)  – 6:05
Side two
  1. "Christmas Time Is Here" (Vocal) (Guaraldi, Lee Mendelson)  – 2:47
  2. "Skating" (Guaraldi)  – 2:27
  3. "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" (Charles Wesley)  – 1:55
  4. "Christmas Is Coming" (Guaraldi)  – 3:25
  5. "Für Elise" (Ludwig van Beethoven)  – 1:06
  6. "The Christmas Song" (Mel Tormé, Robert Wells)  – 3:17
CD bonus tracks
  • "Greensleeves" (Traditional)  – 5:25 (1988, 2006, 2012 CDs)
  • "Christmas Is Coming" (Alternate Take 1) (Guaraldi)  – 4:37 (2006 CD)
  • "The Christmas Song" (Alternate Take 3) (Tormé, Wells)  – 3:53 (2006 CD)
  • "Greensleeves" (Alternate Take 6) (Traditional)  – 5:05 (2006 CD)
  • "Christmas Time Is Here" (Alternate Vocal Take) (Guaraldi)  – 1:34 (2006 CD)
  • "Great Pumpkin Waltz" (Guaraldi)  – 2:29 (2012 CD)
  • "Thanksgiving Theme" (Guaraldi)  – 2:00 (2012 CD)


The Vince Guaraldi Trio

  • Vince Guaraldi – piano, bandleader, Hammond organ on "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing"
  • Jerry Granelli – drums
  • Fred Marshall – double bass

Additional musicians

  • Colin Bailey – drums on "Greensleeves"
  • Chuck Bennett – trombone on "Thanksgiving Theme"
  • Monty Budwig – double bass on "Greensleeves"
  • Mike Clark – drums on "Thanksgiving Theme"
  • John Gray – guitar on "Great Pumpkin Waltz"
  • Tom Harrell – trumpet on "Thanksgiving Theme"
  • Mannie Klein – trumpet on "Great Pumpkin Waltz"
  • Seward McCain – bass on "Thanksgiving Theme"

Children's chorus for the songs "Christmas Time Is Here", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and when the kids all shout "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" were performed by members of the choir of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in San Rafael, California. Several months before the making of Charlie Brown Christmas this choir was featured on the recording Vince Guaraldi at Grace Cathedral.

Original production

  • Sol S. Weiss – recording engineer (attributed on the back cover, original album pressing)


  • Derrick Bang – liner notes[23][1]
  • George Horn – mastering (1986, 1988, 2006 reissues)
  • Adam Munoz – mixing (2012 reissue)
  • Joe Tarantino – mastering (2012 reissue)
  • Stephen Hart – mixing (2006 reissue)
  • Ralph J. Gleason – liner notes (1988 reissue)
  • Nick Phillips – reissue producer
  • Joe Tarantino – remastering
  • Joel Selvin – liner notes (2006 reissue)
  • Derrick Bang – liner notes (2012 reissue)

Charts and certifications[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Haney, Shawn M. "A Charlie Brown Christmas". AllMusic. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  2. ^ "Vince Guaraldi – A Charlie Brown Christmas". Discogs. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Gold & Platinum". RIAA. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "The Gifts That Keep on Giving: Biggest Radio and Album Hits of the Holidays". Billboard. December 1, 2014. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Whoopi Goldberg, Lee Mendelson et al. (2004). The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas (DVD). Paramount Home Entertainment.
  6. ^ Mendelson 2013, p. 11.
  7. ^ Mendelson 2013, p. 12.
  8. ^ a b c Mendelson 2013, p. 14.
  9. ^ a b Bang 2012, p. 176.
  10. ^ Kiesewetter, John (September 20, 2014). "'A Charlie Brown Christmas' almost didn't get made". archive.li. Cincinnati Enquirer. Archived from the original on September 20, 2014. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Mendelson 2013, p. 23.
  12. ^ Mendelson 2013, p. 24.
  13. ^ a b c Bang 2012, p. 187.
  14. ^ a b c Bang 2012, p. 188.
  15. ^ a b c Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 149. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
  16. ^ a b Grein, Paul (January 4, 2012). "Week Ending Jan. 1, 2012. Albums: She's Back". Yahoo. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  17. ^ Grein, Paul (January 2, 2014). "The Top 10 Soundtracks of 2013". Yahoo. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  18. ^ a b c Barton, Chris (December 19, 2013). "Vince Guaraldi's 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' score is a gift". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  19. ^ Leone, Dominique (December 13, 2006). "A Charlie Brown Christmas Review". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  20. ^ Solomon 2013, p. 49.
  21. ^ Bang 2012, p. 190.
  22. ^ "2011". The Library of Congress. Retrieved November 16, 2018.
  23. ^ a b Bang, Derrick (2012). A Charlie Brown Christmas (booklet). Vince Guaraldi. Beverly Hills: Concord Music Group. p. 16.
  24. ^ "Vince Guaraldi Trio Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved December 24, 2019.
  25. ^ "A Charlie Brown Christmas Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. February 19, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  26. ^ "A Charlie Brown Christmas Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. January 12, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  27. ^ "A Charlie Brown Christmas Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. December 27, 2008. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  28. ^ "A Charlie Brown Christmas Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. January 27, 2007. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  29. ^ "A Charlie Brown Christmas Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. December 24, 2005. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  30. ^ "A Charlie Brown Christmas Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. December 26, 2015. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  31. ^ "American album certifications – Vince Guaraldi – A Charlie Brown Christmas". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 


  • Bang, Derrick (2012). Vince Guaraldi at the Piano. McFarland. ISBN 978-0786459025.
  • Mendelson, Lee (2013). A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition. It Books. ISBN 978-0062272140.
  • Solomon, Charles (2013). The Art and Making of Peanuts Animation. Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-1452110912.

External links[edit]