Or is this Christmas music for young lovers?
The album jacket and the record label can’t agree, but it probably doesn’t make much difference.
This is a record that comes all the way from 1956. I’m not sure which is more remarkable — that I paid just $1 for it this spring, or that after 55 years, its vinyl grooves are still crisp and clean.
My copy is “a special D.J. album of ‘Merry Christmas Baby!’” from the Starday-King Radio Station Service. It is marked “not for resale,” but I trust the statute of limitations expired long ago.
Hollywood Records was an R&B label founded in Los Angeles by Don Pierce in October 1953.
A year later, it bought the masters of several R&B Christmas songs from the bankrupt Swing Time Records, some of which Swing Time had bought from the defunct Exclusive Records. The latter included “Merry Christmas Baby” (widely credited to Charles Brown but more likely done by Johnny Moore’s Blazers with Brown singing lead) and Mabel Scott’s “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus,” two of the biggest hits in the genre in the late ’40s.
In early 1955, Hollywood bought more Swing Time masters, including songs by Lowell Fulson (“Lonesome Christmas, Parts 1 and 2″), Lloyd Glenn (“Sleighride”). and Jimmy Witherspoon (“How I Hate To See Christmas Come Around,” renamed “Christmas Blues” here).
All those now-familiar hits make up half of this compilation LP.
In late 1955, Hollywood released Christmas 45s by Johnny Moore’s Blazers (for whom Brown had starred until leaving the group in 1948) and the Jackson Trio (also known as the Ebonaires). Both sides of those singles are here, too. Add two more by Johnny Moore’s Blazers and you have the LP.
None of the six Hollywood releases did as well as the six songs bought from Swing Time. Truth be told, Hollywood had trouble selling much of anything, at any time of the year, and went out of business in 1959.
Having unraveled all that, it’s clear that the latter-day Hollywood releases were being pitched as that intimate Christmas music for lovers … or as Christmas music for young lovers. The cuts from those older masters (which got top billing on the album cover) were a little more gritty.
“Merry Christmas Baby,” credited as Charles Brown but more likely Johnny Moore’s Blazers with Brown singing lead, 1947.
“Christmas Eve Baby,” Johnny Moore’s Blazers, 1955. A shameless remake of “Merry Christmas Baby” with Frankie Irvin singing lead.
All from “Merry Christmas Baby,” 1956. It’s long out of print.
Also worth noting: DJs must have been exasperated with Hollywood Records once they took a closer look at this Christmas release. The order of the songs on the big promo sticker on the front of the LP doesn’t match the order on the record.