Original 'Charlie Brown Christmas' musician still playing those tunes 50 years later

From the pathetic tree that can’t hold a single ornament to the main character’s trademarked hopelessness, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has endured for decades as an absolute holiday essential.

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But maybe even more enduring than the memorable lines and Snoopy’s dancing is the instantly recognizable music behind the half-hour cartoon.

Now, exactly 50 years after it first aired on television, one of the special’s original musicians is hitting those notes again for what feels like the first time.

"I have to figure out how I did it,” drummer Jerry Granelli told CTV Atlantic. “There's things with the brushes that I did. Because they're skating, so I'm using the brushes like “tch-tch-shh, tch-tch-shh."

Granelli, now 74 and living in Halifax, is the last living member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, the group that originally composed the show’s tunes in 1965. He says he never imagined hearing those songs so many years later – and he wasn’t alone. Even CBS executives were lukewarm about the product at the time it was released.

"There was only one animator who stood up in the meeting,” Granelli recalls. “Everybody was like, nobody will see this. And he said, ‘Are you kidding? They're going to be watching this for fifty years.’”

The cartoon is undoubtedly a classic, but the music may have evolved to become even more popular, considering “A Charlie Brown Christmas” just became the top-selling jazz album of all time.

Granelli says the music has the ability to reach people in a fundamental way -- a feeling of joy he says he feels at every concert he performs.

And he can tell the audience feels it as well.

"This thing sweeps over everybody, and everybody is into it, and everybody listens to the hour-and-a-half jazz concert."

With a report from CTV Atlantic's Todd Battis


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