Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Billy Vaughn - Christmas Carols

In our last post, I explained how FaLaLaLaLa has brought thousands of Christmas music enthusiasts together to read, listen, learn, and even contribute anything Christmas to the site.

I had this album in my collection (mono - badly scratched) and wasn't planning on sharing it out. However, FLLLL community member Voldar had a STEREO version and shared it on November 26, 2006 at 9:25 AM - great post V!

This wasn't the first time I obtained a copy of a Billy Vaughn Christmas album. Several years ago, I traded for a Canadian CD copy called "Christmas With" that featured an exact budget number ten songs.

Are they both and the same?

To let the suspense build, here's some information on the artist in question. Born and raised in Kentucky, Billy Vaughn was only three years old when he taught himself the mandolin after contracting measles.

As he matured into adulthood, he joined the United States National Guard in 1941 for a one-year hitch. That changed when World War II broke out and Vaughn served his country until the end of the war in 1945. Taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, he enrolled into Western Kentucky University, majoring in music composition.

While in college, Vaughn earned money by playing piano in clubs and lounges, even some cutting hair as a barber. In the early 1950s, he was asked by several classmates to sing and accompany their vocal group on the piano. Calling themselves "The Hilltoppers", they became quickly popular and even recorded several songs for a new record label out of Nashville called Dot Records.

At the height of their popularity, Vaughn left the group to become a music director at Dot Records. His first order of business was to form his own orchestra and record albums under his new banner. Between 1954 and 1957, he developed a signature "twin sax" sound that might have stood out from the rest. For every good album Vaughn released, there were several syrupy albums issued.

In 1957, Dot Records was sold to Paramount Records. Vaughn suddenly found his orchestra and himself backing several of Paramount's major stars like Gale Storm, Pat Boone, even some word jazz with Ken Nordine! Vaughn continued his own musical career while helping many others during this time.

At Christmas, 1958, Vaughn released this album in both mono and stereo. It's a simple album, nothing too fancy, not much to get excited about. He mixes up the orchestra with some nice choral work and presents it in straightforward fashion. Not one song stands alone in sound or arrangement - the "twin sax" sound could have helped a-plenty.

And yes... this album and the Canadian version I own already contain many of the same songs. However, there are subtle differences in both that would scarcely make owning two copies of each worth the trouble.

Around 1963, Vaughn abandoned his "twin-sax" sound and tried to recreate the Glenn Miller sound. It has been argued that during this period, Vaughn was so busy recording for others at Dot Records that he simply lended his name to the albums. Several albums were also issued featuring Vaughn and his orchestra trying to capture the Ray Conniff sound - an attempt so blatantly bad that these are seldom talked about.

In 1968, Dot Records was bought out again and promptly became a country & western label. Vaughn's popularity in the United States was close to nil but in Germany and Japan, he was extremely popular. He led orchestra tours through these countries several times throughout the 1970s before calling it a career.

Billy Vaughn died in September, 1991 at his home in California.

UP NEXT: What I downloaded on November 25, 2006 at 1:12 AM



Ernie said...

Gimme a sec, I'm working out the math. Add six, carry the one... There! I'm afraid you aren't going to be able to fit in reviews of all the stuff you downloaded last year until sometime in 2010, around April if I integrated the differential properly.

I don't know if this means you should review faster, or download less. Wait, what am I saying, you certainly shouldn't download less. :)

CaptainOT said...

Ernie - If you factor in the kids school schedule and my other duties around the house, add on another five years.



Anonymous said...

Hey Capt, it's Lynda (Lvanett from FLLL boards). I remember this album. I have this on LP too and I don't remember if I shared it or not, but I know mine was badly scratched up like yours. I'll have to see if I have the file to this one, since FLLLL is down....but hopefully not out for good.

I also had the Christmas With album too, but didn't keep it because I didn't like it as much as this one. Billy Vaughn's album is one of my all-time "must listens" during the Christmas season. He and Percy Faith, IMO, define GREAT Christmas music!

Anonymous said...

Just a little update about FLLLL, apparently they weren't down at all, it was a PC issue on my end. Just thought I better clear that up.

CaptainOT said...

Lynda - I agree with you about "Christmas With" - it's a bit of a comedown after hearing "Christmas Carols".

Glad to hear from you again!