First recorded by The King Cole Trio (1946, released 1989).
Other popular versions by The King Cole Trio (US #/R&B #3 1946), Bing Crosby (1947), Mel Tormé (1955 et al.), Stevie Wonder (1967), The Carpenters (1978), Christina Aguilera (US #18 1999), Michael Bublé (MOR #6 2003).
From the wiki: “‘The Christmas Song’ is sometimes known as ‘Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire’ and was co-written by Mel Tormé (with Robert Wells) in the summer of 1944 when Tormé was 19.
“According to Tormé, the song was written in July (1944) during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to ‘stay cool by thinking cool,’ the most-performed Christmas song was born. ‘I saw a spiral pad on his (Wells’s) piano with four lines written in pencil’, Tormé recalled. ‘They started, ‘Chestnuts roasting… Jack Frost nipping… Yuletide carols… Folks dressed up like Eskimos.’ Bob didn’t think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics.’
“The first recording and the original arrangement of the song was recorded in June 1946 by the The King Cole Trio – without strings, because Capitol Records didn’t want to risk losing Cole’s core R&B audience with orchestration. But Cole insisted, so strings were scored for a session two months later, in August 1946, This was the recording released in November 1946 with great success, peaking at #3 on both the Hit Parade and R&B music charts. (The original non-string arrangement was not issued until 1989, when it was accidentally included on the various-artists compilation Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits (1935–1954).)
First recorded by The Laurels (1958).
Hit version by The Echoes (US #12/CAN #8 1961).
Also recorded (as “Merry Christmas, Baby Blue”) by The Echoes (1961).
From the wiki: “‘Baby Blue’ was written by Long Island assistant high school principal Sam Guilino and music teacher Val Lagueux. Brooklyn vocal group the Laurels (not to be confused with the Laurels who first recorded the similarly-titled ‘Baby Talk‘ in 1959) cut ‘Baby Blue’ in 1958 as a demo but couldn’t find any takers for the song. A bit more than two years later, in early 1961, the Laurels replaced a couple of members, changed their name to the Echoes, rerecorded ‘Baby Blue’ and had a hit.
“The Echoes’ single spent 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart peaking at #12.
First recorded (as “It Must’ve Been Love (Christmas for the Broken Hearted)”) by Roxette (SWE #4 1987).
Hit version by Roxette (US #1/UK #3/CAN #1/AUS #1/NED #3/JPN #2 1990).
“And it’s a hard Christmas Day
I dream away”
From the wiki: “The song, written by Per Gessle, was first released as ‘It Must Have Been Love (Christmas for the Broken Hearted)’ in December 1987. It was composed after EMI Germany asked the duo to ‘come up with an intelligent Christmas single.’ It became a top five hit in Sweden, but was not released internationally. This version of the song was never included on any Roxette studio album until the 1997 re-release of their debut Pearls of Passion.
Written and first recorded by Tom Paxton (1962).
Hit versions by The Chad Mitchell Trio (US #43/MOR #20 1963); Peter, Paul & Mary (1969).
From the wiki: “‘The Marvelous Toy’ was written in 1962 by folk singer Tom Paxton, and was first released on his album of songs recorded live at the ‘Gaslight Cafe’, Greenwich Village, I’m The Man That Built The Bridges. The album liner notes opine that
‘[T]his LP marks Tom Paxton’s achievement. Taped at the Gaslight on a series of warm Autumn afternoons in 1962, it is his own interpretation of the songs he has given America – and a promise of the many fine songs yet to come … The singer is at home in the whimsical world of children, too. ‘THE MARVELOUS TOY’, with its zip, bop noises is a constant favorite with Village audiences.’
Earliest known recording by The Nebe Quartett (1907).
Other popular recordings by Nat “King” Cole (1960), Vince Guaraldi Trio (1965), They Might Be Giants (1992).
From the wiki: “‘O Tannebaum’ is a German Christmas song. A ‘Tannenbaum’ is a fir tree. Based on a traditional folk song, it became associated with the traditional Christmas tree by the early 20th century and sung as a Christmas carol.
“The modern lyrics were written in 1824, by the Leipzig organist, teacher and composer Ernst Anschütz, but do not actually refer to Christmas or describe a decorated Christmas tree. Instead, they refer to the fir’s evergreen qualities as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.
First recorded by Richard Himber & His Ritz-Carlton Orchestra (1934).
