Tag Archives: 1953

12 days of Christmas, Day 9

In the e-mail today is a note about NPR Music’s Jingle Jams holiday mix.

They asked 10 stations to suggest 10 Christmas songs each, then put it all together into one playlist. You can stream it here.

Here are 12 of the songs, in the order they appear on the Jingle Jams playlist. The station or program suggesting the song is in parentheses.

“Let It Snow,” Leon Redbone, from “Christmas Island,” 1989. (Folk Alley)

“‘Zat You, Santa Claus” Louis Armstrong, 1953, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on “Hipster’s Holiday,” a 1989 CD compilation.) (WBGO, Newark, New Jersey; WDUQ, Pittsburgh)

“Last Month Of The Year” the Blind Boys of Alabama, from “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” 2003. (WXPN, Philadelphia)

“Santa Claus, Santa Claus,” James Brown, from “Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” 1966. The LP is out of print but all the songs are on “The Complete James Brown Christmas,” a 2-CD set released earlier this year. (KUT, Austin, Texas)

“Back Door Santa,” Clarence Carter, from “Soul Christmas,” 1968. (KUT)

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” Darlene Love, from “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector,” 1963. (WXPN)

“Christmas Wrapping,” the Waitresses, 1981, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on the “Christmas Wrapping” EP. That also appears to be out of print, but the song is available digitally.) (KUT)

“Greensleeves,” the Vince Guaraldi Trio, from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 1965. The buy link is to a 2006 remastered CD release with extra tracks, including an alternate take on this one. (WDUQ)

“Jingle Bells,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas ’64,” 1964. Smith’s “Christmas Cookin’,” from the same year, is the same record but with a much cooler cover.  (WBGO)

“Must Be Santa,” Brave Combo, from “It’s Christmas, Man!” 1992. Hard to find, but available from the band or digitally. NPR’s version is from a live performance at KUT. This version is done as a polka.

“Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney,” Ella Fitzgerald, 1950, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on “Yule Be Miserable,” a 2006 CD compilation) (WDUQ)

“The 12 Days of Christmas,” Harry Belafonte, from “To Wish You A Merry Christmas,” 1962. (NPR Music staff)


Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

Three under the tree, Day 26

As promised, we’ve put three under the tree to fulfill some of your requests.


“Santa Baby,” Eartha Kitt, 1953, available on the “Elf” soundtrack, 2003. As are a bunch of other swell Christmas tunes by Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Brian Setzer, Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel. A delightful collection. “Santa Baby” also is available on “Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits: 1935-1954.”

We got more than one request for this naughty Christmas tune, including one from the lovely Janet. We’re celebrating our 30th Christmas together.

Update, three days later: Eartha Kitt died on Christmas Day. She was 81. Here is a wonderful story about lunch with Miss Kitt from the Washington Post, an appreciation of her life from the Chicago Tribune and a photo gallery from the Los Angeles Times.


“I Believe In Father Christmas,” Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 1974, from “A Rock ‘N” Roll Christmas,” 1995. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Our old pal Hose asked for this one. I’m not sure whether this is Greg Lake’s original solo version or a subsequent version with the band. It’s billed this way on the CD, so there you go.

The Hose also asked for “Deck The Halls With Boston Charlie,” a jazz spoof done by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross in the late ’50s or early ’60s. I don’t have it, but our friends over at Star Maker Machine posted that last week.


“Merry Christmas Baby,” Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 1980, from “A Very Special Christmas,” 1987. Recorded live on Dec. 31, 1980, at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Our old pal Doug earlier requested “Christmas In Hollis” by Run-D.M.C. from this album, which we delivered on Day 19. He also requested “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by U2 from this album. Doug explains:

“You probably are aware that all of these songs are found on Vol. 1 of ‘A Very Special Christmas,’ the first in the series (benefitting) Special Olympics. It is played each and every Christmas morning in (our) household when opening presents.”

Well, for a tradition like that, I think we can grant Doug a second request.

