Tag Archives: Royal Guardsmen

Another Christmas with old friends

It was late 1969, when I was 12, that I really started listening to music. That year, I got a Panasonic AM-FM radio for Christmas. This model, though this is not my radio. I still have mine. It still works, even though the antenna long ago was bent, then broken off.

radioscholar.jpg

I put it atop the filing cabinet where I kept my baseball, football and basketball cards and tuned it to 920 AM — WOKY, the Mighty 92 out of Milwaukee. WOKY was one of the big Top 40 stations of the day.

When it came to this time of year in 1970, I heard a song that blew me away. This song.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973.


I had no idea there was that kind of Christmas music — pop, rock, R&B and soul versions of Christmas songs, all played only at a certain time of year. I once was passionate about that kind of Christmas music. Now, not so much.

Today’s tunes are the ones I dug first. I still dig them. It wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. (The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.)

“Merry Christmas, mein friend!”


“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. A remastered version is available on  “Gimme Some Truth,” a 4-CD compilation released in 2010.

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?”


Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

2 Comments

Filed under Christmas music, December 2013, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 12

Driving home from the post office just now, the guys on the morning radio show were wrapping up an interview about football.

Then they took a left turn and asked their guest this: Which TV actress was your crush while growing up?

The guest reached back into his memory bank — way back, apparently — and mentioned an actress from a show that aired in the late ’80s and went off the air in 1990.

Good God, I must be old. My TV actress crush was Suzanne Pleshette.

Another was Connie Stevens, who is one of the TV stars who sing on this Christmas record.

warnerbrosstarswishyoumerryxmaslp

I have this record jacket, but not the record that’s supposed to be inside. I didn’t look closely enough when I picked it out of a dollar record bin a couple of years ago. This is “We Wish You A Merry Christmas: 15 Great Christmas Favorites Sung By Warner Bros. Stars,” from 1959. You can read about it here and here.

So I believe at this moment, I will embrace my older-than-dirtness, retreat to a more innocent time and drop a song that those of us of a certain age enjoyed when we were younger. It isn’t Christmas without this song, either. People still dig it.

royalguardssnoopylp

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. (The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.) Also available digitally.


Merry Christmas, mein friends!

The Royal Guardsmen, who got started in Ocala, Florida, in the mid-’60s are still around, still recording and playing the occasional gig. Three of the original six members, that is. Lead singer Barry Winslow and drummer John Burdett appear to have some kind of beef with the group’s management, but support the current lineup and wish them well.

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

3 Comments

Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

12 days of Christmas, Day 12

We were talking the other night about Christmas presents for our son, who’s 15, a sophomore in high school. At issue was whether we have that one big gift, the one with the wow factor.

I was thinking back to when I was 15, what that one big gift was. It was Christmas 1972. That one big gift was this:

That is a suede leather Converse All-Star basketball shoe, gold with black trim. I, too, was a sophomore the year I got a pair. It was a big deal. I’m not sure my parents fully understood the attraction, but they popped for the $15 — almost $75 in today’s dollars — to get them. I wore them until they wore out, then kept them around for years as something close to sandals.

There are other good memories of that one big gift. The Tickle Bee game, G.I. Joe, the Packers helmet and jersey, and, of course, that Panasonic AM-FM radio.

Now we have one big gift for you. More of our favorite Christmas tunes, the ones without which it wouldn’t be Christmas.

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. A remastered version is available on  “Gimme Some Truth,” a 4-CD compilation released earlier this year.

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. (The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.)

“Merry Christmas, mein friend!

“Winter Wonderland,” Steve Goodman, from “Artistic Hair,” 1983. I bought this record at his show in Madison, Wisconsin, in April of that year. He signed it “Joe — Hello.”

“It’s kind of absurd/when you don’t know the words/to sing/
walkin’ in a winter wonderland!”

“All I Want for Christmas,” Timbuk3, 1987, from “A Different Kind of Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. Pat MacDonald grew up here in Green Bay and has returned. These days, he performs as pat mAcdonald — he insists on that spelling. His gig notices also say “Timbuk3 (no space!) is to be mentioned in a biographical context only.” So there!

“All I want for Christmas is world peace.”

“Merry Christmas Baby (alternate edit),” Elvis Presley, 1971, from “Reconsider Baby,” 1985. It’s out of print, and pricey if you can find it. It’s my favorite Elvis record, full of his blues tunes. That it’s on blue vinyl is just icing on the cake.

“Wake up, Putt!”

“Twelve Days of Christmas,” Bob and Doug McKenzie, from “Great White North,” 1981.

“OK, so g’day, this is the Christmas part.”

“Santa Claus and his Old Lady,” Cheech and Chong, from Ode single 66021, released December 1971. Also available on “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Cheech and Chong,” a 2-CD best-of compilation released in 2002.

“We could sure use a dude like that right now.”

No great lines, just great tunes

“White Christmas,” the Edwin Hawkins Singers, from “Peace Is ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.” 1972. It’s out of print with that title, but is available as “Edwin Hawkins Singers Christmas,” with essentially the same cover. This has a great solo by Tramaine Davis.

“Christmas Medley,” the Salsoul Orchestra, from “Christmas Jollies,” 1976. This is 12 minutes of soul, salsa and dance bliss. An instant party starter.

“Halleujah! It’s Christmas,” .38 Special, from “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night,” 2001. Re-released in 2008 as “The Best of .38 Special: The Christmas Collection,” one of those 20th Century Masters reissues. This joyous, upbeat tune — written by guitarists Don Barnes and Danny Chauncey and lead singer Donnie Van Zant — ought to be a classic.