Popular versions by Guy Lomabardo’s Royal Canadians (US #2 1934), Ted Weems & His Orchestra (US #13 1934), Johnny Mercer & The Pied Pipers (US #4 1946), Perry Como & the Satisfiers (US #10 1946), Johnny Mathis (UK #17 1958), Darlene Love (1963), Ramsey Lewis (US #27 1966).
From the wiki: “‘Winter Wonderland’, a winter song by design is, instead, popularly regarded as a Christmas song even though the holiday itself is never mentioned in the lyrics. It was written in 1934 by Felix Bernard (music) and Richard B. Smith (lyricist). Smith, a native of Honesdale, Pennsylvania, was reportedly inspired to write the song after seeing Honesdale’s Central Park covered in snow. Smith wrote the lyrics while in the West Mountain Sanitarium, being treated for tuberculosis.
“The original recording was by Richard Himber and his Hotel Ritz-Carlton Orchestra on RCA Bluebird in 1934. At the end of a recording session with time to spare, it was suggested that this new tune be tried with an arrangement provided by the publisher. Himber’s ‘studio’ orchestra included many great New York studio musicians who later found great fame as individual stars, including Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Artie Shaw.
First recorded by Emile Berliner (1890).
Popular version by Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians (1939).
From the wiki: “Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the words of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in about 1789 for use with a piece of Scottish music dating from 1687, The Duke Of Bucclugh’s Tune. ‘Auld lang syne’ is Scots dialect for ‘Old long since,’ so the line, ‘For days of auld lang syne’ means something like ‘For the good old days.’
“In 1855, different words were written for the ‘Auld Lang Syne’ tune by Albert Laighton and titled, ‘Song of the Old Folks’. This song was included in the songbook, Father Kemp’s Old Folks Concert Tunes, published in Boston, Massachusetts in 1860. For many years it was the tradition of the Stoughton Musical Society to sing this version in memory of those who had died that year. Nowadays, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is traditionally sung at the conclusion of New Year gatherings in Scotland and around the world, especially in English-speaking countries.
First recorded by Margaret Whiting (1947).
Other popular versions by The Les Paul Trio (1947), The Orioles (R&B #9 1949), Ella Fitzgerald (1960), Danté & the Evergreens (US #106 1960), Billy Ward & His Dominoes (1965), Nancy Wilson (XMAS #17 1965 |XMAS #24 1967), The Carpenters (1985), Rufus Wainwright (2005), Zooey Dechanel & Joseph Gordon-Levitt (2011).
From the wiki: “‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?’ was written in 1947 by Frank Loesser as an ‘independent song’ — not written for any particular movie or musical. Loesser was an American songwriter who had written lyrics and music for the Broadway hits Guys and Dolls and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, among others. He won separate Tony Awards for both shows, as well as sharing the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the latter, and was also nominated for five Academy Awards for best song, winning once, for ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside‘. Among Loesser’s other notable songs: ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’, ‘Heart and Soul‘, ‘On a Slow Boat to China’, and ‘Luck Be a Lady Tonight’ (from Guys and Dolls).
First recorded (as “One Horse Open Sleigh” in the medley “Sleigh Ride Party”) by The Edison Male Quartette (1898).
Popular versions by The King Cole Trio (1938), Glenn Miller & His Orchestra (US #5 1941), Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters (1943), Primo Scala & the Keynotes (US #10 1948), Les Paul (US #10 1951), The Hysterics (UK #44 1981).
From the wiki: “James Lord Pierpont’s 1857 composition ‘Jingle Bells’ became one of the most performed and most recognizable secular holiday songs ever written, not only in the United States, but around the world. In recognition of this achievement, James Lord Pierpont was voted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“Pierpont wrote it in the 1850s in Medford, Massachusetts as ‘The One-horse Open Sleigh’ for the choir of the First Unitarian Church, where his father was pastor. The choir introduced the new song during a Thanksgiving Day service; there was not a single reference to Christmas in the original lyrics. But, due to the public’s enthusiasm, the performance was renewed during that same year’s Christmas celebration.
“In 1857 the song was copyrighted as ‘The One Horse Open Sleigh’. Two years later it was first published as ‘Jingle Bells’ in Savannah, GA, where Pierpont’s brother, John, was pastor. His Unitarian Universalist Church became, and still is, locally known as ‘The Jingle Bells Church’.
First performed (in Meet Me in St. Louis) by Judy Garland (1944).
Popular recorded versions Judy Garland (1944), by Frank Sinatra (1957), Barbra Streisand (1967), The Pretenders (1987), Sam Smith (2014).
