Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Last Song Played by Vince Guaraldi

Two years ago I made a pilgrimage to the site of Vince Guaraldi's last gig in Menlo Park, followed by a visit to his grave in Colma, California.  I posted an article about it here.  It was called "Searching For Answers:  the Death of Vince Guaraldi."  Vince was the famed jazz pianist who wrote and recorded the 1962 jazz hit "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," and whose trio provided the background music for Charles Schultz's "Peanuts" cartoons.  Vince's Christmas album is still popular and widely played every December.

Since posting that article, I have received notes, a previously unpublished photo and other information from various people who either knew Vince or loved his work.  One of them is writing a book about Vince Guaraldi.  See the above link to see all of the latest information.

Today I learned the names of the musicians who were with Vince on his last gig in Menlo Park.  The bass player was Seward McCain and the drummer was Jim Zimmerman.  Zimmerman was with Vince in his room at the Red Cottage Inn, between sets, when Vince collapsed and died suddenly of a burst aortic aneurysm.  Vince was walking towards the bathroom when he collapsed on the floor.  Zimmerman ran to get McCain and they tried to revive Guaraldi, but Vince had died.  The only good thing about it was that he didn't suffer; death was almost instantaneous.  His mother, Carmella, later told a magazine that she was glad, at least, that Vince died as he would have wished, i.e., while playing a musical performance.

That last gig started out well.  McCain reported that the nightclub, Butterfield's, was filled with customers and that the first set went well.  The last song that Vince Guaraldi ever played was "Eleanor Rigby," the Beatles' hit.  McCain stated that Vince had an exciting version of the song.

The day before, Vince had dinner at the home of Peanuts producer Lee Mendelson.  He complained about some chest discomfort, like indigestion.  Vince had previously had an EKG and a doctor's examination to discover the cause of his discomfort.  The doctor told him he was probably getting ulcers and gave him a useless prescription of pills.  Vince's death, therefore, was not due to any personal negligence of his own.  He knew something was wrong and tried to get it diagnosed and treated.

After Vince died rumors spread that he had suffered some kind of drug overdose:  heroin, or maybe cocaine.  However, those rumors have proved to be untrue.

More information on Vince's last night can be found at the link above.

21 comments:

1389 said...

Vince Guaraldi was a great musician. He did his part to bring a ray of light into my surpassingly grim childhood/adolescence.

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