Sunday, November 30, 2008

2008 Yuleblog Checklist - Week One

We've reached the end of week one of our 2008 shares so we've updated our list and we're checking it twice. See which ones you find naughty or nice... I've listened to so much Christmas music already that I'm quoting Christmas lyrics and passing them off as my own.

And we're only at the end of week one... heaven help me.

1983 Air Force Public Service Spots - Disc V

The Alcoa Singers - An Olde-Fashioned Christmas

Around The Christmas Tree - A Special Christmas Day Program

Pat Boone - White Christmas

Bowen & Csehy - Christmas Steepletime

Owen Bradley & His Quintet - Joyous Bells Of Christmas

Al Caiola & Riz Ortolani - The Sound Of Christmas

Capitol Production Music

Christmas 1971 Veteran's Administration Hospital Program

CLM Industries - Christmas 1961 - SINGLE

A Country Christmas

Jimmy Dean - Jimmy Dean's Christmas Card

Bill Doggett - 12 Songs Of Christmas

Dragnet - The Christmas Story

Fogwell Flax & The Ankle Biters From From Freehold Junior School - Christmas 45 - SINGLE

Pete Fountain - Candy Clarinet: Merry Christmas From (STEREO)

DeWayne Fulton - Christmas Greetings From

Funky Christmas (Cotillion Records)

Will Glahe & His Orchestra - Christmas On The Rhine

Earl Grant - Winter Wonderland

Ken Griffin - Christmas Organ

Alex Houston & Elmer - Here Comes Peter CottonClaus

Irwin The Disco Duck - Christmas & New Year's Party

Jim & Tammy - Christmas With Love

KFUO Presents Christmas Hymns And Carols

The Klaudt Indian Family - Peace On Earth; Christmas Greetings

Carmen Le Nard - Jolly Snowman - SINGLE

Liberace - 1954 Christmas Greetings (w brother George) - FLEXI

L'il Wally & The Harmony Boys - A Polka Christmas

Vincent Lopez & His Orchestra - Christmas Music

Fred Lowery - A Family Christmas

Sy Mann & The Malvin Carolers - Let's All Sing Christmas Carols

The Manhattans - Christmas 45 - SINGLE

The Bob Mantzke Choralaires - Christmas Songs

The Mom & Dads - Merry Christmas With

The Murk Family - Christmas With

Pat O'Brien - A Quiet Christmas

O Tannenbaum - Christmas On The Rhine

The Pac-Man Christmas Album

The Piano Rolls & Voices - All Time Christmas Hits

A Pink Panther Christmas

Bob Ralston - Christmas Hymns & Carols

Bobby Roberts & His Orchestra - Holiday Music For Happy People

Mickey Rooney - Merry Merry Micklemas

Del Roper & The Mason Swiss Bell Ringers - I Heard The Bells

Marlin L. Ryan - York, PA Traditional Christmas Carols

Orion Samuelson - Christmas 45 - SINGLE

Shirley & Squirrely - Christmas With

Ethel Smith - Silent Night-Holy Night

The Soulful Strings - The Magic Of Christmas

The Three Suns - The Sounds of Christmas EP

Bobby Vinton - Christmas Promo EP

Justin Wilson - A Cajun Christmas With

Woody The Woodchuck - Christmas Sing Song (STEREO)

Happy listening...


It's a YouTube Christmas - Pt. 3

From time to time this upcoming Christmas season, I'll be posting some amazing videos that have been rescued by people like us and posted at the mecca of all things wonderful and obscure - YouTube.

I invite you to add a fun comment, witticism, clever remark, or observation in the comments section provided. Any comments deemed worthy of repeating will be included into this entry where all the world will see it.

Here are more videos of the York, PA steam whistle Christmas concert of 2006 as referred to in my previous post from Marlin L. Ryan.

"White Christmas"

"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"

"Silent Night"

"God Bless America"

Pity the person who moved into the house across the street...

What do you think?


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Marlin L. Ryan - York, PA Traditional Christmas Carols

Here's a record that I found at amongst its Christmas LPs for sale.

Who knew that you could make Christmas music from a factory steam whistle? Apparently, Marlin L. Ryan, the whistlemaster for the New York Wire Company in York, PA has did just that from 1955 to 1990.

The cylindrical, variable pitch whistle is 15 inches long and 5 1/8 inches in diameter. The exact age of the whistle is not known nor was it intended to be a musical instrument. The factory whistle was used to signal the start and end of the workers' shifts and breaks and was part of York's World War II civilian defense alert system.

In addition to being an unusual instrument, the Guinness Book of World Records issued a certificate in 2002 stating that the steam whistle produced a peak reading of 134.1dBA during a recording. This qualifies the whistle's songs as the world's loudest music without amplification from a non-­musical instrument.

This is a recording of those carols that Ryan traditionally played at 12:15 AM on December 25th. In the cold morning air, the sound of the steam whistle could be heard within a five-mile radius and on clear Christmas morning, up to fifteen miles away.

I'm guessing this record was released some time in the early 1980s - no specific date is given. There are four carols on the steam whistle with an introduction by Steve Bentivegna.

Marlin L. Ryan - York, PA Traditional Christmas Carols

Marlin Ryan retired as whistlemaster in 1989 and his son Donald took his place. Only twice since 1955 has a concert ever been canceled due to problems with the whistle or the boiler (1986 and 2005). Today, Donald's children, Mark, Scott and Lisa, assist with concerts, making the third generation of Ryans to continue the concert tradition.

Those wishing to make donations for future Steam Whistle Concerts may send their tax deductible contributions to:

48 East Market Street
York, PA 17401

or call the Lancaster-York Heritage Region at 717-252-0229.

Happy whistling... err, listening...


