It’s not often you can pinpoint the exact birth of a Christmas tradition.

After all, even the birth of Christ  is subject to debate.

But this one started on December 9th, 1965.

That’s the year the holiday favourite “A Charlie Brown Christmas” first aired, featuring the now instantly-recognizable music of the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

Almost fifty years later the show, and the music, is as popular as ever. According to Neilsen Soundscan in the U.S. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the 10th-best selling Christmas album from 1991 to the present.

“I am genuinely overwhelmed,” says Jerry Granelli, the last surviving member of the jazz trio. He says when they recorded it Charlie Brown and the other Peanuts characters weren’t anywhere near as well-known as they are now. And few thought the music would become as famous as it did. “Nobody did. Nobody thought that,” he says.

Granelli was the drummer on the album, and he has an interesting relationship with it. He’s never made a dime off the royalties. That’s one of the reasons he turned his back on the music. After he left the Vince Guaraldi Trio he didn’t play if for 48 years.

But all that changed last year when he was convinced to mount a tour with his own trio.  He now plays sold-out shows to several generations of fans. “The show endures because it has… good intentions. I guess I’m corny, but I believe in good intentions,” he says.

At 74 years of age, Jerry Granelli has every intention of carrying on the Christmas tradition for as long as he can.