RUDOLPH AND OTHER STORIES OF CHRISTMAS SONGS – Rich Paschall

Some of the stories behind our favorite Christmas songs, by Rich Paschall

I did not know Dasher, Dancer and the gang until I learned the song. Of course, I learned it rather young, so perhaps no one had a chance to tell me. Besides, why would I want to get to know them since “they never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games?” But then one foggy something eve, I guess it was, I learned more about him.

rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-the-movie-1998b

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was a celebrity in this part of the country long before he became an international hit. Chicago-based department stores and mail order giant Montgomery Ward had been giving out their own coloring books at Christmas time for years. Robert L. May, an advertising copywriter, was assigned to come up with a Christmas story in 1939 — and Rudolph was the result.

When his wife passed away, the retailer offered to take May off the project, but he went on to complete it. The resulting book was distributed, but World War II stopped its publication due to restrictions on paper use. Rudolph made a grand reappearance in 1946.

Rudolph might have faded into a mere footnote of Christmas lore had it not been for May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks. He turned the story into a song, which made Rudolph famous throughout the country.

The song led to sequels by May, and eventually to television and movie specials. Rudolph really did “go down in history.”

The animated Christmas special is now over 50 years old and children and adults still watch today.

The song was recorded by cowboy star Gene Autry. Legend has it, he was not fond of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but his wife liked the song. Autry’s 1949 recording became number 1 on the charts. It was the first number 1 song of the 1950s and became the second biggest-selling song of all time, until the 1980s.  Another Christmas classic was already number one.

The Christmas Song is commonly called “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” and also has a Chicago connection.

Musician, singer, actor, composer Mel Tormé, a Chicago native and performer about town before hitting the big time, wrote the classic in 40 minutes one sweltering July day in California in 1944.

Mel spotted a few of the opening lines in a notebook by Bob Wells, a frequent collaborator, and went on to finish them and add music. Wells had just been writing down a few cold weather ideas to help him deal with the hot summer weather.

The song was subsequently recorded by Nat “King” Cole and his trio in June 1946, but Cole convinced the record label to re-record the song with strings. It is the second version, recorded in August 1946, that became a hit. Cole went on to record it again in 1953 and 1961. The 1961 version is the one you hear continuously throughout the season. The vocal performance of the last version is considered the best of Cole’s recordings.

Tormé recorded the song too. Years later he added a verse and a “coda,” which came from “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” In 1992, the composer of one of the best known Christmas songs of all time, finally recorded an album of Christmas songs. Legend has it that The Christmas Song was not one of Tormé’s favorites, but he was grateful for the royalties.

The all time best-selling song was written for a movie, but not for the movie of the same name. White Christmas was one of twelve songs written by Irving Berlin that were included in his 1942 movie Holiday Inn.

The romantic comedy musical starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire with a storyline about two performers in love with the same girl. Crosby loses out to Astaire and leaves the musical act to run an Inn that is only open on holidays. Astaire comes to the Inn after his dance partner (yes, that same girl) leaves him, giving us the opportunity to hear a variety of holiday songs by legendary songwriter, Irving Berlin.

In the movie, White Christmas is a duet when we first hear it, and when it reappears late in the story, the female character Lila, played by Marjorie Reynolds, sings it.  The song picked up the Oscar for best song of 1942.  The recording by Bing Crosby the same year has gone on to sell over an estimated 50 million copies of the single and holds the top spot by far. If you consider all of the compilation albums on which it appears it is likely over 100 million.

It is the overwhelming popularity of the song that led to a movie entitled White Christmas. Of course, Bing Crosby is back in another role, this time teamed up with Danny Kaye. Fred Astaire turned down the project.

White Christmas, like Holiday Inn, achieved great success, but its soundtrack never got a remix into stereo for release as an album. The master recordings were destroyed in a fire.

CHRISTMAS SONGS TO RETIRE – RICH PASCHALL

Are You Tired of Those Holiday Tunes Yet? – Rich Paschall


There are plenty of “Novelty” Christmas songs. As a matter of fact there are far too many. Some are amusing to the point of being endearing. Some are a bit weird or odd sounding. Some are just obnoxious and need to be removed from the Christmas playlist, permanently.

“Can you skip a few of those songs?”