Vincent Lopez & His Orchestra - Christmas Music

Vincent Lopez was a band leader for most of his life, beginning in 1917! In 1921, he was one of the first bands to utilize the latest thing in technology called radio; his trademark opening for all broadcasts was "Lopez speaking!"

Throughout the 1920s, he had one of the top bands in America. It didn't hurt that he had talented musicians in his band like Artie Shaw, Xavier Cugat, Glenn Miller, and two brothers named Dorsey before they went out on their own. Lopez's piano stylings were flamboyant - influencing younger pianists such as Eddy Duchin and Liberace!

He also discovered talents such as the blind whistler himself Fred Lowery and a young girl who made her debut with Lopez right here in my hometown of Fort Wayne, IN - Betty Hutton. Both Fred and Betty were featured in this musical soundie from 1939:

In 1941, Lopez and his orchestra played an engagement at the Taft Hotel in New York City and didn't leave for twenty years. They were the house band and every Wednesday through Sunday, Lopez had the ballroom jumping. He helped the USO during World War II, made more soundies, and continued his appearances on radio.

As the 1950s began, Lopez found another young talent. Miss Gloria Parker helped write songs for Lopez, appeared with him on a radio show called "Shake The Maracas" from the Taft Hotel, and sang and played the musical glasses with Lopez and Co..

They even co-wrote a Christmas song entitled "My Dream Christmas" that Lopez recorded (but not on this album or on Parker's Christmas album) possibly as a single (?). When this album was recorded in 1957, Lopez was nearing the end of his career and decided to go out in a blaze of Christmas glory.

There are 21 songs total and the covers are excellent listens. But the original songs are the winners here - fun, festive, bouncy, and bright! "Whistling Otto", "Here Comes The Fattest Man In Town", "Christmas Rush", "I'd Like To Find You In My Stocking" and others just get better especially in repeat mode.

Lopez speaking:

Vincent Lopez & His Orchestra - Christmas Music

I found this on eBay in mid-2006. It was sent to me by a seller who had absolutely no clue how to ship an album - two pieces of cardboard taped around the album doesn't constitute a "package". What's worse is that when it arrived at my home, the mailman left it on the front porch in the middle of a rainstorm.

Thankfully, no major damage was done. I quickly got a P.O. Box and never again had to worry about the elements.

Happy listening...


Fred Lowery - A Family Christmas

Fred Lowery was blinded by scarlet fever at the age of two and sent to the Texas School for the Blind at the age of seven. A music teacher at the school encouraged Lowery to develop his unique talent of whistling as a way of making a living in the sighted world.

Soon, his talents led him to the new audio medium of radio. He was soon signed onto WFAA in Dallas and became a star on one of its many variety shows, picking up the nickname "The Texas Redbird".

In the late 1930s, he decided to try his chances in New York. A blind whistler was more novelty than artistry in New York and the jobs were scarce. A bandleader by the name of Vincent Lopez came around, heard his act, and asked him to join his orchestra.

After four years with Lopez, Fred was lured away by Horace Heidt, who had a national audience and a bigger bankroll. He returned to Lopez briefly, until nightclub owner Billy Rose told Lopez that his patrons didn't want to see "a blind guy whistling when they're eating." Luckily, Heidt soon hired him back.

Lowery usually performed in one or two spots in Heidt's show as a featured soloist, and he can be seen and heard as part of the Musical Knights' appearance in the 1941 film, Pot of Gold. Fred decided to go single in the early 1940s, in partnership with singer Dorothy Rae, another Heidt vet. They soon had a busy schedule of appearances on national and local radio shows and at clubs and concert halls.

His single of "Indian Love Call," still popular from its association with the Nelson Eddy-Jeannette MacDonald film, "Rose Marie," was a one-hit wonder of the war period and the tune most people from that era remember him for. He also won spots on many of the variety shows that played in the first years of network television.

During the 1950s, Fred made some of the most memorable whistling records ever, forever cementing his status as possibly the greatest whistler of all time:

"Whistling For You" (Columbia CL-6091)

"Whistle A Happy Tune" with Anita Kerr (Decca DL-8995)

"Walking Along Kicking The Leaves" (Decca DL-8476)
(considered by some to be the greatest whistling record ever)

Lowery was a deeply religious man who moved away from popular music to focus almost exclusively on religious melodies in his later years. His venues changed from nightclubs to churches and recorded a number of albums for the Christian market. His first were on Gra-Low (as in Gra(cie), his wife, and Low(ery)), his own label, and these records were mostly sold at his church appearances.

When I came across this seven day auction on eBay with one day left and no bidders, I could scarcely believe my eyes. I thought for sure it would sell but, as any good collector would, I kept a watch on it. On the final hour of the final day, not one bid. I kept watching, knowing this would sell for around $30 to $45. Into the final minute, nothing. With 20 seconds to go, I liked my chances and readied a bid.

Sure, I got a copy of this years ago from Basic Hip (no back cover) but this was too good to let go. At the end of the auction, I had a genuine Fred Lowery Christmas album!

There was a small scribble in permanent marker atop the front cover so with my fair to good skills with a PhotoShop program, I managed to get a majority of this airbrushed out - a trace remains.

Fred Lowery - A Family Christmas

Happy listening...


Friday, November 28, 2008

Bill Doggett - 12 Songs Of Christmas

William Ballard Doggett was born February 16, 1916 in Philadelphia. At age nine, Doggett wanted to play the trumpet but since his family could not afford one, his mother introduced him to the organ. Four years later, Bill was being hailed as a child prodigy.

When he was fifteen, Bill formed his first combo called "The Five Majors". While attending high school, he found work playing in the pit orchestra at the Nixon Grand theater with the Jimmy Gorman Band. He eventually inherited Gorman's fifteen-piece orchestra at the height of the Big Band Era

After he sold the band to Lucky Millender, he stayed in contact with Millender - writing arrangements and playing piano. Then in late 1942, Doggett joined the Ink Spots and became the group's arranger and pianist. He recorded five singles with them during a two year period before heading out on his own again.

