About this Recording
8.120564 - THAT CHRISTMAS FEELING: 21 Vintage Seasonal Hits (1932-1950)
English 

THAT CHRISTMAS FEELING

Original 1932-1950 Recordings

Changes in global weather patterns have made White Christmases less frequent than they used to be, but Christmas arrives unfailingly each year and, from about the beginning of September (and even earlier!) we are bombarded with Santas, snowmen, bells and all the old clichéed, Marshmallow World imagery. The musical background to the annual phenomenon identifiable as That Christmas Feeling is an indiscriminate blend of traditional religious fare and seasonal nostalgia and, as we dream of White Christmases Past, the spirits and voices of bygone days rise up from old recordings.

The catalogue of historical seasonal recordings would certainly fill many volumes, as virtually every singer or band with a commercial profile made a Christmas record of some sort, but the undisputed king of them all is still Bing Crosby (1903-1977). The Spokane-born, part-Irish ex-Rhythm Boy and crooner, recording artist par excellence and screen actor who rose to radio and silver-screen stardom in the mid-1930s, had already done good Christmas business with traditional carols before arriving at the Irving Berlin blockbuster White Christmas. Originally featured in Bing’s film-musical Holiday Inn (Paramount, 1942), this is still by far the biggest Christmas song-hit of all time. In the five years following its publication it sold over three million copies (sheet music) and five million (discs). This original 1942 recording has sold in excess of 25 million copies and an overall 150+ million copies have sold in re-recordings by various artists, including Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), heard here in his 1945 rendition of Silent Night (one of the best-loved of carols, by the Austrian organist-composer Franz Xaver Gruber (1787-1863), this began life around 1818, as "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht").

The numerous Christmas standards Crosby recorded with the Andrews Sisters – Laverne (1915-1967), Maxine (1918-1995) and Patti (born 1920) – have lost none of their Seasonal charm, and the best-known of these must surely be Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. From the pen of the Brooklyn-born vaudeville pianist, song-plugger and sometime Cotton Club revue-writer J. Fred Coots (1897-1985), this frolicsome Yuletide ditty dates from 1934. And from the early 1940s onwards the Minneapolis-born Queens of Rhythm were themselves front-rankers on the commercial Christmas sleigh with such numbers as their ‘creator’ version of Lyle Moraine’s Christmas Island (a US Charts No.7 on its first release, this charted again the following year, eventually providing their seventh Golden Disc -and Guy Lombardo’s second), the sentimental "Christmas Candles" and The Merry Christmas Polka (an Andrews Sisters No.18 in January 1950).

If the sheer number of their reissues and revisions offers any indication, the Yuletide recordings of Gene Autry (1907-1998) must traditionally have secured a large portion of his recording company’s Seasonal revenue. Initially a pioneer of American radio, this easy-going Texan money-spinner soon became Hollywood’s Number One singing cowboy. The star of ninety-odd Western B-movies filmed between 1934 and 1954, Autry’s popular US radio show survived until well into the 1960s. He wrote (or cowrote, with Oakley Haldeman and others) more than 200 songs, comprising C & W standards and Children’s Christmas items and his own recordings of these included Here Comes Santa Claus (1947: Gene’s ‘creator’ version of this, his second Golden Disc by 1950 and a US Charts No.1, was also popularised by, among others, Doris Day - born 1922) and "Santa, Santa, Santa" (1949). His greatest Seasonal successes, however, were penned by others, most notably Frosty, The Snowman (an Autry US No.7, in 1950) and the far bigger hit Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1949). With words and music by the New York-born composer, author and publisher Johnny Marks (1909-1985), this Columbia Records all-time best-seller was a late 1949 No.1 which earned Gene a fourth Golden Disc and eventually sold over eight million copies, making it an easy runner-up before 1955 to White Christmas in the Christmas All-Time Best-Sellers.

Following with Dasher and Dancer close on Autry’s heels in the C & W Christmas rodeo we find a few highly-regarded Seasonal collaborations by Detroit-born star vocalist Margaret Whiting (born 1924) and Arkansas ex-rancher, guitarist and film-actor JimmyWakely (1914-1982). Starting in 1950 with Wakely’s own composition "Christmas Candy", their list of duets also included Jay Livingston’s ever-popular Silver Bells. And their much-respected, Buenos Aires-born colleague Dick Haymes (1916-1980), who worked variously as a Hollywood film-extra, songwriter and radio presenter before finding his true niche as a first-rate ballad-singer, brings his individual, smooth style to bear on The First Nowell.

In a more traditional, semi-serious category fall the items by tenor Richard Crooks (1900- 1972) and baritone Nelson Eddy (1901-1967). A native of Trenton (New Jersey), Crooks was for many years a resident ‘Voice’ of American radio’s Firestone Hour. Following an early career in opera in Berlin, he became known internationally through his concerts and recordings. This one, of The Star Of Bethlehem (1890: music by ‘Stephen Adams’, pseudonym of the Liverpudlian baritone Michael Maybrick (1844-1913) ; lyrics by Somerset barrister-songsmith Fred E. Weatherly, 1848-1929) enjoyed an especially long shelf-life. The romantic singing star of Hollywood, Rhode Islander Eddy also won renown in opera and recital and was a prolific recording artist. Adeste, Fideles, the classic carol by one John Francis Wade (c.1720-1786) of Artois, is perhaps better known to us nowadays as "O Come, All Ye Faithful".