From the wiki: “‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, was introduced by Judy Garland in a poignant moment in the 1944 movie musical Meet Me In St. Louis. When presented with the original draft lyric, Garland, her co-star Tom Drake and director Vincente Minnelli criticized the song as depressing, and asked Martin to change the lyrics.
“Though he initially resisted, Martin made several changes to make the song more upbeat, e.g. the lines ‘It may be your last / Next year we may all be living in the past’ became ‘Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight’. Garland’s version of the song, which was also released as a single by Decca Records, became popular among United States troops serving in World War II; her performance at the Hollywood Canteen brought many soldiers to tears.
Originally recorded by Eartha Kitt (US #4 1953).
Other popular versions by Mae West (1966), Eartha Kitt (new arrangement, 1963), Madonna (1987).
From the wiki: “The song is a tongue-in-cheek look at a Christmas list sung by a woman who wants extravagant gifts such as sables, yachts, and decorations from Tiffany’s. It is one of the few hit Christmas songs written by a woman, Joan Javits (the niece of then-Senator Jacob K. Javits), and Philip Springer.
“‘Santa Baby’ was first recorded by Eartha Kitt with Henri René and his orchestra in New York City on October 6, 1953. The song was a huge hit for Kitt, and she later said that it was one of her favorite songs to record.
First recorded by The Royal Military Band (1904).
Also recorded by The Edison Carol Singers (1905).
Popular versions by Bing Crosby (1942), Nat “King” Cole (1960), Mannheim Steamroller (1984), Garth Brooks (C&W #69 2000), MercyMe (MOR #34 2006), Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan (2010).
From the wiki: “‘God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen’, also known as ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’, and ‘God Rest You Merry People All’, is an English traditional Christmas carol. It was published by William B. Sandys in 1833, although the author is unknown. Like so many early Christmas songs, the carol was written as a direct reaction to the church music of the 15th century. However, in the earliest known publication of the carol, on a c. 1760 broadsheet, it is described as a ‘new Christmas carol’, suggesting its origin is actually in the mid-18th century.
“‘God Rest Yet Merry, Gentlemen’ is referred to in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: ‘…at the first sound of ‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’, Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.'”
First recorded by An Anonymous Bell Ringer (1899).
Popular versions by Associated Glee Clubs of America (1925), Bing Crosby (recorded 1942| reissued 1945).
From the wiki: “‘Adeste Fideles’ is a Christmas carol which has been attributed to various authors. The English translation of ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ by the English Catholic priest Frederick Oakeley, written in 1841, is widespread in most English speaking countries. The 1925 recording by the Associated Glee Clubs of America was the first electrically-recorded disc recording to create a popular impact, and featured the largest choir (according to Columbia Records) popular music has ever known: some 4,800 voices.
“Bing Crosby recorded ‘Adeste Fidelis’ in 1942, for Merry Christmas. The original album consisted of ten songs (including ‘White Christmas’) on five 78 records. The 78rpm album quickly reached the top of the Billboard Best-selling popular record albums chart in 1945 and remained there for several weeks. The 1955 vinyl LP configuration is the one extant to date, consisting of the entirety of the Decca 78s plus four additional tracks.”
First performed by Esther Williams & Ricardo Montalban and Red Skelton & Betty Garrett (Neptune’s Daughter, 1949).
Hit versions by Dinah Shore & Buddy Clark (US #4 1949), Margaret Whiting & Johnny Mercer (US #4 1949), Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan (US #9 1949), Dean Martin (1959) and Blossom Dearie & Bob Dorough (1979), Dean Martin & Martina McBride (MOR #7/C&W 36 2006).
From the wiki: “Frank Loesser wrote the duet in 1944 and premiered the song with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their Navarro Hotel housewarming party, and performed it toward the end of the evening, signifying to guests that it was nearly time to end the party. Lynn considered it ‘their song’ and was furious when Loesser sold the song to MGM. The movie it appeared in, Neptune’s Daughter, featured two performances of the song: one by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams, and the other by Red Skelton and Betty Garrett, the second of which has the roles of ‘wolf and mouse’ reversed. These performances earned Loesser an Academy Award for Best Original Song.”
Co-written and first recorded by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers (R&B #3 1947).
Other popular versions by Chuck Berry (1958); Elvis Presley (1971); Bruce Springsteen (1987); Bonnie Raitt & Charles Brown (1992); Cee Lo Green, Rod Stewart & Trombone Shorty (2012).
