Another batch of Christmas goodies coming your way right…. now!
Walt Kelly, “Deck Us All With Boston Charlie” Uncle Jack wanted to hear this one, because Dad knew the whole thing and taught it to everyone in the family (at least, that’s the way I heard it). Walt Kelly was a cartoonist and the creator of Pogo, a comic that more often than not took on a distinctly political bent (he would bring characters into it who looked like politicians of the day and make cruel sport of them, at least that’s how I remember it). Walt is responsible for the line “We have met the enemy, and he is us!” Walt died in 1973 at the age of 60, but the song and memories of the cartoon live on in the hearts and minds of most people over 50.
The Royal Guardsmen, “Snoopy’s Christmas” The Royal Guardsmen’s “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” was a megahit in 1966, and they capitalized on it the following year wth this song about Snoopy and The Red Baron calling a truce for a drink during World War I. It was a #1 hit in Australia and New Zealand, and charted on the Billboard‘s “Best Bets for Christmas” chart three times, reaching #1, #15, and #11 in 1967, 1968, and 1969, respectively.
“Hardrock, Coco, and Joe” A stop-action masterpiece created by Wah Ming Chang for Centaur Productions in 1953. One of the three Christmas videos that appeared on Garfield Goose and Friends on WGN in Chicago every weekday afternoon between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But you knew that, because I’m forever talking about it. Gene Autry recorded this sometime before this film was made.
“Suzy Snowflake” The second stop-action classic by Centaur Productions. Rosemary Clooney made a record of this in 1951 and no doubt sang it to Miguel, Rafael, Gabriel and the rest of her children with Jose Ferrer.
Gayla Peevey, “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” This is another classic, sung when she was just 10 years old in 1953. This video includes video of her in 2016, singing the song again. She hasn’t lost a step in the 63 intervening years.
Pentatonix, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” I really enjoy these kids, and I don’t mind saying so. You might notice that Kristin Maldonado, the lone woman in the group, isn’t moving around much in this. One of her legs is in a cast (I’m not sure whether she broke it or something else happened) and she’s using a scooter for the bad leg. I hope she recovers soon, but you can see it hasn’t affected her voice.
Leon Redbone and Dr. John, “Frosty The Snowman” I usually use the UPA animated version of this (the third of the three WGN Christmas videos), but Marie (Xmas Dolly) beat me to it this year. No problem, I like this version as well. Notice it was brought to us by Kodacolor Gold 100 film, which I guess is still around (they stopped making Kodachrome slide film a couple of years ago). I’m not sure anyone uses film anymore. Well, maybe my high school buddy Mark, who’s a photographer, although I think most of his pictures are digital now.
Manhattan Transfer, “Let It Snow” Pentatonix put me inb the mood for more harmony, and who better than Manhattan Transfer to provide it? From their 1992 Christmas album. They released a new album, The Junction, earlier this year, and I can tell you it’s very good.
Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops, “Sleigh Ride” Leroy Anderson, “one of the great American masters of light orchestral music” according to current Boston Pops conductor John Williams, wrote this during a heat wave in 1946 and didn’t finish it until 1948. Fiedler and the Pops, who recorded a lot of Anderson’s compositions, made their first recording of it in 1949. It’s still a staple of their Christmas concerts.
Burl Ives, “Have A Holly Jolly Christmas” One of my favorite Christmas songs and my favorite recording of it. Never mind what I do to the lyrics… (“Oh ho, the mistletoe, hung where you can see, somebody waits for you, KICK HER ONCE FOR ME…”)
And that’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for two weeks and one day until Christmas 2018.
Somehow, giving the December theme for M4 and making a graphic for it puts me in the holiday spirit. What about you?
I know a lot of people object to the abbreviation “Xmas” for Christmas, believing it takes Jesus Christ, the Redeemer Whose birthday we celebrate on December 25, out of the name of the holiday. The Greek letter chi (pronounced “kye” or “key”) looks exactly like the letter x, particularly the uppercase form, and was often used as an abbreviation for Χριστός (Christos), “the Anointed One.” You’ll frequently see the chi-rho (the Greek letters chi and rho superimposed, the first two letters of Christos in Greek) in Christian churches, particularly Catholic ones, as a monogram for Jesus. So the X is really a chi.