Bill toured and recorded with several of the nation's top singer and bands. Among these were Johnny Otis, Wynonie Harris, Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, and Louis Jordan, who became a mentor to Doggett.

In 1949, Bill was a featured performer on piano and many of Jordan's classic Decca recordings including "Saturday Night Fish Fry" and "Blue Light Boogie." Doggett credited his time with Jordan for educating him to the finer points of pleasing an audience.

When Doggett decided to form another combo on his own, he made the most crucial decision of his life. Most musicians of the time felt that the sound of the organ was sacred and should be reserved for a church setting. Bill decided that he needed a fresh sound to set him apart from other piano combos.

This decision led to a recording contract with Cincinnati's King Records. During his first years at King, he released over a dozen singles - most moderate successes not only on the R&B charts but the jazz charts as well.

In 1955, he decided to record a 10" Christmas album called "All-Time Christmas Favorites" (King 295-89). Many people consider this to be the very first R&B Christmas album (anyone got a copy?). Three years later, King expanded to 12" albums and its very first release was a repackage of Doggett's 10" Christmas album - the very album you're looking at.

There are some of the best Christmas tracks anywhere on this album. Doggett alternates between instrumentals and even sings on a few of the songs, adding to its charm.

Judge for yourself:

Bill Doggett - 12 Songs Of Christmas

Doggett remained with King Records until 1960, scoring HUGE hits with "Honky Tonk Pt. 1 & 2" and "Ram-Bunk-Shush" in 1956 and 1957 respectively. He later recorded for Warner Brothers, Columbia, ABC-Paramount and Sue Records throughout the 1960s and 1970s on sporadic singles and albums.

Bill settled into retirement on Long Island, New York in the 1980s and died of a heart attack in 1996.

Happy listening...


Vintage Christmas Ads Pt. 10 - Saturday Evening Post, 1962

In addition to collecting Christmas music, I have collected nearly 1000 vintage Christmas ads over the years. Many of these include celebrities, radio, television, cigarettes, liquor, modern appliances, and the like.

Every Friday from here until I run out, I will feature an ad from my collection.

I invite you to add a fun comment, witticism, clever remark, or observation in the comments section provided. Any comments deemed worthy of repeating will be included into this entry where all the world will see it.

It's been 24 hours since my family and I sat down for our annual Thanksgiving Day meal. And about 24 minutes ago, I polished off a plate of Thanksgiving leftovers (which will be the norm for several days to come).

I looked high and low for something appropriate for this day after Thanksgiving. Something topical, something to spur on comments, something to reflect upon, something to fill up space (just kidding... maybe). As I thumbed through my scans online, I came across a cover that fit the bill and then some:

(Click on image to enlarge)

This cover could be looked at two ways: it's the days prior to Thanksgiving and all of these poultry prisoners just got a stay of execution. Or it's the day after Thanksgiving, the reprieve from the governor came through, but the truck has a flat.

Either way, this image lends itself to many interpretations and possible comments.

What do you think?

Stubbyfears says: It's so... sad.

Hitparade posted a turkey joke in the comments - click on it to read!

Any other opinions?


The Three Suns - The Sounds of Christmas EP

This EP was given to me by my in-laws when they were cleaning out their closets. It was a popular record in their house at Christmas time and knew I might enjoy this. ARE YA KIDDIN'?

Okay... if this looks familiar, you can thank our friend Ernie for that - his devotion to finding most of The Three Suns Christmas catalog and sharing it at his blog is legendary. He could very well be the Fourth Sun!

I originally thought Ernie had offered this EP at one time or another but it seems that this EP was never offered. So to complete his collection (and the other Three Suns Christmas completists out there), I'm offering it in honor of the hardest working man in Christmas sharity show business - the one and only Ernie (Not Bert).

The Three Suns - The Sound of Christmas EP

By the way, Ernie has started sharing out all new stuff at his blog - you'd better insure your clicking finger first and head over there. Best of luck with the 2008 downloading season!


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Even in space, they celebrate Thanksgiving. So you should do the same...

As you bow your heads in prayer today before the big meal, ask for blessings to be bestowed on the Detroit Lions. With their record at 0-11, and facing the 10-1 Tennessee Titans, they need all the help they can get today.

Have fun eating, visiting with your loved ones, and traveling safely wherever you are.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bobby Roberts & His Orchestra - Holiday Music For Happy People

Grab a coffee and sit a spell... have I got a story to tell you!

I bought this album (mono) at a thrift store in early 2006 and attempted to transfer it over throughout that year. As the 2006 Christmas downloading season was set to begin, I had completed side one with no problems, but side two was a mess.

I figured it would be ready to go for 2007 but the LP had other plans. The needle would not stay on the last two tracks of side two. As much as I tried to get it recorded, I couldn't get clean copies of the song to edit together!

I continued to work on this, off and on, for the better part of 1 1/2 years. I had finally gotten the first of the two final tracks recorded and I kept plugging away on track ten - I would apply pressure onto the tone arm just enough for the needle to go through the scratch to get the precious one second segment I needed to piece the track together.

By the middle of this year, I was down to the last 30 seconds of the final song and despite all my efforts, the needle would not cooperate. It was frustrating because this is a fantastic sounding album and I've wanted to share it for so long.

I looked on eBay in desperation and they had a clean STEREO copy available!

I decided to post the mono because of all the work invested into it and it cleaned up amazingly well after I washed it through my Sound Forge software. The stereo version is good as well. The choice is yours.

I've tried Googling Bobby Roberts but can't find little else than what's on the back cover - he was a popular Philadelphia band leader who recorded this for Decca in 1959.

Which is a shame because despite all my troubles with the mono copy, I've grown to love this album. It's a great mix of Christmas, Big Band, popular music (set at breakneck speeds at times), and some great Latin music thrown in for flavor.