From the wiki: “‘Merry Christmas Baby’ is an R&B Christmas standard written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore. The original 1947 version by Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers is considered to be the definitive version of this song.
First recorded by The Boston Pops Orchestra (1949).
Hit instrumental version by Leroy Anderson & His “Pops” Concert Orchestra (1950| re-recorded 1959).
Popular vocal versions by Johnny Desmond (1950), Johnny Mathis (1958), The Ronettes (1963), The Carpenters (1978).
From the wiki: “Leroy Anderson had the original idea for the piece during a heat wave in July 1946; he finished the work in February 1948. The orchestral version was first recorded in 1949 by Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops Orchestra. Composer Anderson would record an instrumental version of his own song in 1950. He re-recorded the song in stereo in 1959, a version that has since gone on to become the classic instrumental production.
“Lyrics, about a person who would like to ride in a sleigh on a winter’s day with their love, were written by Mitchell Parish in 1950. Johnny Desmond, with the Ray Charles Singers, first recorded the vocal version in 1950. Other popular vocal recordings have been released by Johnny Mathis (1958), The Ronettes (1963), and The Carpenters (1978). ”
First recorded by The Paul Whiteman Orchestra (1934).
Also recorded The Raymond Scott Quintette (instrumental, 1939).
Popular version by Louis Armstrong & The Benny Carter Orchestra (1955).
From the wiki: “‘Christmas Night in Harlem’ was written in 1934 by Raymond Scott, and the song was first recorded by The Paul Whiteman Orchestra the same year. ‘Christmas Night in Harlem’ has been covered by Perry Como, Benny Carter, Johnny Mercer, Banu Gibson, The Beau Hunks, Clarence Williams, Paul Whiteman, Maria Muldaur, and Jack Teagarden but the most celebrated recording was made by Louis Armstrong & The Benny Carter Orchestra.
First performed by Eddie Cantor (1934).
First recorded by Harry Reser & His Orchestra (1934).
Popular versions by Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters (1943), Perry Como (1946), The Four Seasons (US #23 1963), The Jackson 5 (1970), Bruce Springsteen (1975).
From the wiki: “‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ was written in 1934 by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie, and first performed on Eddie Cantor’s radio variety show, The Chase and Sanborn How on NBC Radio, in November 1934. Indicative of his effect on the mass audience, Cantor had agreed to introduce the new song, that other well-known artists had rejected as being ‘silly’ and ‘childish’. The song, “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”, became an immediate hit; the publisher had orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music (the measure in those days of a song’s popularity) the next day; over 400,000 copies were sold by Christmas.
“The earliest-known recorded version of the song was by banjoist Harry Reser and his band. It, too, became an instant hit with orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music and more than 30,000 records sold within 24 hours. Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters recorded a popular wartime version in 1943. But, it was the Four Seasons who first charted the song on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching #23 in 1963. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band recorded a live version in 1975 that was bootlegged to Rock radio stations until it saw its first release in 1982 as part of the Sesame Street compilation album In Harmony 2.”
First recorded by Doye O’Dell (1948).
Hit versions by Ernest Tubb (C&W #1 1949), Hugo Winterhalter & His Orchestra with Choir (US #9 1949), Russ Morgan & His Orchestra (US #11 1949), Hugo Winterhalter & Billy Eckstine (US #20 1950), Elvis Presley (1957 |US #40/UK #11 1964), Beach Boys (XMAS #3 1964), Shakin’ Stevens (UK #2 1982), Harry Connick Jr. (MOR #21 2004).
From the wiki: “‘Blue Christmas’ song was first recorded by Doye O’Dell in 1948. It was popularized the following year in three separate recordings: one by Country artist Ernest Tubb, which topped the Country singles chart; one by instrumental bandleader Hugo Winterhalter and his orchestra that charted US Top-10; and one by bandleader Russ Morgan and his orchestra (the latter featuring lead vocals by Morgan and backing vocals by singers credited as the Morganaires) that charted US Top-15. In 1950 Hugo Winterhalter released a new version, this time sung by Billy Eckstine, with shortened lyrics in a variation close to what is now the common standard for this song. This re-recording charted Top-20 in the US.
First recorded by Jack B. Nimble & The Quicks (1961).
Hit versions by B. Bumble & the Stingers (US #23/UK #1 1962| UK #20 1972); Emerson, Lake & Palmer (as “Nutrocker” US #70 1972).
Also recorded by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (2009).
