Driving home from the hospital, where my dad is spending Christmas weekend, I watched the city start to shut down for Christmas Eve.
As 5 p.m. arrived, last-minute shoppers lingered at Shopko, their cars clustered near the entrance. Last-minute diners lingered at McDonald’s, but its sign was off. Taco Bell had gone dark. The “Open” sign was still on at Subway, but it looked like they, too, were just about out the door.
So it is on Christmas Eve, the one night of the year when, well, all is calm.
Then you hear Irma Thomas’ voice piercing the quiet in the best possible way.
Nine years ago, my friend Rob in Pennsylvania called this “goosebump-inducing stuff.”
It’s out of print, but you can find the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) on eBay for $10 or less. I found my copy three years ago, when my friend Jim threw open his garage door and sold some of his records.
(This is the sleeve for that 45. You could have bought it for 25 cents if you also bought a carton of Kent, True, Newport or Old Gold cigarettes.)
There’s no music. Just “Little Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids,” reading Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem in a warm, gravelly voice.
“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’
“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”
It was the last thing he ever recorded. Satchmo died the following July.
My apologies for not posting it here for the last three years.
As always, it’s for Rob.
“A Creole Christmas” also features the great Allen Toussaint, whom we lost this year. Enjoy his swinging piano take on “White Christmas,” a song you rarely hear with a big band arrangement, or any kind of an upbeat arrangement.
Man, hard to believe this record is 25 years old now.