Of all the albums I'm offering for 2008, this is my favorite. Hope you like it too.

Bobby Roberts & His Orchestra - Holiday Music For Happy People - MONO

Bobby Roberts & His Orchestra - Holiday Music For Happy People - STEREO

Happy listening...


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Irwin The Disco Duck - Christmas & New Year's Party

Back on October 1st, I wrote two reviews of Christmas disco albums that our friend Ernie shared out. In those reviews, I reiterated my guilty pleasure for Christmas disco and hinted:

"And if you think Holiday Disco is bad, just wait until Christmas. For I have obtained what could be the WORST Christmas disco album of all time and I intend to unleash it to the world."

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls... here it is.

The folks at Peter Pan Records decided to combine their special brand of kiddie Christmas with Christmas disco to disastrous results. Leeching off the success of Rick Dees' novelty hit "Disco Duck", they decided to create the lovable duck on the cover named Irwin!

Irwin is your host and narrator and after about 30 seconds into the first track (a remake of "Disco Duck" renamed "Disco Duck II" to avoid paying royalties), you're gonna be looking for a 12-gauge shotgun for some duck hunting.

After two competent disco versions of "Sleigh Ride" and "Winter Wonderland", the duck unleashes "Donde Esta Santa Claus?". This is worst than Charo's epic single of the same name.

This track was the pact they made with the devil to make this album and thereby guaranteeing this album will be played in Hell at Christmas time.

This album wouldn't be so bad if they hadn't made Irwin introduce EVERY SINGLE track! And if you want further proof that this is the worst Christmas disco album ever, look at the artist's name on the cover. I rest my case.

Listen if you dare...

Irwin The Disco Duck - Christmas & New Year's Party

This yuleblog cannot be responsible for any damage caused by this record to your computer, hard drives, CD players, speakers, headphones, MP3 players, iPods, car stereos, boomboxes, radios, televisions, DVD players, VCRs, 8-tracks, or to your own physical being after you play this for someone.

My lawyer says I'm covered. Don't say I didn't warn you.


The Klaudt Indian Family - Peace On Earth; Christmas Greetings

The Klaudt Indian Family was a southern gospel group whose origins began in the badlands of North Dakota. As the family grew, the parents (Lillian (Little Soldier) and Vernon Klaudt) wanted their children to get a proper Christian

So they headed south to Cleveland, Tennesse where the pentecostal Church of God had its headquarters and biblical school named Lee College (noted for its regarded musical program). As the kids grew and got their education, they joined the family on the road and established scholarships at Lee College in their name.

From 1929 to 1982, the Klaudt Indian Family toured across the United States and around the world - playing nearly 400 dates a year! It has been said that the Klaudts were the first nationally known gospel music group, due to their engagements throughout the country.

In addition to gospel concerts and church venues, they played engagements in Las Vegas, state fairs, professional sports games, and theme parks.

This album was recorded at the height of their popularity in 1964. Their first song, "Indian Christmas Carol" is the only song that has an Indian flavor. The rest is a nice mix of Christmas, organ, and perfectly blended voices.

The Klaudt Indian Family - Peace On Earth; Christmas Greetings

Postscript - my eldest brother Rafael attended and graduated from Lee College (now University) and resides in Cleveland, TN to this day with his wife Joy Lynn (the very definition of a Southern belle).

Happy listening...


Monday, November 24, 2008

It's a YouTube Christmas - Pt. 2

From time to time this upcoming Christmas season, I'll be posting some amazing videos that have been rescued by people like us and posted at the mecca of all things wonderful and obscure - YouTube.

I invite you to add a fun comment, witticism, clever remark, or observation in the comments section provided. Any comments deemed worthy of repeating will be included into this entry where all the world will see it.

Just moments ago, I posted a Dragnet Christmas album and expressed my love for all things Jack Webb Christmas related (albums, PSA records).

So when I discovered this amazing clip of Webb doing a promo for Christmas Seals, oh baby, did I go through the roof! It's all done in his inimitable style, reading you facts the way a prosecutor would present evidence. Jack even manages to crack a smile at the end:

The man radiates warmth, don't you agree?

What do you think?

Creedmoor says: He should have had a butt going.

Any other opinions?


Dragnet - The Christmas Story

The story you're about to read is true...

As a kid growing up in the 1970s, I was a Jack Webb fan. I loved watching reruns of "Dragnet 1967, 1968, etc". I was equally mesmorized by "Adam-12", "Emergency!", and an obscure Webb produced show called "Project UFO".

I loved his staccato delivery, the way he walked (he put his coat on with the coat tree attached), and his quick editing style. Get a VHS copy of any "Dragnet" episode and press the fast-forward button - the flash frames will give you a buzz similar to alcohol on an empty stomach.

After I had began my obsession with Christmas music, I wondered if Jack Webb did anything related to Christmas. One of the first eBay auctions I ever won was for a U.S. Navy LP that featured Webb doing some spots for the Navy in 1998 (our friend Ernie posted this at his blog last year).

When Basic Hip - the granddaddy of all sharity sites - first offered this album back in 2001 or 2002, I quickly grabbed a copy but the back cover wasn't included. I kept searching eBay and kept losing auctions - three times I nearly had this thing! I wanted the BACK COVER!

I finally snagged this in 2006 - but I couldn't get a clean copy. So I went to Studio 1102 here in Fort Wayne and they did their best to get it digitalized. At long last, I'm proud to present the famed lost back cover and my copy of the album.

Just the tracks, ma'am:

Dragnet - The Christmas Story

Happy listening...


Bob Ralston - Christmas Hymns & Carols (UPDATE)

Back in 2006, this was one of the first albums I ever shared out - posted this over at Then last year, I posted it here at the yuleblog.

