Paul McCartney doing "The Christmas Song." The Fruit Bats singing "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christ-mas." Cee Lo Green bopping to "This Christmas."
Mannheim Steamroller. Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Papa Don Vappie's New Orleans Jazz Band. Jo-El Sonnier. The Brian Setzer Orchestra. The Moscow Philharmonic.
It's time again for Christmas music -- and I love it all! So many styles, so much fun, such beautiful lyrics. All filling up my iPod. Musicians across the spectrum trying to leave their mark on holiday favorites -- and sell a few CDs and downloads in the process.
But there are times during the season when I need to find my grounding -- and that comes by putting on old-school holiday music.
Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis -- now that is what Christmas music is really all about.
So that is what I offer you today: 30 days of holiday tunes, done the way it was meant to be. Sit back, close your eyes and enjoy. As Andy Williams sings, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!"
THE CHRISTMAS SONG, NAT KING COLE (3:12) -- First recorded by Cole in 1946, this is the quintessential Christmas song, and it is the only tune that should open a collection of holiday oldies. It was co-written by Mel Torme in the heat of summer as a way to "stay cool by thinking cool."
SILVER BELLS, JOHNNY MATHIS (3:34) -- My favorite Christmas song, and my favorite version, recorded in 1958. It was written in 1950 and first performed by Bing Crosby and Marilyn Maxwell in "The Lemon Drop Kid."
WINTER WONDERLAND, LOUIS ARMSTRONG (3:01) -- This Christmas standard was written in 1934. I love Armstrong's 1952 version -- New Orleans jazz and that fine, gravelly voice.
LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW!, DEAN MARTIN (1:58) -- Dino first recorded it in 1959. It was written in 1945 in Hollywood, Calif., on what was said to be the hottest day of the year.
WHITE CHRISTMAS, BING CROSBY (2:58) -- Some say this is the most popular of his Christmas songs, but I still like Cole's "Christmas Song" better. The Irving Berlin standard was first sung by Crosby in the film "Holiday Inn" in 1942.
IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR, ANDY WILLIAMS (2:47) -- This was first recorded on Williams' 1963 "Christmas Album." He died this year at age 84. This is a fine way to remember him and his wonderful voice.
RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, GENE AUTRY (3:13) -- Autry's story of the reindeer who saved the night sold 2.5 million copies in 1945. It eventually sold more than 25 million and was the second-best selling record of all time into the 1980s. Robert May created Rudolph for a 1939 Sears catalog. His brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, turned it into a song.
MY FAVORITE THINGS, TONY BENNETT (3:20) -- This tune from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical "Sound of Music" (1959) was not intended as a holidays song. But it has caught on because of its imagery. Bennett recorded it in 1968.
(THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE) HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, PERRY COMO (2:52) -- Say Christmas and Perry Como in the same sentence and up pops this 1954 song. An episode of "Mad Men" mentions Como's smooth voice. It hard to argue as this holiday ditty circles around in your head.
ROCKIN' AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE, BRENDA LEE (2:06) -- Another Johnny Marks song, Lee recorded this holiday favorite in 1959 at age 13. By the end of 2011, it had been downloaded 679,000 times, the fourth-best of all holiday singles.
SLEIGH RIDE, ELLA FITZGERALD (2:57) -- Another heat-waved inspired -- and many times recorded -- Christmas song, Leroy Anderson started "Sleigh Ride" in 1946 and finished it in 1948. Known as "The Queen of Jazz," Fitzgerald recorded it in 1960.
BABY, IT'S COLD OUTSIDE, DEAN MARTIN (2:24) -- This duet between a man and woman from 1944 is intended as flirtatious, but some see it is as sexist. Martin, who recorded it in 1966, carries it off well.
FROSTY THE SNOWMAN, GENE AUTRY (2:55) -- Autry first recorded this song in 1950 in the wake of the success of "Rudolph." It wasn't the hit that its predecessor was, climbing to No. 7 on the charts.
MISTLETOE AND HOLLY, FRANK SINATRA (2:18) -- I can remember singing this 1952 song as a kid. This is one of seven songs that Sinatra composed. The others are: "I Am a Fool to Want You," "Mr. Success," "Peachtree Street," "Sheila," "Take My Love" and "This Love of Mine." He had help on all of them.
HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING, NAT KING COLE (1:51) -- Cole has the perfect voice for carols, and whoever arranged his songs uses it well. This Christmas hymn was written by Charles Wesley in 1739.
I BELIEVE, FRANK SINATRA (2:32) -- This song was the first ever to make its debut on television. It was commissioned by Jane Froman for her show in 1953. Sinatra recorded it in 1957.
IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS, JOHNNY MATHIS (2:17) -- Myth holds that this song was written in 1951 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia because of such references as the Grand Hotel and a nearby park. But then, there are many Grand Hotels.
BLUE CHRISTMAS, ELVIS PRESLEY (2:08) -- Originally recorded by Ernest Tubb in 1950, Elvis put it on his Christmas album in 1957. According to legend, after recording the song, Elvis thought it was dumb and said it never should be released. It has since become a holiday standard.
JINGLE ALL THE WAY, LENA HORNE (2:36) -- Jazz singer Horne offers her take on the Christmas classic. "Jingle Bells" was first published in 1857 as "One Horse Open Sleigh." It actually was written for Thanksgiving.
A HOLLY JOLLY CHRISTMAS, BURL IVES (2:15) -- This is the third song on this list from Johnny Marks. He was Jewish, but he specialized in Christmas songs, including "Run Rudolph Run" at the end of this list. Ives recorded it in 1965.
GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN, ANDY GRIFFITH (2:21) -- This African-American spiritual dates back to at least 1865. Besides working as an actor -- he is best known for his role as the sheriff of Mayberry -- Griffith also had a career as a gospel singer.
THE CHRISTMAS BLUES, DEAN MARTIN (2:55) -- Recorded in 1953 by Martin, this has been rated as among the most depressing songs for the holidays.
SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN, FRANK SINATRA (1:43) -- First played on Eddie Cantor's radio show in November 1934, this song sold 100,000 copies of sheet music the following day and 400,000 by that Christmas. Sinatra added his golden voice to the many who have covered it in 1947.
JINGLE BELL ROCK, BRENDA LEE (2:09) -- Rocker Bobby Helms first performed this song in 1957. Sorry, Bobby, but Brenda Lee's 1964 version is better.
O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL, NAT KING COLE (2:19) -- Another fine carol from Cole. The origins of this hymn are unclear and may stretch back to the 13th century. The earliest appearance of both words and music together is in the "Cantus Diversi," by John Francis Wade in 1751.
I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, TONY BENNETT (2:14) -- Crosby first sang this song in 1943, and it was an instant a hit both with soldiers overseas -- from whose perspective the song is sung -- and with civilians on the home front. Bennett's version adds some sizzle to what often is sung with too much melancholy.
HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS, JUDY GARLAND (2:44) -- Garland introduced this song in the 1944 MGM musical "Meet Me in St. Louis." Sinatra re-recorded it in 1957, but he altered the words "have to muddle through somehow" to "hang it from the highest bough," feeling the original words were too pessimistic. His version has become more common.
I'VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM, DEAN MARTIN (2:43) -- This traditional was written by Irving Berlin in 1937 for the film "On the Avenue." Martin followed a long line of singers who had covered it when he recorded it in 1959.
RUN RUDOLPH RUN, CHUCK BERRY (2:45) -- Chuck Berry recorded this Johnny Marks song in 1958, and it climbed to No. 69 on the Billboard singles charts. It was on the B side of "Merry Christmas, Baby."
PEACE ON EARTH/LITTLE DRUMMER BOY, BING CROSBY AND DAVID BOWIE (2:39) -- This medley was recorded in 1977 for a TV special, just a few months before Crosby's death. Bowie did not like "Drummer Boy" (written in 1941). So the show's writers spun out "Peace on Earth" for the rocker to sing in counterpoint to Crosby's work on the main song. It is a more than fitting way to end this year's holiday playlist.
Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
D. REED ECKHARDT is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle's executive editor. Spotify users can subscribe to this playlist by searching for "Old School Christmas" in the application's search field. ___
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