Now that we’ve taken care of that, let’s move on to this week’s tunes, shall we?
Amos Milburn, “Let’s Make Christmas Merry, Baby” Amos was a piano player and singer and an early bluesman from Dallas. This is one of two songs that he wrote for the Yuletide season. The other is coming up shortly. This one was released in 1949 on the Aladdin label.
Amos Milburn, “Christmas (Comes but Once a Year)” Milburn’s other Christmas contribution. It was released in 1960 as the B side to…
Charles Brown, “Please Come Home For Christmas” Charles Brown was another Southern piano player and bluesman who was a friend of Milburn’s. This first reached the Hot 100 in 1961 and was on the chart every year since, reaching #1 in 1972. It’s a popular cover song for rock and blues acts, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up in a Battle of the Bands later this month. (To other BotB’ers: Dibs!)
The Temptations, “Silent Night” Franz Gruber’s 1818 hymn is given the Motown treatment by The Temptations, all of whom sang it in church when they were younger. The result is magic.
Nat King Cole, “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)” My favorite version of this Christmas classic, written by Mel Tormé, who was Jewish. (And a Happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish friends.)
Frank Sinatra, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” Written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane for the 1944 movie Meet Me In St. Louis, in which it was sung by Judy Garland. Frank’s version might be better-known, and it’s just as touching when he does it.
Andy Williams, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” For years, the Christmas season featured a TV special hosted by Andy Williams. Christmas specials and Andy Williams might no longer be with us, but this song is, and it’s not Christmas for me until I hear this song.
Bing Crosby, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” Written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent, it was recorded by Bing in 1943 in honor of all the servicemen who were fighting World War II, and has since become a Christmas standard.
Eartha Kitt, “Santa Baby” Eartha Kitt was more popular in Europe than in the US, and that’s a lousy shame, because she was tremendous. This was written in 1953 by Joan Javits (daughter of Senator Jacob) and Philip Springer, and though it’s been done by many others, no one can do it better than Eartha.
Wham!, “Last Christmas” This song was born in 1984, when George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley were visiting George’s parents. After dinner, George disappeared for about hour (per The Blogger’s Best Friend™), and when he reappeared, he was all excited, because he had written this song. This has been on the chart each Christmas since 1985, reaching #2 in 1985 and last year.
And that’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for December 3, 2018.
Next week, of course, starts our annual Christmas music extravagana here in M4 Land, but today’s a free day, so I chose some songs from the period 1961 to 1964 that I like and that don’t get heard like they did back then.
Lawrence Welk, “Calcutta” A sprightly little instrumental (what might be considered “Champagne Music”) that reached #1 on the Hot 100. Welk, who was 57 at the time, became the oldest person to have a #1 record, staying in that position until Louis Armstrong reached #1 in 1964 (at the age of 63) with “Hello, Dolly!” It blended accordion and harpsichord with a rock beat and hand claps.
B. Bumble & The Stingers, “Bumble Boogie” According to Wikipedia, three African American studio musicians (Earl Palmer, René Hall, and Plas Johnson) wanted to come up with a way to make money without leaving the studio. Their first attempt, a rockin’ version of Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood,” was released under the name The Ernie Fields Orchestra and went to #4 on the Hot 100 in 1960. This was their next effort, a rockin’ version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight Of The Bumble Bee,” released as “B. Bumble and The Stingers.” It rose to #21 on the Hot 100 in June 1961.
James Darren, “Goodbye Cruel World” “Moondoggie” from the Gidget movie had a minor hit with the theme song from that movie, and was encouraged to record some more. This, from 1961, was his biggest hit, reaching #3.
The Orlons, “The Wah-Watusi” The song that kicked off the “Watusi” dance craze, this went to #2 in 1962. The Orlons also sang backup on Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time” and “Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)” earlier that year.
