Born in San Francisco, Granelli was involved with the city's hard bop scene from a young age. A day spent with drummer Gene Krupa in 1948 informed his passion for percussion and eventually led to him studying with Joe Morello.
In the 1960s he recorded and toured with the Vince Guaraldi trio, appearing on Vince Guaraldi, Bola Sete and Friends and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Granelli was only paid $120 dollars for the recording session of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and has never received any royalties from the television special or its soundtrack. Despite this fact, Granelli says he is not bitter: "It’s become one of the soundtracks of people’s lives,” he says. “There is such a human quality to it.”
Jerry also acted as a session drummer during this period. Among his many sessions was the recording of the Sylvia Tyson penned "You Were On My Mind" by folk group We Five, which won a Grammy award in 1965 for Best Performance by a Vocal Group. Later in the decade, he joined the Denny Zeitlin trio with Charlie Haden. The soundtrack went on to become a triple-platinum award winning album.
Since the 1990s, Granelli has lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, becoming a Canadian citizen in 1999. In 2010, he released his first solo album, 1313. Granelli tours jazz festivals and holiday venues with his one-man show Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas, which retells the three-hour recording session in 1965 that culminated in the timeless Christmas classic. Granelli recalled in a 2016 interview: "We did it all in one day over three hours, but Vince did us a favour and paid us for two sessions."
With Vince Guaraldi Trio
- Vince Guaraldi, Bola Sete and Friends (Fantasy, 1963)
- The Latin Side of Vince Guaraldi (Fantasy, 1964)
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy, 1964)
- Jazz Impressions of "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" (Fantasy, 1964)
- From All Sides (Fantasy, 1965)
With Jane Ira Bloom
- Art and Aviation (Arabesque, 1992)
- Sound Songs (JMT/Winter & Winter, 1986)
- As Tears Go By & Some More Songs (Jazzwerkstatt, 1987)
- Koputai (ITM, 1988)
- One Day at a Time (Koch, 1990)
- A Song I Thought I Heard Buddy Sing (ITM, 1992)
- Another Place (Intuition, 1994)
- News from the Street (Intuition, 1995)
- Broken Circle (Intuition, 1996)
- Enter, a Dragon (Songlines, 1998)
- Forces of Flight (Select, 1999)
- Crowd Theory (Songlines, 1999)
- Iron Sky (Love Slave, 2001)
- The Only Juan (Love Slave, 2002)
- Sandhills Reunion (Songlines, 2005)
- 1313 (Divorce, 2010)
- Music Has Its Way with Me (Traumton, 2000)
- What I Hear Now (Addo, 2015)
- Dance Hall (Justin Time, 2017)
- Bang, Derrick (2012). Vince Guaraldi at the Piano. McFarland. p. 114. ISBN 9780786490745.
- Jerry Granelli Tells Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas. Robins, Marks. September 16, 2019.
- Wong, Herb; Fingerote, Paul Simeon (2016). Jazz on My Mind. McFarland. p. 177. ISBN 9780786496402.
- Tales of a Charlie Brown Christmas. www.vancouverpresnts.com.
- Galloway, A. Scott. "Bio". Jerry Granelli. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
- "Jerry Granelli | Album Discography | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
- Official website
- Charlie Brown Christmas drummer reflects on iconic soundtrack
- CBC News: Meet Jerry Granelli
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