Speaking of “A Very Special Christmas” — an album I got from my sister-in-law, who teaches physical education for special education kids — it’s become the standard aganst which all contemporary Christmas rock compilations are judged. Few measure up. Certainly not any in the rest of the “Very Special Christmas” series, even though they have their moments.

This is the fourth time this year we’ve hit up “A Very Special Christmas” for a tune. We easily could have grabbed three or four more tunes. Yeah, you hear it a lot, but it’s that good.


Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 20

Today brings the first day of a short series within this series.

One night in 1988 or 1989 — I don’t recall which — I taped a radio show from a most remarkable station in Madison, Wisconsin.

WORT, 89.9 FM, was — and is — listener-sponsored, volunteer-run, free-form Back Porch Radio. They spin a staggeringly diverse mix of local bands, indie rock, R&B, soul, dance, jazz, punk, country and performance art. (You can stream it live, too.)

The DJ called himself Willie Wonder, and he played R&B, soul and jazz late at night one night a week on a show called “Cross Currents.” One December night, he was dropping Christmas tunes into the usual mix.


I probably was listening to the show as I drove home from work, started digging it and popped in a tape when I got home. I’ve listened to that tape — named “Willie’s Hot Christmas” — every year since. It’s one of my faves.

In the 20 or so years since, I’ve been collecting the tracks from that tape. I have, or have identified, all but one tune. Last year, I sent the tape to my friend Mike, who ran it through his home studio and burned it to CD for me. That, my friends, is what makes this little series possible.

We’re going to recreate Willie Wonder’s show from that night, from the point I started taping, three songs at a time.


“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas Cookin’,” 1964. It’s out of print, but is available digitally.

This is the first cut from the classic Christmas jazz album by the master of the Hammond B-3 organ.

And now, that one last mystery song …

“The Christmas Song,” unknown jazz sax instrumental. If you know who does this, please drop me a line.

(The mystery cut has gone from radio to tape to CD, and then ripped, so that may explain the sound quality if you find it lacking.)


“Merry Christmas,” Lightnin’ Hopkins, 1953, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. Also available on “The Very Best of Lightnin’ Hopkins,” a 2000 CD compilation.

This rough, gritty electric blues cut was recorded on July 29, 1953. That’s Hopkins on vocals and guitar, backed by Donald Cooks on bass and Connie Kroll on drums.

Willie’s Hot Christmas continues tomorrow.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 29

For all the Christmas tunes we have, there really wasn’t much question about which three we would start with and which three we would end with.

With a near blizzard howling outside — the snow is coming down sideways — we offer three swinging tunes that capture the spirit of the season.


“Christmas Medley,” the Salsoul Orchestra, from “Christmas Jollies,” 1976. Though seemingly not out of print, it’s getting increasingly harder to find.

This is 12 minutes of soul, salsa and dance bliss, putting together “Joy to the World,” “Deck the Halls,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Jingle Bells,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “The Christmas Song,” “White Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “The First Noel” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

You simply can’t go wrong with this medley anytime, anywhere.


“Cool Yule,” and “‘Zat You, Santa Claus?” Louis Armstrong and the Commanders, 1953, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print, but these two cuts are widely available on a variety of Christmas compilation albums and CDs.

Both of these hipster tunes were recorded on Oct. 22, 1953.

“Cool Yule” gets the big-band treatment, driven by Sandy Block’s bass and Ed Grady’s drums. This one features a trumpet solo by Satchmo in addition to his familiar, raspy vocals.

“‘Zat You, Santa Claus?” opens with a rat-a-tat-a-tat drum break by Grady, and he and Block again drive this swinging, swaying tune in which Satchmo stalks “Santy Claus,” waiting for him to arrive on Christmas.

(Did you know? “Cool Yule” was written by Steve Allen. Yep, that Steve Allen. The guy who virtually invented the talk show, the guy who did “The Tonight Show” long before Johnny Carson. “‘Zat You, Santa Claus?” was written by James Fox, about whom I can find nothing.)


But do stop back tomorrow, on Christmas Eve.

We’ll have one more thing for you to put under your tree.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2007, Sounds