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, “The Lonely Bull” Title track from Herb and the TJB’s 1962 debut album, this rose to #6 that year. Herb recorded the trumpet portion in his garage as he was experimenting with overdubbing, and members of The Wrecking Crew recorded the other parts later.
Jimmy Soul, “If You Wanna Be Happy” Jimmy Soul (real name James Louis McCleese) based this song on the 1934 calypso tune “Ugly Woman” by Roaring Lion. It’s a reminder that beauty is only skin deep.
Gene Pitney, “Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa” This reached #3 on the Hot 100 in 1963, but oddly you never hear it anymore. Gene had a successful and prolific recording career in the US during the early and mid ’60’s. By 1966 his popularity was waning in this country, so he moved to England and revitalized it.
Serendipity Singers, “Beans In My Ears” At the height of the folk boom in the early ’60’s, The Serendipity Singers recorded this protest song by Len Chandler. Many radio stations wouldn’t play this after doctors complained that kids were actually putting beans in their ears, so the song only reached #30.
Roger Miller, “Dang Me” Roger claims that he wrote this one in four minutes in a hotel room. It spent half of 1964 on the country chart, where it peaked at #1, and it also reached #7 on the pop chart.
Johnny Rivers, “Mountain Of Love” Some singers I just like, and Johnny Rivers is one of them. This is a cover of Harold Dorman’s 1960 original that reached #21 on the Hot 100 and #7 on the R&B chart. Johnny’s version, recorded with members of The Wrecking Crew, reached #9 in 1964.
As I said earlier, next week starts our Christmas music extravaganza, so be sure and join us for that. That’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for November 26, 2018.
It’s that time of year again! That’s right, this week is BLACK FRIDAY!!
Just kidding, although that is this Friday. No, this week is Thanksgiving, when we thank Our Creator for all the blessings bestowed on us and eat lots of turkey and stuffing (we have ribs and mac & cheese) and sit around all day watching football and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, the end of which celebrates the reason for the season, SANTA CLAUS!!
Again, just kidding….
I always have trouble with this, and always have to cannibalize whatever Thanksgiving playlists I’ve used in the past to complete the assignment. This year is no different, although some of them are different. Anyway, here’s my Thanksgiving 2018 playlist.
Sam & Dave, “I Thank You” Sam Moore and Dave Prater made some sweet soul music for Stax in the ’60’s and beyond. “I Thank You” was written and produced by Isaac Hayes and David Porter.
Sly & The Family Stone, “Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again)” Funk was almost invented by Sly and his Family, for which we should all be grateful.
Frankie Valli, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” It seems like this topped the WLS Silver Dollar Survey forever in ’68 and ’69. A beautiful love song that has the singer thanking God he’s alive. I feel that way these days.
ABBA, “Thank You For The Music” I had to include this, because I play so much music here.
Bob Hope and Shirley Ross, “Thanks For The Memory” Bob Hope was an amazing guy, and a great American, even though he was born in England. He spent his Christmases entertaining US service members for years. That’s dedication and selflessness. This was his theme song.
OCP Session Choir, “Now Thank We All Our God” I was talking to Mary about this week’s theme, and she said “you ought to have a couple of good old Catholic drinking songs.” So I found this one and the next. Interestingly enough, most of the good old hymns were Lutheran.
OCP Session Choir, “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” OCP is Oregon Catholic Press. These are songs from one of their hymnals, Journeysongs.
Adam Sandler and Kevin Nealon, “The Thanksgiving Song” Figured we needed some levity here.
Andrew Gold, “Thank You For Being A Friend” You will, of course, recognize this as the theme song for The Golden Girls. I think I mentioned once that I watched a lot of GG reruns when I was in the hospital.
Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, “Count Your Blessings” From Holiday InnWhite Christmas (thanks, Ed!), which also starred Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen. One of those songs that really gets to you.
And that’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for November 19, 2018.
Freebie week, so I chose some not-quite-as-frequently played songs from the ’60’s I like. There are a dozen here, but they’re short.
