Rarities, oddities, and other fun stuff

Out Of The Vault – Holiday # 4, December 28, 2013

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Million Dollar Quartet (Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash) – WHITE CHRISTMAS (INSTRUMENTAL) (THEME) - "White Christmas" is an Irving Berlin song reminiscing about an old-fashioned Christmas setting. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide. All other versions of the song, along with Bing Crosby's, has estimated sales over 100 million copies. The first public performance of the song was by Bing Crosby, on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall on Christmas Day, 1941.  He subsequently recorded the song with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and the Ken Darby Singers for Decca Records in1942, and it was released on July 30 as part of an album of six 78-rpm songs from the film Holiday Inn. At first, Crosby did not see anything special about the song. He just said "I don't think we have any problems with that one, Irving."

The song initially performed poorly and was overshadowed by Holiday Inn's first hit song: "Be Careful, It's my Heart".  By the end of October 1942, however, "White Christmas" topped the "Your Hit Parade" chart. It remained in that position until well into the new year.  In 1942 alone, Crosby's recording spent eleven weeks on top of the Billboard charts. The original version also hit number one on the Harlem Hit Parade for three weeks,  Crosby's first-ever appearance on the black-oriented chart. Re-released by Decca, the single returned to the #1 spot during the holiday seasons of 1945 and 1946 (on the chart dated January 4, 1947), thus becoming the only single with three separate runs at the top of the U.S. charts. The recording became a chart perennial, reappearing annually on the pop chart twenty separate times before Billboard magazine created a distinct Christmas chart for seasonal releases.

Following its prominence in the musical Holiday Inn, the composition won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1942.  In the film, Bing Crosby sings "White Christmas" as a duet with actress Marjorie Reynolds, though her voice was dubbed by Martha Mears.  Taken from “The Complete Million Dollar Quartet” CD, 2006.

Lalo Guerro – PANCHO CLAUS - Eduardo "Lalo" Guerrero was a Mexican-American guitarist, singer and farm labor activist best known for his strong influence on today's Latin musical artists.  Guerrero is known as the Father of the Chicano Music. He recorded and wrote many songs in all sorts of genre. He also wrote children songs and songs about Cesar Chavez, other farm workers and braceros. Guerrero wrote songs for El Trio los Panchos, Lola Beltran and many other famous artists. His Pachuco music of the 1940s and 1950s provided the sound track to Loui Valdez’ late 70s play and movie “Zoot Suit.” He recorded over 700 songs since his first record in 1939 with Los Carlistas on Vocalion Records.  His first American hit was "Pancho López", a parody of the popular 1950s hit "The Ballad Of Davy Crockett". Guerrero used the Davy Crockett melody and wrote his own lyrics, telling the story of a legendary Mexican character. The song was popular in both Spanish and English. However, due to criticism Guerrero received over this song, he never performed it publicly, not wanting to contribute to an inappropriate stereotype. Guerrero went on to record several more parody songs, including "Pancho Claus” in 1956.  Guerrero was officially declared a national folk treasure by the Smithsonian Institution in 1980 and was presented with the National Medal of Arts in 1996 by then United States President Bill Clinton. 

José Feliciano – FELIZ NAVIDAD - "Feliz Navidad" is a Christmas song written in 1970 by the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano.  With its simple Spanish chorus (the traditional Christmas/New Year greeting, "Feliz Navidad, próspero año y felicidad" meaning "Merry Christmas, a prosperous year and happiness") and equally simple English verse "I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart", it has become a classic Christmas pop song in the United States, throughout the Spanish-speaking world and internationally.

Feliciano's version of "Feliz Navidad" (in which he plays both an acoustic guitar and a Puerto Rican cuatro) is one of the most downloaded and aired Christmas songs in the United States and Canada. The addition of the horns as a final touch was the idea of producer Rick Jarrard. It was also recognized by ASCAP as one of the top 25 most played and recorded Christmas songs around the world.

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Ray Charles – X-MAS TIME – a song by Ray Charles from his album The Spirit of Christmas, 1985.

James Brown – SOULFUL CHRISTMAS – (Brown).  Taken from James Brown's 1968 album A Soulful Christmas.

Charles Brown – BOOGIE WOOGIE SANTA CLAUS – "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" is a song written by rock and roll songwriter Leon René. It was most famously recorded in 1948 by Mabel Scott whose version placed within the top 15 of Billboard's Race Records chart. Patti Page covered the song in 1950 to little attention, but its B-side, "Tennessee Waltz", became a #1 hit in the United States and is one of her best-known works. It has since been recorded by many other artists, including The Brian Setzer Orchestra for their 2002 album Boogie Woogie Christmas and Colin James for 2007's Colin James & The Little Big Band: Christmas.  From the Album The Alligator Records Christmas Collection, 1992

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – MERRY CHRISTMAS BABY - "Merry Christmas Baby" is an R&B Christmas standard written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore. It has been covered by many artists including Otis Redding, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Christina Aguilera and Hanson. The original 1947 version by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers (featuring singer/pianist Charles Brown, is the definitive version of this song. Notable cover versions include those by Chuck Berry on his 1964 album St. Louis to Liverpool and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band recorded live at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, and included on the Christmas album A Very Special Christmas, released in 1987. 

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Jill Sobule – MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE FAMILY - "Merry Christmas from the Family" is a holiday song written by Robert Earl Keen. It has become extremely popular among the fans within his cult following. The song was first recorded for Keen's 1994 album, Gringo Honeymoon. A live version also appears on his 1996, No. 2 Live Dinner.  As Jill Sobule stated on her blog:  “In 1996, Atlantic Records asked me to record a Christmas themed song. I wrote and recorded “Jesus Was a Dreidel Spinner”. The label did not think it was proper – this was before the “war on christmas” – so I had to come up with another, less…Hebrewish song. A friend introduced me to the amazing Robert Earl Keen song,”Merry Christmas to the Family”. I knew I couldn’t come up with anything better.  The video was filmed at the video director’s best friend’s house. We didn’t have to do any art direction – the house was that white trashed.  I love the recording. I made sure the band was plenty lit. I wanted it sloppy. And sloppy it is. See if you can tell when the drummer drops his sticks and is late getting back to the next beat.”

Eartha Kitt – SANTA BABY - Santa Baby" is a 1953 Christmas song written by Joan Javits (the niece of Senator Jacob K. Javits) and Philip Springer.  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.  "Santa Baby" was originally recorded by Eartha Kitt with Henri René and his orchestra in New York City, in July, 1953.

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Joan Baez – CHRISTMAS IN WASHINGTON – Written by Steve Earle, and taken from a live radio broadcast in 2003.

John Prine – CHRISTMAS IN PRISON – Written by John Prine and taken from his album “A John Prine Christmas”, 1994.

The Youngsters – CHRISTMAS IN JAIL – (Hoffman/Blake).   Originally Recorded by The Youngsters circa 1956.  Taken from the compilation Album Doo Wop Christmas, 2009.

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Art Carney – ‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS – "A Visit from St. Nicholas", also known as "The Night Before Christmas" and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" from its first line, is a poem first published anonymously in 1823 and later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, who acknowledged authorship.  The poem, which has been called "arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American", is largely responsible for some of the conceptions of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today. Prior to the poem, American ideas about St. Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors varied considerably. It became a popular poem, which was set to music and was recorded by many artists.  Recorded by Art Carney in 1954, done in a sing-song rap style.  From the Album “Jingle Bell Swing”, 1999.