Endearing novelty songs might include “The Chipmunks Song.” It certainly was a favorite when I was a kid. Alvin was my favorite chipmunk and it seemed perfectly OK to play the 45 (look it up) over and over, much to my mother’s chagrin. In later years, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” struck me as quite amusing. I guess it is funnier after a few spiked eggnog. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” may have many good versions, but the original recording from 1952 should remain locked in the vault. Also, radio stations will bring out the irritating “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas,” and the over-played “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” recorded originally by Spike Jones and His City Slickers, a novelty act if there ever was one.

The all-time most obnoxious novelty song, that ought to be put away forever by the way, is definitely “Dominick the Donkey.” What record executive thought that an Italian Christmas Donkey was amusing? To top it off the 1960 recording by Lou Monte sets new standards in displeasure. The song could have died a well deserved death, but the geniuses at Amazon decided in 2011 it should be rereleased, starting another round of annoyance:

Hey! Chingedy ching,
(hee-haw, hee-haw)
It’s Dominick the donkey.
Chingedy ching,
(hee-haw, hee-haw)
The Italian Christmas donkey.

Some songs are just long and repetitious. Chief among these is “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” After a while the litany of gifts is just too much. All versions of this song should be put away except, perhaps, the version by The Muppets. At least the popular Sesame Street characters find a joke and can carry it out to its funniest. That is much better than the many serious versions of the song that hit the airwaves at this time of year. The Muppets might even teach young ones the exceptional skill of counting backwards from twelve, something that is sure to be useful in their chosen professions later in life.

A song that is a classic but has clearly received too many variations is White Christmas. “The Drifters” version has been heard once too often on my radio. The 1954 recording was big for the Rhythm and Blues group, and it was the first of their songs to crack the Billboard 100 singles chart on mainstream radio stations. It would have thankfully been retired had it not been resurrected by holiday movies, including Home Alone starring Macaulay Culkin in his greatest role. I can pass this one up:

Ooh, doop doop, doop doo doop
Ooh, doop doop, doop doo doop

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where those treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow, the snow

Then I, I, I am dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days, may your days, may your days be merry and bright
(Read more here: The Drifters – White Christmas Lyrics | MetroLyrics )

Actually, every version besides the Bing Crosby version should be put away. Admit it, whenever you hear “White Christmas” you think of Bing Crosby. Every version is automatically compared to the iconic version that has been washed into our brain cells from infancy, unless you were born before 1941. You can not help it, the sounds of Bing Crosby whistling his way to another season of white is all you can hear. Everyone will come up short by comparison, no matter how good they are.

Recently, we gave a bit of the history of the song here. The song was a hit from the time Crosby introduced it on his 1941 Christmas radio broadcast.  The movie Holiday Inn helped to make it even more popular. When Crosby entertained the troops during World War II, it became a bit of nostalgic relief when soldiers where thinking of their lives back home. Bing thought the song might be making the boys sad, and he felt he did not go to entertain the troops only to bring them down. He tried eliminating the song from his show, only to have the soldiers call out for it anyway.

The original master recording of “White Christmas” wore out from all the “pressings,” the process by which vinyl recordings were made. So in 1947 Crosby recorded the song again with the original orchestra, trying to duplicate the original sound. It is the 1947 version you hear today. The recordings of the songs for the movie “White Christmas” would likely have been remastered into a Christmas Album had they not been destroyed by fire. Crosby performed the iconic Christmas song in 3 movies and countless radio and television broadcasts. There just is not another version.


Bing sang this song right to the end, after actually. The above is from his 1977 Christmas television show. It was his last Christmas special. He died after it was taped and before it was aired.

CHRISTMAS PAST

My Top Ten Christmas Songs

Dead Artists Edition, by Rich Paschall


As I listened to holiday songs on the local Christmas songs radio station, one fact became apparent over time.  Almost all of the songs I hear are performed by artists who have gone on to that great holiday party in the sky.  This is, of course, a nice way of saying they are dead.  Nevertheless, we continue to listen to their songs year in and year out.  In fact, some of these have been flying across the airwaves for many decades and there is no sign they will ever stop being played.

It is safe to say that all of these songs have been covered many times over.  Any singer with staying power in the industry has a Christmas album.  It is true that a few of these songs received great success by other artists when released, but there are certain versions of these holiday hits with the ability to live on long after the artist has gone.  It is these well-remembered and honored songs that fill my playlist.