I ended each post with the same comment: "This is the MONO copy... I'd love to find this in STEREO". As you can tell by the picture above, I indeed found the STEREO copy I'd been searching for.

Read more about Bob Ralston and find both copies for your listening pleasure...


Friday, November 21, 2008

Green Chri$tma$ - Fifty Year$: An Appreciation

"I realize that things won't change much because of my little record, but if people stop to think a little about it, then it has been all worthwhile. Maybe it will pay off in another generation." - Stan Freberg on "Green Chri$tma$", 1958.

1958 Picture Sleeve Front Cover

If I was to be stranded on a proverbial desert island and forced to choose only three Christmas CDs to accompany me, I would choose 1.) "A Charlie Brown Christmas" 2.) "Christmas Cocktails" and 3.) a custom compilation that would feature all of the recorded Christmas output by Mr. Stan Freberg - perhaps the last great satirist America has ever produced.

Fifty years ago, Uncle Stan walked into his longtime home of Capitol Records located at Hollywood & Vine and recorded a Christmas single entitled "Green Chri$tma$", a song that was labelled "offensive", "sacrilegious", and "controversial" for its time.

Capitol barely released it, Freberg nearly switched labels, disc jockeys ran the risk of being fired for the simple act of playing it, radio stations hardly played it until the 1970s - a full decade after its release - and the print and advertising media had a field day slamming both the artist and the single.

All this over a Christmas record.

Earlier this year, I decided to delve more deeper into this song and its surrounding controversy upon its release in 1958. I scoured the Internet and visited several libraries in the process to find as much as I could surrounding "Green Chri$tma$".

What I found was informative and quite illuminating. Armed with this evidence, I present an appreciation of this Christmas satirical masterpiece from the mind of Stan Freberg.

X-ray of Stan Freberg (From his box set "Tip Of The Freberg")

Back in 1988, Freberg wrote an insightful autobiography entitled "It Only Hurts When I Laugh" that is a hilarious read any time of the year. One chapter is entirely devoted to "Green Chri$tma$" - which is where I began my research. I have chosen select highlights from that chapter with very little commentary from me:

Chapter 19 - Green Chri$tma$: Deck the Halls With Advertising

"Green Chri$tma$" was probably the most controversial recording I ever made. All my life I had been disturbed by advertising's increasingly blatant intrusion into Christmas. True, my having been raised as a Christian, in a minister's home, was mostly responsible for my feelings about it, but once I began working as a professional advertising person around people in agencies and clients, I suddenly realized that the overcommercialization simply didn't have to be.

It was a terrific revelation to me. These people had an option. If a company wanted to tie some product into Christmas that just didn't fit or that was grossly out of place, it was the job of its advertising agency to talk them out of it. If the agency was the one who had dreamed up ways of lashing some extraneous product into the holiday - say, dog food or underarm deodorant (any moment now we'll hear, "Christmas is a stressful time: Never let 'em see you sweat") - why then, it's the client's job to talk the agency out of it. Client and agency should save each other from themselves. Why? Because it is the ethical thing to do.

Never mind that Christmas started out as a remembrance of the birth of Jesus and the gifts brought to the Christ child in Bethlehem. Or that the essence of Christmas at its root level is simply to love and to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The issue goes far beyond the religious aspects of the thing. What we are talking about here is "taste." Simple good taste, from a purely secular standpoint.

Heublein's Cocktails, 1952

I have no quarrel with companies advertising children's toys under Christmas trees, or facial cosmetics, or books, or cassette tapes, or luggage, or clothes to wear - things one might normally give as presents to one's family or friends - even food products, if they seem to be appropriate for Christmas. Guidelines should be apparent to any thinking human being. But unfortunately, as we are all only too painfully aware, blatant Christmas advertising has become as out of control as the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

As Christmas drew near in the last days of the Fifties, I was appalled once again by the unfathomable taste of giant companies devising still new ways of tying their products into the holiday. On millions of billboards and in fill-page magazine ads, Santa Claus was seen climbing into a chimney with a full bag of... toys? Not a chance. Cartons of Lucky Strike cigarettes were peeking out of the top of his sack and overflowing it. American Tobacco's idea of Christmas giving.

Coca-Cola, 1938 (Downloaded from

Another company, Coca-Cola, had decided years before to claim the icon of Santa for themselves and have Santa drinking a bottle of Coke after his hard Christmas work. THE PAUSE THAT REFRESHES, it said in a banner headline just under his beard, followed by their logo. Were they declaring that not only Coke, but Santa himself, were trademarks of the Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, Georgia? Hard to tell.

At any rate everybody had talked for years about the overcommercialization of Christmas, but I hadn't noticed anybody doing anything about it. I started thinking about doing something about it, and what finally sent me into action was a magazine ad run in places like Newsweek and Time, showing a family coming down in their pajamas and robes on Christmas morning.

As the mother, children, and dog look on in wonder, the father hovers back a bit on the stairs, a proud look on his face. There, under the tree, is a brand new set of five tubeless tires. Tires? The boy was expecting a bicycle, but no matter. These tires are a much niftier gift. Maybe Dad will let him help jack up the family car and put them on! Good tires on a car are very important. But talk to me about that during the other eleven months of the year, okay?

That tire company may think I'm just being flip here, and I am. But give me a break. When was the last tune you came down on Christmas morning and discovered a set of tires under your tree? Did the tire tycoons think that anybody could possibly relate to that ad? What was being smoked by the people who came up with the concept, to say nothing of the ad manager at the tire company who approved it? The answer to these and other questions may never be answered. But one thing is for sure - those tires ended up on my record of "Green Chri$tma$."