From the wiki: “In late 1961, producer Kim Fowley secured the copyright to an arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s ‘March of the Wooden Soldiers’ from the ballet The Nutcracker, and took this to local entrepreneur and pianist H. B. Barnum. Barnum recorded it as by ‘Jack B. Nimble & The Quicks’ for the small Del Rio label. However, when Rod Pierce of Rendezvous Records heard it, he convinced Fowley that his label could do a better version with their own band, B. Bumble & the Stingers.
“A new recording was arranged, but on the day, Ernie Freeman, who had played piano on ‘Bumble Boogie’, failed to appear, apparently due to heavy partying the night before. In his place, guitarist and arranger René Hall rushed pianist Al Hazan into the Rendezvous office, which was rigged up as an improvised studio.
First recorded by Gene Autry & The Cass County Boys (US #7/C&W #4 1950).
Other hit versions by Nat “King” Cole (US #9 1950), Jan & Dean (US #11 1963), The Beach Boys (1964), Jimmy Durante (1969).
From the wiki: “‘Frosty the Snowman’ (originally titled ‘Frosty the Snow Man’) is a popular song written by Walter ‘Jack’ Rollins and Steve Nelson, and was first recorded by Gene Autry & The Cass County Boys in 1950. Rollins and Nelson wrote ‘Frosty’ after the success of Autry’s recording of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ the previous year; Rollins and Nelson shipped the new song to Autry, who recorded ‘Frosty’ in search of another seasonal hit.
Co-written and originally recorded by Charles Brown (US #76 1960 |XMAS #1 1972).
Other hit versions by Eagles (US #18 1978), Bon Jovi (released 1992 |UK #7/IRE #6/SCOT #8/ITA #10/FIN #20 1994).
From the wiki: “‘Please Come Home for Christmas’ is a Christmas song, released in 1960, by the American blues singer and pianist Charles Brown. Hitting Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in December 1961, the tune Brown co-wrote with Gene Redd peaked at position #76. It appeared on the Billboard Christmas Singles chart for nine seasons, hitting #1 in 1972.
“In 1978, the rock band Eagles covered and released the song as a holiday single. Their version peaked at #18 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, the first Christmas song to reach the Top 20 on the non-seasonal singles chart since Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Paper’ in 1963.
“Jon Bon Jovi also covered the song on the 1992 holiday album A Very Special Christmas 2 in the style of the Eagles, featuring former Eagle Don Felder on guitar. In 1994 the same recording was released as a charity single in Europe, but this time instead of being credited as a solo recording by Jon Bon Jovi it was released under the band name Bon Jovi. The 1994 single release reached the top 10 in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Italy.”
First recorded (as “Carol of the Drum”) by The Trapp Family Singers (1954).
Popular versions by The Harry Simone Chorale (1958), Lou Rawls (1967), Bing Crosby & David Bowie (1977).
From the wiki: “‘Little Drummer Boy’ – originally titled ‘Carol of the Drum’ – was written in 1941 by Katherine K. Davis. It was first recorded in 1954 by The Trapp Family Singers during sessions for their albums Christmas With The Trapp Family Singers and Yuletide Songs Of Many Lands, and further popularized by a 1958 recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale. The original manuscript is headed ‘Czech Carol freely transcribed by K.K.D’, these initials then deleted and replaced with ‘C.R.W. Robinson’, a name under which Davis sometimes published. Although Davis did search far and wide for suitable material, the Czech original has never been identified, though the style is comparable with the Czech ‘Rocking Carol’. ‘Carol of the Drum’ appealed to the Austrian Trapp Family Singers, who first brought the song to wider prominence when they recorded it in 1955, shortly before they retired.”
Co-written and first recorded by Donny Hathaway (XMAS #11 1970).
Other popular versions by Gladys Knight & The Pips (1980), Yutaka Yokokura (1988), Gloria Estefan (1993).
From the wiki: “‘This Christmas’ is a well-known Christmas song originally recorded by R&B singer-songwriter Donny Hathaway (under the stage name ‘Donny Pitts’) and released as a single in 1970, peaking that year at #11 on the Billboard Christmas Singles chart.
“In 1980, Gladys Knight & the Pips recorded ‘This Christmas’ for their holiday album That Special Time of Year, re-released in 2013 on The Classic Christmas Album. Japanese jazz artist Yutaka Yokokura’s recording was one of several Christmastime songs by various artists included on the 1988 holiday compilation album The GRP All Star Christmas Collection. Gloria Estefan, in 1993, included ‘This Christmas’ on her holiday album Christmas Through Your Eyes.”
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