Your 8-track and cassette tape versions of these may have become tangled and broken, your records and CDs may have become scratched and broken, but you can still download and stream these hits because they are not going away.  First I will offer up an honorable mention.

In 1977, David Bowie (1947-2016) was to appear on the Bing Crosby Christmas television special recorded in London.  He was asked to sing Little Drummer Boy, but did not like the song and asked for something else.  As a result a counterpoint to the song called Peace on Earth was written for Bowie and Crosby sang Little Drummer Boy.  We could simply say the rest is duet history, but that would not exactly be true.  The now well-beloved version may have died away if not for the popularity of a bootleg recording.  As a result, RCA released the song as a single in 1982.  Sadly Crosby died after the show was recorded and before it was ever played for the public.

Now if you will put the yule log on the fire, get a glass of eggnog and some Christmas cookies, we will present my top Christmas tunes from artists whose songs continue to echo down your decked halls.

10.  Blue Christmas, Elvis Presley (1935-1977) The song was first recorded in 1948, but the 1957 recording by Elvis remains the most popular.

9.  Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Gene Autrey (1907-1998) The 1949 song hit number 1 on the charts.

8.  A Holly Jolly Christmas, Burl Ives (1909-1995) The song was released in 1965 after being featured the previous year in the animated cartoon classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

7.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Judy Garland (1922-1969) The tune was written for the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis.

6.  Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms (1933-1997) The 1957 “Rockabilly” sound was an immediate hit and eventually went gold for Helms.

5.  Christmas Time Is Here, Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976) The jazz musician is best known for composing the score to 17 Peanuts animated television specials and a feature-length film.  The first of these was A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965.  Words to this jazz tune were provided by the Charlie Brown television producer, Lee Mendelson (1933-2008). The network, as well as the producers, thought the show was too depressing and predicted a failure with the public.  It won an Emmy, a Peabody and the love of generations of kids.

4.  The Christmas Song, Nat “King” Cole (1919-1965) The tune was written by Bob Wells (1922-1998) and another will known singer, Mel Torme (1925-1999), in 1945.  In June 1946 Cole recorded the song, then recorded it again in August with more instruments.  The second version was released.  There was a third recording, then a fourth in stereo in 1961.  It is that last version you here so much today.  Torme also recorded the song some years later, but it is the Nat King Cole version that is best remembered.

3.  (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays, Perry Como (1912-2001)  The popular crooner recorded the song in 1954 and sang it for the next 40 years.  “Mr. C” recorded it in stereo in 1959 and it is this version you probably hear today.  Like many popular television variety stars of his era, Como continued holiday shows after his weekly TV shows ended.  This video is from his 1969 Christmas special.

2.  It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Andy Williams (1927-2012).  Williams was another popular television crooner.  The song was written in 1963 and recorded by Williams for his first Christmas album.  It was used on his television show the same year and became a Christmas standard over time.  Now it is one of the top 10 Christmas songs of all time.  On this video, Williams appears to be singing along with the popular recording.

1. White Christmas, Bing Crosby (1903-1977) The Irving Berlin hit was apparently written for the movie Holiday Inn (no-telling with the prolific Mr. Berlin). Crosby first sang it on his radio show in 1941 but recorded it in 1942 for the Holiday Inn movie. It was recorded again in 1947 as the original master wore out from frequent use. The song appeared in two other movies and Crosby sang it for the rest of his life. This video is the final performance. He died soon after, doing what he liked best, playing golf.

CHRISTMAS SONGS TO RETIRE

Strike them from the playlist, PLEASE! by Rich Paschall

There are plenty of “Novelty” Christmas songs. As a matter of fact there are far too many. Some are amusing to the point of being endearing. Some are a bit weird or odd sounding. Some are just obnoxious and need to be removed from the Christmas playlist, permanently.

Endearing novelty songs might include “The Chipmunks Song.” It certainly was a favorite when I was a kid. Alvin was my favorite chipmunk and it seemed perfectly OK to play the 45 (look it up) over and over, much to my mother’s chagrin. In later years, “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” struck me as quite amusing. I guess it is funnier after a few spiked eggnog. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” may have many good versions, but the original recorded from 1952 should remain locked in the vault. Also, radio stations will bring out the irritating “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas,” and the overplayed “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” recorded originally by Spike Jones and His City Slickers, a novelty act if there ever was one.