(Click on image to enlarge)

Another ad that gave me pause at that time was a Jell-O Christmas layout from General Foods in all the magazines. A pear tree was laden with Jell-O, and nothing else. It was decorated with a different box of Jell-O on every branch. They apparently had decided it was a bit much and added a lone partridge on top. But under the tree was, you guessed it, nothing but different-colored Jell-O molds. Down below, the copy read, as close as I can recall:

On the first day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me:
Two lemon Jell-Os,
Three grapes a singing,
Four raspberries cooling ... (etc.)

I wonder if the wife of the marketing VP of General Foods' Jell-O Division ever tied boxes of Jell-O to her Christmas tree branches: "Yes ... we're having a different kind of tree this year. Do you love it?"

(Click on image to enlarge)

Of course, when I sat down to write "Green Chri$tma$," I had to try to drain off enough of my outrage in order to be entertaining enough to make my point. As I have said, outrage in its natural state is not too salable. The hard part comes in covering the social message with the candy coating of humor. Otherwise, you end up as just another crackpot preaching on a soapbox, and I'm getting dangerously close to doing that right now. I'd better just tell you how "Green Chri$tma$" went.

I was assisted by the great Billy May, who arranged my original music. We had a huge studio orchestra, a fine cast of actors, and my friend Jud Conlon arranged the songs for twenty-four voices. After you read the script - which is not as good as hearing it, but you'll get the idea - I'll tell you of the problems I had with Capitol Records before it was released. I played the part of Scrooge.

CAPT'S NOTE: If you have the MP3 of "Green Chri$tma$" on your computer, press play and follow along. If you don't have the MP3, download it here.

SCROOGE: (SINGING) Bah, humbug, everybody.
CHORUS: Good morning, Mr. Scrooge!
SCROOGE: Well, the meeting will come to order, if you please. Are all the advertising people represented here?
CHORUS: Everyone except Amalgamated Cheese!


SCROOGE: Well, if they're not here for the Christmas pitch, I can't help them find new ways of tying their product in to Christmas. That's why I'm chairman of this board! Let's hear it for me!
CHORUS: Hear, hear!
SCROOGE: All right, Abercrombie, what are your people up to?
ABERCROMBIE: Ahhh, same thing as every year. Fifty thousand billboards showing Santa Claus pausing to refresh himself with our product.
SCROOGE: Mmmmm, hmmm, well, I think the public has come to expect that and...
ABERCROMBIE: That's right. It's become tradition!
SCROOGE: You there, Crass, uhh, I suppose your company's running the usual magazine ads showing cartons of your cigarettes peeking out of the top of Santa's sack?
CRASS: Better than that! This year we have him smoking one.

Lucky Strike Cigarettes, 1936

SCROOGE: Um-hmmm...
CRASS: Yes. We've got Santa a little more rugged, too. Both sleeves rolled up and a tattoo on each arm. One of 'em says "Merry Christmas."
SCROOGE: What does the other one say?
CRASS: "Less tar!"
SCROOGE: Great stuff!
CRATCHET: But Mr. Scrooge...
SCROOGE: What? Who are you?
CRATCHET: Bob Cratchet, sir. I've got a little spice company over in East Orange, New Jersey. Do I have to tie my product in to Christmas?
SCROOGE: What do you mean?
CRATCHET: Well, I was just going to send cards out showing the three wise men following the Star of Bethlehem...
SCROOGE: I get it! And they're bearing your spices. Now that's perfect.
CRATCHET: No, no... no product in it. I was just going to say, "Peace on Earth... Good Will Toward Men." Period.
MAN: Well, that's a peculiar slogan!
SCROOGE: Old hat, Cratchet! That went out with button shoes! You're a businessman... Christmas is something to take advantage of!
SCROOGE: A red and green bandwagon to jump on!
SCROOGE: A sentimental shot in the arm for sales! Listen!

CHORUS: Deck the halls with advertising,
Fa la la la la la la la la.

While you can be enterprising,

Fa la la la la la la la la.

On the fourth day of Christmas,

My true love gave to me

Four bars of soap,

Three cans of peas,

Two breakfast foods,

And some toothpaste on a pear tree!

On the fifth day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me...
SCROOGE: Five tube-less tires!
CHORUS: Fo-ur quarts of gin,
Three ci-gars,
Two cig-ar-ettes,
And some hair tonic on a pear tree!
Chest-nuts roasting...
ANNOUNCER: Sayyyy, Mother, as sure as there's an X in Christmas, you can be sure those are Tiny Tim Chestnuts roasting. Tin-y Tim Chestnuts are full-bodied... longer lasting! This visible shell... SOUND: KNOCK-KNOCK ANNOUNCER: ...protects the nut! Now with X-K 29 added, for people who can't roast after every meal.

Gleem Toothpaste, 1957

GIRL TRIO: Tin-ee Tim! Tin-ee Tim! Chest-nuts all the way!
ANNOUNCER: Tin-y Tims roast hot ... like a chestnut ought! And ... they are (ECHO) mild, mild, mild, mild.
CHORUS: Deck the halls with advertising,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
'Tis the time for merchandising,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Profit never needs a reason,
Fa la la la la la la la la.
Get the money, it's the season,
Fa la la la la la la la la!


SCROOGE: Words to live by, Cratchet!
CRATCHET: For you, maybe. Can't you just wish someone merry Christmas, for the pure joy of doing it?
SCROOGE: Why? What's the percentage in that? Let me show you how to make Christmas work for you!

CHORUS: We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
And please buy our beer!

Schlitz Beer, 1957

SCROOGE: There you go, Cratchet! That's Christmas with a purpose.  

CRATCHET: I know, but wait a minute. Don't you guys make enough profit the other eleven months? Christmas comes but once a year.
SCROOGE: Humph! Funny thing you should bring that up. That's exactly the point I was about to make. Hit it, boys!  