Hedgehoppers Anonymous, “It’s Good News Week” Hedgehoppers Anonymous was a British folk-rock band. This was written by Jonathan King, who intended it as a protest song against the media’s obsession with bad news. It was a #5 in the UK on Decca, and a #48 in the US on Parrot in 1964. The line “Lots of blood in Asia now, they’ve butchered off the sacred cow, they’ve got a lot to eat” was changed in the British version of the song to “families shake the need for gold by stimulating birth control, we’re wanting less to eat.”
Keith, “98.6” James Barry Keefer, a/k/a Keith, was and evidently still is a singer from Philadelphia. This song was written by Tony Powers and James Fischoff and reached #7 in the US and #24 in the UK. This was his biggest hit, but not his only Top 40 song.
The Box Tops, “Neon Rainbow” The Box Tops were a blue-eyed soul band from Memphis that had two Top 10 hits, “The Letter” (#1 in 1967) and “Cry Like A Baby (#2 in 1968). This song came in between them, and failed to reach the Top 40. A shame, too, becaue I thought it was a great song.
Nancy Sinatra, “Sugar Town” I remember my dad went around singing this (or at least the refrain), thinking the name was “Sugar Fly.” It’s one of the fonder memories I have of my dad. Anyway, Nancy Sinatra, Frank’s daughter (who was mighty chagrined that his daughter resorted to cheesecake album jackets to sell records), had a Top 10 hit with this (#5 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart) in 1966.
Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs, “Sugar Shack” The Fireballs started as an instrumental band in the late ’50’s and had a couple of minor hits before Jimmy Gilmer joined on piano and vocals. They took this to #1 in 1963, and had another hit in 1967 with “Bottle Of Wine” (#9).
Oliver, “Jean” I liked this song because well, I had my eyes on a girl named Jean (actually Jeanne) at the time (I was what, 13?). From the movie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, it was written by Rod McKuen (who later wrote “Seasons In The Sun”) and sung by Oliver, who had had a #3 with “Good Morning, Starshine” earlier that year. This did even better, reaching #2.
Kyu Sakamoto, “Sukiyaki” This song has nothing whatsoever to do with food. Its actual name is “Ue O Muite Arokou” (“I Look Up As I Walk”), but the record company, probably thinking “they’re gonna go in and ask for ‘oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang’,” chose to rename it “Sukiyaki.” The words are listed in the video, and I think you’ll agree they’re quite lovely. It peaked at #1 in 1963.
Terry Stafford, “Suspicion” Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote this for Elvis, but Terry Stafford, who sounds a lot like Elvis, recorded it and reached #3 nationally, breaking the death grip The Beatles held on the Top 5 in April and May 1964. It peaked at #2 and #4, respectively, on LA’s Top 40 stations, KRLA and KFWB.
Lou Christie, “Rhapsody In The Rain” A song that was banned from a lot of stations because of the controversial nature of the lyrics, this nevertheless reached #16 on the Hot 100 and #10 in Canada in 1966.
The Statler Brothers, “Flowers On The Wall” Tomorrow is Kip’s birthday (happy birthday, Kip!), and I know he likes this song. “Playing solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51” and “smokin’ cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo” could describe my summer one year. Anyway, this reached #2 on the Hot Country Singles chart and #4 on the Hot 100 in 1966.
The Hombres, “Let It All Hang Out” This 1967 song was the title track for The Hombres’ one and only album. It was a “a deadpan, southern-fried parody” of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” according to AllMusic’s Stewart Mason. Trivia time: The Box Tops’ Bill Cunningham and The Hombres’ B. B. Cunningham were brothers. During the week of October 20-27, 1967, “The Letter” and “Let It All Hang Out” were #1 and #2 on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey. More trivia: The way the song starts (“A preachment, dear friends, you are about to receive on John Barleycorn, nicotine and the temptations of Eve”) is the same way the 1947 song “Cigareets, Whuskey and Wild Women” starts.
Slim Harpo, “Baby Scratch My Back” This 1966 hit was blues singer Slim Harpo’s attempy at crossing over from the R&B chart to the pop chart, and in addition to reaching #1 on the R&B chart, he reached #16 on the Hot 100.
And that’s Monday’s Music Moves Me for November 12, 2018.