The all-time most obnoxious novelty song that ought to be put away forever is definitely “Dominick the Donkey.” What record executive thought that an Italian Christmas Donkey was amusing? To top it off the 1960 recording by Lou Monte sets new standards in irritating. The song could have died a well deserved death, but the geniuses at Amazon decided in 2011 it should be rereleased, starting another round of annoyance:

Hey! Chingedy ching,
(hee-haw, hee-haw)
It’s Dominick the donkey.
Chingedy ching,
(hee-haw, hee-haw)
The Italian Christmas donkey.

Some songs are just long and repetitious. Chief among these is “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” After a while the litany of gifts is just too much. All versions of this song should be put away except, perhaps, the version by The Muppets. At least the popular Sesame Street characters get the joke and can carry it out to its funniest. That is much better than the many serious versions of the song that hit the airwaves at this time of year. The Muppets might even teach young ones the exceptional skill of counting backwards from twelve, something that is sure to be useful in their chosen professions later in life.

A song that is a classic but has clearly received too many variations is White Christmas. “The Drifters” version has been heard once too often on my radio. The 1954 recording was big for the Rhythm and Blues group, and it was the first of their songs to crack the Billboard 100 singles chart on mainstream radio stations. It would have thankfully been retired had it not been resurrected by holiday movies, including Home Alone starring Macaulay Culkin in his greatest role. I can pass this one up:

Ooh, doop doop, doop doo doop
Ooh, doop doop, doop doo doop

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where those treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow, the snow

Then I, I, I am dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days, may your days, may your days be merry and bright
(Read more here: The Drifters – White Christmas Lyrics | MetroLyrics )

Actually, every version besides the Bing Crosby version should be put away. Admit it, whenever you hear “White Christmas” you think of Bing Crosby. Every version is automatically compared to the iconic version that has been washed into our brain cells from infancy, unless you were born before 1941. You can not help it, the sounds of Bing Crosby whistling his way to another season of white is all you can hear. Everyone will come up short by comparison, no matter how good they are.

Recently, we gave a bit of the history of the song here. The song was a hit since Crosby introduced it on his Christmas radio broadcast.  The movie Holiday Inn helped to make it even more popular. When Crosby entertained the troops during World War II, it became a bit of nostalgic relief when soldiers where thinking of their lives back home. Bing thought the song might be making the boys sad, and he felt he did not go to entertain the troops only to bring them down. He tried eliminating the song from his show, only to have the soldiers call out for it anyway.

The original master recording of “White Christmas” wore out from all the “pressings,” the process by which vinyl recordings were made. So in 1947 Crosby recorded the song again with the original orchestra, trying to duplicate the original sound. It is the 1947 version you hear today. The recordings of the songs for the movie “White Christmas” would likely have been remastered into a Christmas Album had they not been destroyed by fire. Crosby performed the iconic Christmas song in 3 movies and countless radio and television broadcasts. There just is not another version.


Bing sang this song right to the end, after actually. The above is from his 1977 Christmas television show. It was his last Christmas special. He died after it was taped and before it was aired.

RUDOLPH AND OTHER STORIES OF CHRISTMAS SONGS

Some of the stories behind our favorite Christmas songs, by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

I did not know Dasher, Dancer and the gang until I learned the song. Of course, I learned it rather young, so perhaps no one had a chance to tell me. Besides, why would I want to get to know them since “they never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games?” But then one foggy something eve, I guess it was, I learned more about him.

rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-the-movie-1998b

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was a celebrity in this part of the country long before he became an international hit. Chicago-based department stores and mail order giant Montgomery Ward had been giving out their own coloring books at Christmas time for years. Robert L. May, an advertising copywriter, was assigned to come up with a Christmas story in 1939 — and Rudolph was the result.

When his wife passed away, the retailer offered to take May off the project, but he went on to complete it. The resulting book was distributed, but World War II stopped its publication due to restrictions on paper use. Rudolph made a grand reappearance in 1946.

Rudolph might have faded into a mere footnote of Christmas lore had it not been for May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks. He turned the story into a song, which made Rudolph famous throughout the country.

The song led to sequels by May, eventually to television and movie specials.  Rudolph really did “go down in history.”

2014 was the 50th anniversary of the animated Christmas special children and adults still watch today.

The song was recorded by cowboy star Gene Autry. Legend has it, he was not fond of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but his wife, liked the song. Autry’s 1949 recording became number 1 on the charts. It was the first number 1 song of the 1950s and became the second biggest-selling song of all time, until the 1980s.  Another Christmas classic was already number one.