SCROOGE: Christmas comes but once a year,
So you better make hay while the snow is falling,
That's opportunity calling you!
CHORUS: Rub your hands, December's here,
What a wonderful time to be
Glad and merry!
SCROOGE: Just so you're mercenary too!
CHORUS: Buy an ad and show all the toys,
Show all the toys up on the shelf,

Milton Bradley, 1962

SCROOGE: Just make sure that you get a plug,
You get a plug,
In for yourself!
SCROOGE AND CHORUS: Christmas comes but once a year,
So you better cash in,
While the spirit lingers,
It's slipping through your fingers,
Boy! Don't you realize
Christmas can be such a Monetary joy!

CRATCHET: Well, I guess you fellows will never change.  

SCROOGE: Why should we? Christmas has two s's in it, and they're both dollar signs. CRATCHET: Yeah, but they weren't there to begin with.  
CRATCHET: The people keep hoping you'll remember. But you never do.  
SCROOGE: Remember what?  
CRATCHET: Whose birthday we're celebrating.  
SCROOGE: Well, ahem... don't get me wrong. The story of Christmas, in its simplicity, is a good thing - I'll buy that. It's just that we know a good thing when we see it.  
CRATCHET: But don't you realize Christmas has a significance, a meaning.  
SCROOGE: A sales curve! Wake up, Cratchet, it's later than you think.  
CRATCHET: I know, Mr. Scrooge, I know.  

CHORUS: On the first day of Christmas,
The advertising's there, with

Newspaper ads,

Billboards too,

Business Christmas cards,

And commercials on a pear tree...

Jingles here, jingles there,

Jingles all the way.

Dashing through the snow,

In a fifty-foot coup-e

O'er the fields we go,

Selling all the way...

Deck the halls with advertising,

What's the use of compromising,

Fa la la la la la la la la.


(Downloaded from Google Image Search)

I was in New York when a call came in from a man named Lloyd Dunn. He was the new president of Capitol. (Alan Livingston had recently left for the executive suites of NBC television.) Dunn was a very square man from the world of marketing. If he had any sense of humor, he kept it well hidden under a rock. He also did not share my sense of moral outrage that Christmas had deteriorated into a sell-a-thon. He was calling now to tell me that on the advice of legal and many other people at Capitol he was pulling "Green Chri$tma$" off release.

I asked to speak to my A&R man, Ken Nelson.

"Ken has been overruled on this one," he barked. "This is a very offensive recording."

"Who is it offensive to?" I asked.

"Everybody in the world of business!" he said. "You'll offend everybody in advertising!"

"Not everybody," I said. "Just the ones who should be offended."

"One thing is for sure," he told me, "if we released 'Green Chri$tma$,' you'd never work again in the advertising business."

I said that was one of the hazards of being a satirist.

"Well, I'm personally offended by this record," he told me. "I came out of marketing, and I think this thing is in poor taste."'

"Haven't you got it all backwards?" I asked him. "It's the things I attacked that are in poor taste. The thought here is that the people who have used Christmas as merely a hook to sell products will be so shocked that they may rethink the whole thing."  

(Downloaded from Flickr)

"Capitol Records itself is guilty of the very things you attacked," he said.

"Go back and listen again," I told him. "You missed the point. I never said anything about toys, records..."

"Well, be that as it may," he told me, "we're killing the record."

"That being the case," I told him sadly, "I'd like to be released from my contract. This is the last straw. You people are keeping me from being able to make a living as a recording artist." He said he was sorry I felt that way, and we hung up.

I immediately called my friend Norman Granz, the jazz entrepreneur, and told him of my problems with Capitol. Granz had told me in the past that he wished I were recording for
his record label, Verve Records. He told me he would be happy to put out "Green Chri$tma$," without even hearing it. My name on it was enough for him, he said. I called Dunn back at Capitol and told him I wished to buy the master and take it to Verve Records, who would be honored to put it out.

Another long pause. Then Dunn said he'd call me back at my hotel room. Through all this, I had been unable to reach Glenn Wallichs, now Capitol's chairman. He was in Europe. Finally, a call came back from Dunn. Capitol had reconsidered and would put out my Christmas recording after all. "We want you here on Capitol," Dunn told me, laying on the charm. "This is your home."

(Downloaded from Google Image Search)

"And you will release 'Green Chri$tma$'?" I said.

"With just two very small changes," he told me.

"And they are... ?"

"Take out any mention of whose birthday we're celebrating, and cut the cash-register sound effect off the end," he said. "Okay?"

I could hardly believe my ears.

"Nooooooooooo way!" I told him.

I refused to become a victim of such censorship. I said to Dunn, "I've had it! I can release it as is with no cuts whatsoever on a different record label."

"Hold it," Dunn said. "I'll call you back."

He was stonewalling, but the next day he called and threw in the towel. He said they would release it as is against his better judgment.  Capitol sneaked "Green Chri$tma$" out under the door that first year, with no attendant publicity whatsoever. I finally bought an ad and paid for it out of my own pocket. Here was a record that truly "escaped" from the Capitol Tower.

1958 Picture Sleeve Back Cover

The reaction from the advertising world was a small explosion, as was to be expected. I was attacked on the editorial pages of Advertising Age and M.A.C. magazine (before it was called Adweek). Even the Los Angeles Times, which subsists mostly on ads, blasted me in an editorial on Christmas Day.

Los Angeles Times - December 25, 1958

The editorial writer later sheepishly admitted he hadn't even heard my record, but he'd read about it. No wonder he missed the whole point.

Stan Freberg's editorial response
Los Angeles Times - January 14, 1959

If a few critics didn't understand it, most of the public did. The mail was 90 percent favorable. I got letters of praise and gratitude from bus drivers and senators, housewives and governors. The favorable responses from the religious community ranged from Protestants and Catholics to rabbis. Apparently, I had sent out a message that had cut across all boundaries.

A columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle reported that "Stan Freberg was in Gump's the other day spending some of his artist's royalties from 'Green Chri$tma$.' Freberg is a great one to talk about other people making money off of Christmas." When I told the columnist that I had already donated my artist royalties from my record to the Hemophilia Foundation, he apologized with a retraction.

San Mateo Times - December 27, 1958

That first year the record was played on the air in New York City only twice - both times by the same disc jockey, Martin Block. He was promptly told by the sales department, "If you play that again, you're fired!"

In Los Angeles my friend at KMPC, Stanley Spiro, told me that they were playing it, but they had to be careful how they programmed it. Blatant Christmas advertisers who figured "the shoe fit" refused to pay for their commercials if they were positioned within fifteen minutes of my record. "The Freberg record negates our message," they told the station.

I had struck a nerve. I was set for an interview on the Los Angeles station, KCBS-TV, about "Green Chri$tma$," during which they planned to play excerpts from the recording. At the last minute I was "pulled" from the lineup by the station manager Robert Wood, who later became president of CBS. "Why was I removed from the show?" I asked him, point-blank.

Wood told me. "The record is sacrilegious. I'm a very staunch Catholic."

I was flabbergasted. "Sacrilegious?" I asked. "Have you heard this record?"

"No," he said. "But I don't need to hear it. I heard all about it."

A few years later, Time came to me. They were doing an essay on the overcommercialization of Christmas. The writer, Barbara Wilkins, told me that "Green Chri$tma$" was the focal point of the whole story. "You were just ahead of your time," she said. She interviewed me for a full day. The essay was to run in the Christmas issue. 

On Christmas Day I opened the magazine. There was no essay at all. Next day I called her at Time and asked what had happened. "The sales department of Time put pressure on the editors," she said. "At the last minute, they killed the essay."

Talk about striking a nerve.

Freberg at the microphone (From his box set "Tip Of The Freberg")


(Click on image to enlarge)

This review is from Milton R. Bass, a columnist for The Berkshire Eagle from December 2, 1958. Although there are probably dozens of columns about "Green Chri$tma$" published before this one, this was the earliest review that I could find in my research.

(Click on image to enlarge)

This is from the December 7th, 1958 edition of The Cedar Rapids Gazette and it's a two-for-one. The first column (left) under the headline "Songwriters Yust Go Nuts at Christmas" is by Associated Press writer Hugh A. Mulligan. His column mentions "Green Chri$tma$" (highlighted) and the other new Christmas songs for 1958.

The second column (right) is by Les Zacheis, the Gazette's noted music writer, under the heading "New Records in Review". While reviewing other new Christmas releases, he mentions Freberg's single - it's all of three paragraphs (highlighted) but Les hits the nail on the head (in this reviewer's opinion).

(Click on image to enlarge)

This local records chart was printed in The Van Nuys News on December 18, 1958. Look at that competition! We asked Keith Caulfield from Billboard Magazine about where Freberg placed on the Billboard Top 100 and the Billboard Holiday chart:

"Green Chri$tma$" debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on Dec. 29, 1958 and spent two weeks on the chart. It peaked at No. 44. Billboard didn't have a Christmas/Holiday singles chart in 1958 - it was an on-and-off again chart that didn't start until the 1960s."


(Click on image to enlarge)

This column written by Bill Sumner of The Pasadena Independent was published on December 2, 1958. This funny, sometimes angry article discusses "Green Chri$tma$" and its B-side "The Meaning of Christmas", the lack of good Christmas music in general, and alludes to the controversy that was beginning to stir.

FYI, Freberg was a resident and the pride of Pasadena at the time.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Don Page, radio columnist for the Los Angeles Times, wrote this for the December 14, 1958 edition. By now, the controversy around "Green Chri$tma$" was in full bloom and Freberg appeared on Dick Whittinghill's radio show to talk about the satire.

(Click on image to enlarge)

A longtime journalist for the Los Angeles Times was given his own column in 1958. He was Jack Smith and he wrote a piece that wonders what the controversy is all about. In witty, well-written verse, Jack brags about being a big spender at Christmas and tells Freberg, in so many words, to lighten up:

"Money is only a symbol, Freberg. Don't take it too seriously." That's MR. Freberg to you, pal!

Several weeks later, the Times wrote the Christmas Day editorial and alluded to this very column (see the editorial above). Smith went on to write for the Times for 37 years and became as closely associated with the paper like Mike Royko in Chicago. His last column appeared on Christmas Day, 1995 - coincidence?

(Click on image to enlarge)

On December 25th, 1958 - the same day the Times printed their editorial against Freberg - this column by Bob Foster ran in the San Mateo Times. By now, the controversy had reached its peak and Foster decided to investigate it.

This column is a real gem - Foster looks at the outrage from the advertising community by reporting on several agencies reaction to "Green Chri$tma$". There are also priceless quotes from Freberg on his record, including the statement that opened this special yuleblog entry.


I want to thank the staffs of the Allen County Public Library and the Chicago Public Library for their invaluable assistance in gathering many of the news sources printed here. It's been fun and informative tracking down columns, ads, and the like for this appreciation.

A special thank you to Alice B. of Readers Services at ACPL - she dug out volume after volume of bound magazines out of the catacombs in my search for those missing Christmas ads. She usually had materials requested pulled before I got there,
was always helpful, and never complained once. Extra star to you.

Thanks also go to my wife & family who didn't understand why I spent the good part of August of this year ensconced at libraries and behind the computer typing all this up.

Final thanks go to Mr. Stan Freberg himself. As a member of the generation that you spoke of fifty years ago, I hope this look back on "Green Chri$tma$" will make other members of my generation and future generations stop, listen, and think about your message. I hope I did it justice Uncle Stan.

The final word doesn't belong to me. It comes to us from the Waterloo Daily Courier dated December 18, 1958 (look at the column "Laughs Self Into Hospital" directly below the masthead):

(Click on image to enlarge)