Adding their own special brands of levity to our Yuletide celebration come Gracie Fields (1898-1979) with Christmas Eve In Fairyland and Spike Jones (1911-1965) with his 1947 US No.1 seasonal comedy hit All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth. The Lancashire-born comedienne and star of British screen enjoyed (mainly via her many recordings) a high reputation across the Atlantic, while the Californian bandleader and arch-clown was similarly appreciated in England.

Surely among the most recorded and frequently aired on radio, Winter Wonderland, The Christmas Song and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas are another three Yuletide Vocabulary songs, among those most likely to punctuate our last-minute shopping excursions. The first-named, with accrued sales to date well in excess of forty million, was a 1934 hit for pianist-arranger Felix Barnard (1897-1944). In 1946 it was anAndrews Sisters million-seller but is now most closely associated with the Philadelphiaborn crooning film-star Perry Como (1912-2001). Composed in 1946 by singersongwriter Mel Tormé, The Christmas Song is another much-recorded number. An instant and lasting success for the Alabama-born jazz pianist, vocalist and actor Nat ‘King’ Cole (1917-1965), its subsequent re-recordings sold many millions of copies. And whether your Christmas be white or not, Judy Garland (1922-1969) evokes that certain feeling with Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. The singing child-star of Wizard Of Oz fame invested this song (expressly written by Ralph Blane (born 1914) for her 1944 film Meet Me In St. Louis) with a plaintive yet forward-looking quality which has spanned the years.

Peter Dempsey, 2001

1. THAT CHRISTMAS FEELING (Benjamin–Weiss)

Perry Como with Russ Case’s Orchestra

(Victor PD6-VB-2658) Recorded August 1946, New York 3:14

2. WHITE CHRISTMAS (Berlin)

Bing Crosby with John Scott Trotter’s Orchestra

(Decca DLA 3009-B) Recorded May 1942, Los Angeles 3:03

3. THE FIRST NOWELL (Trad.)

Dick Haymes with The Song Spinners and Victor Young’s Orchestra

(Decca L 3445-A) Recorded June 1944, Hollywood 2:57

4. THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM (Adams–Weatherly)

Richard Crooks, tenor with Herbert Dawson, organ, and Orchestra conducted by

John Barbirolli

(HMV 2B 3441-2) Recorded September 1932, London 3:54

5 . SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN (Coots–Gillespie)

Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters with Vic Schoen’s Orchestra

(Decca L 3200-A) Recorded September 1943, Hollywood 2 : 4 1

6. RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER (Marks)

Gene Autry with instrumental accompaniment

(Columbia 38610) Recorded August 1949, Hollywood 3:08

7. CHRISTMAS EVE IN FAIRYLAND (Parry–Charles)

Gracie Fields with Peter Yorke’s Orchestra

(Decca DR 14101) Recorded September 1950, London 2:52

8. SILVER BELLS (Livingston–Evans)

Margaret Whiting and Jimmy Wakely with Orchestra

(Capitol 6623-9) Recorded September 1950, New York 2:55

9. WINTER WONDERLAND (Bernard–Smith)

Perry Como with The Satisfiers and Russ Case’s Orchestra

(Victor PD6-VB-2569) Recorded August 1946, New York 2:30

10. HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS (Autry–Haldeman)

Doris Day with George Siravo’s Orchestra

(Columbia HCO 3884) Recorded August 1949, Hollywood 2:42

11. I YUST GO NUTS AT CHRISTMAS (Stewart)

Yogi Yorgeson with The Johnny Duffy Trio

(Capitol 5092) Recorded October 1949, New York 3:15

12. JINGLE, BELLS (Pierpont, arr. Shaw)

Artie Shaw and his Orchestra with vocals by The Chickering Four

(Decca 76845-4A) Recorded August 1950, New York 3:02

13. CHRISTMAS ISLAND (Moraine)

The Andrews Sisters with Guy Lombardo’s Orchestra

(Decca 73694-A) Recorded September 1946, New York 2:37

14. FROSTY, THE SNOWMAN (Nelson–Rollins)

Gene Autry with The Cass Country Boys and Carl Cotner’s Orchestra

(Columbia 38907) Recorded June 1950, Hollywood 2:55

15. ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS MY TWO FRONT TEETH (Gardner)

Spike Jones and his City Slickers; George Rock, vocal

(Victor D7-VB-2342-2) Recorded November 1947, New York 3:13

16. THE GHOST OF THE TURKEY (Gibson–Wood)

Reginald Purdell with Male Quartette and Orchestra directed by Debroy Somers

(Columbia CA 14775) Recorded October 1934, London 2:39

17. THE MERRY CHRISTMAS POLKA (Webster–Burke)

The Andrews Sisters with Guy Lombardo’s Orchestra

(Decca 75085-A) Recorded July 1949, New York 2:51

18. ADESTE, FIDELES (O COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL) (Wade)

Nelson Eddy with Robert Armbruster’s Orchestra

(Columbia H 120) Recorded November 1940, Hollywood 3:23

19. THE CHRISTMAS SONG (Tormé–Wells)

Nat ‘King’ Cole, vocal and piano; and his Trio (Oscar Moore, guitar; Johnny Miller,

string bass)

(Capitol 981-2) Recorded August 1946, New York 3:12

20. HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS (Martin–Blane)

Judy Garland with Georgie Stoll’s Orchestra

(Decca L. 3387-B) Recorded April 1944, Hollywood 2:49

21. SILENT NIGHT (Gruber–Mohr)

Frank Sinatra with The Ken Lane Singers and Axel Stordahl’s Orchestra

(Columbia HCO 1526) Recorded August 1945, Hollywood 3:22


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