The Christmas Song is commonly called “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” and also has a Chicago connection.

Musician, singer, actor, composer Mel Tormé, a Chicago native and performer about town before hitting the big time, wrote the classic in 40 minutes one sweltering July day in California in 1944.

Mel spotted a few of the opening lines in a notebook by Bob Wells, a frequent collaborator, and went on to finish them and add music. Wells had just been writing down a few cold weather ideas to help him deal with the sweltering summer weather.

The song was subsequently recorded by Nat “King” Cole and his trio in June 1946, but Cole convinced the record label to re-record the song with strings. It is the second version, recorded in August 1946, that became a hit. Cole went on to record it again in 1953 and 1961. The 1961 version is the one you hear continuously throughout the season. The vocal performance of the last version is considered the best of Cole’s recordings.

Tormé recorded the song too. Years later he added a verse and a “coda,” which came from “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” In 1992, the composer of one of the best know Christmas songs of all time finally recorded an album of Christmas songs. Legend has it that The Christmas Song was not one of Tormé’s favorites, but he was grateful for the royalties.

The all time best-selling song was written for a movie, but not for the movie of the same name. White Christmas was one of twelve songs written by Irving Berlin that were included in his 1942 movie Holiday Inn.

The romantic comedy musical starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in a boy-wins-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-wins-girl story. Crosby leaves a musical act to run an Inn that is only open on holidays. Astaire comes to the Inn after his dance partner leaves him, giving us the opportunity to hear a variety of holiday songs by legendary song writer, Irving Berlin.

In the movie, White Christmas is a duet when we first hear it, and when it reappears late in the story, the female character Lila, played by Marjorie Reynolds, sings it.  The song picked up the Oscar for best song of 1942.  The recording by Bing Crosby the same year has gone on to sell over 50 million copies and holds the top spot by far. It too is part of our non stop Christmas soundtrack.

It is the overwhelming popularity of the song that led to a movie entitled White Christmas. Of course, Bing Crosby is back in another role, this time teamed up with Danny Kaye. Fred Astaire turned down the project.

White Christmas, like Holiday Inn, achieved great success, but its soundtrack never got a remix into stereo for release as an album. The master recordings were destroyed in a fire.

SNOWING AGAIN

Of course we knew it was going to snow today. It was all over the news last night. As it always is. For a region that gets a great deal of snow every winter, the paroxysms of hysteria on the media whenever a storm approaches is ridiculous. Almost funny. It would be funny if we didn’t get so much snow, get totally buried so frequently. This is shaping up to be a classic. Snow came on the early side of on time. First, a little storm, a couple of wet inches. A dusting, a warning, a reminder.

Winter deck - snowing

Then another storm. A little bigger and the air a lot colder. This time, it stuck solidly to the roads and driveway. Now, 48 hours later, another storm. Supposed to be a medium-size storm, something less than a foot, more than a dusting. Which could mean pretty much anything because amounts vary wildly from one place to another. It would be impossible to predict accurately for a specific town. We are in Uxbridge, but a couple of miles away in Northbridge, they may get twice as much or barely any.

So. Christmas is a week away and no need for us to dream of a white Christmas. What would be unusual would be not having a white Christmas. And not having a daily frenzy of reports about impending doom by blizzard.

My world in white — Happy New Year!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It started snowing yesterday afternoon. I first knew because the dogs came in covered with snow. It had looked like snow would be coming … white snow sky … but it seemed too warm for it to really stick. But, as snow so often does here in the valley, it just kept coming and as evening approached, the temperature dropped.

Straight across into the woods.

The snow continued after dark and when I got up this morning, there was quite a bit on the ground, perhaps 6 or 7 inches. Real snow, the kind that hangs around until it melts or is dug away.

First Snow - Deck 1

My back is still treacherously bad, but I had to at least take a few pictures. It wasn’t so deep that I couldn’t get out onto the back deck, so I provided a round of biscuits to my frantic pups, then grabbed the camera and my new wide-angle lens and took pictures. This is the first real snow of this winter, though it is likely last snow of 2012.

Woods and chairs

Last year, the snowless year, was a glitch in the weather. I hoped we might get another snowless year, but obviously that isn’t happening. Welcome to my world in winter. Fresh snow, so white, so pretty, so … cold.

Facing east