“Feliz Navidad,” Robert Greenidge, from “It’s Christmas, Mon!”, 1995. It’s out of print. Though Greenidge gets no cover billing on this CD, he’s playing the steel pan. He’s been with Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band since 1983. Earlier this year, Greenidge and his bandmates released “A Coral Reefer Christmas” on Buffett’s Mailboat Records label. This tune is not on that record.

“Christmas in the City of the Angels,” Johnny Mathis, from Columbia 1-11158, a 7-inch single, 1979. Though Mathis has recorded several Christmas albums, this cut never made it onto one. People ask for it every year. (This cut has gone from radio to tape to CD, and then ripped, so that may explain the sound quality if you find it lacking.)

Bonus gifts!

Some of our friends have sent along some tunes they thought you’d like.

“Must Have Been A Mighty Day,” Emily Hurd, from “Tins and Pins and Peppermints,” 2010. She’s a singer-songwriter from Chicago by way of Rockford, Ill., where we have a mutual friend. It’s been interesting to listen to her style evolve, moving from loose and gritty to far more poised and polished. This tune has a bit of both styles. She previewed this record for fans last year, then released it this year.

“Cashing In On Christmastime,” Charles Ramsey, 2010. He’s a singer-songwriter from Philadelphia who has some other nice, non-holiday stuff on his MySpace page. This genial, laid-back cut reminds me of Bob Dylan or Tom Petty with the Traveling Wilburys.

“Christmas Medley,” the Midwesterners, 2009. A pleasant little instrumental featuring Richard Wiegel, the guitarist in this band out of Madison, Wisconsin. He was one of the guitarists in Clicker, the much-loved ’70s Wisconsin rock/pop/glam/show band we write about from time to time.

6 Comments

Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

Three under the tree, Vol. 31

December brings a sunny, frosty day to our corner of Wisconsin. There’s no snow (yet), but it’s time for Christmas music.

As always, “three under the tree” means three Christmas songs a day. This year, it also means three years of putting those songs under the tree.

We’ll start as we always do, with the three tunes I first heard long ago on WOKY, the Mighty 92, then the big Top 40 AM station out of Milwaukee.

As a kid, I had no idea there were pop, rock, R&B and soul versions of Christmas songs, all played only at a certain time of year, all dropped in among the usual stuff on the Top 40 playlist. I could not wait for that time of year to roll around.

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. It’s out of print but is available digitally. (Also available on “The Ultimate Motown Christmas Collection,” a new compilation.)

I was 13 when I heard this for the first time, and it blew my mind.

Last year, I wrote: “Some people are down on this tune, perhaps because of what Michael Jackson has become. That’s understandable, but it’s unfortunate. If you can, appreciate it as a pop gem from a more innocent time.” Michael Jackson is gone now, but he left us this gift.

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. (The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.)

Still a guilty pleasure. Still no apologies.

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. It’s available on “Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon,” a 1998 compilation.

It’s almost 40 years old and still fresh, still relevant. (Although I wish I had a better rip for you. My vinyl rip of this tune, off the “Shaved Fish” LP from 1971, is cluttered with the reprise of “Give Peace a Chance” tacked onto the end. Not really suited for a nice, clean outro edit.)

Finally, a few words about what’s to come.

Everyone gets busy as Christmas nears. So this year’s series will run only for a couple of weeks, wrapping up well before Christmas.

Hope you’ll enjoy the tunes. Some of them will be familiar if you’ve visited here in the past two years. Our greatest hits, if you will. We’ll try to pull out the good stuff, the tunes you may want for your Christmas mix, the tunes that summon pleasant memories of holidays past.

If you have a request, send it along.

4 Comments

Filed under December 2009, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 1

We start this year as we started last year — at the beginning.

It was 1969, when I turned 12, that I really started listening to music. That year, I got a Panasonic AM-FM radio for Christmas. This model. I still have it. It still works, even though the antenna long ago was bent, then broken.

radioscholar.jpg

I put it atop the filing cabinet where I kept my baseball, football and basketball cards and tuned it to 920 AM — WOKY, the Mighty 92 out of Milwaukee. WOKY was one of the big Top 40 stations of the day.

When it came to this time of year in 1970, I heard a song that blew me away: “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” by the Jackson 5.

I had no idea there was that kind of Christmas music — pop, rock, R&B and soul versions of Christmas songs, all played only at a certain time of year. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Today’s tunes are the ones I dug first. I still dig them.

motownxmaslp

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973. It’s out of print.

This is a classic album of tunes from the ’60s and early ’70s, also featuring Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. It isn’t Christmas at our house without this one. So much so that we have three copies of it — one vinyl LP, two CDs.

Some people are down on this tune, perhaps because of what Michael Jackson has become. That’s understandable, but it’s unfortunate. If you can, appreciate it as a pop gem from a more innocent time.

royalguardssnoopylp

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. A guilty pleasure. I was delighted to find this album at my local used record store just before Christmas last year. The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.

lennonlegendcd

“Happy Xmas (War is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. I found it on “Lennon Legend: The Very Best of John Lennon,” a 1998 compilation.

Their message rings true today.

Hope you will enjoy this series. Much more to come.

If you have requests, drop me a line. I’ll see what I can do.

4 Comments

Filed under Christmas music, November 2008, Sounds