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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Here Comes Santa Claus

Hello, everybody!  And, welcome to the fifteenth day of "THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR"!  Can you believe it's Day #15 already?  It's just only ten days left to go until Christmas comes for yet another year!  

And this week on the Sunday Jukebox, I have a special treat for you.  I'm going to let the King of Rock and Roll entertain you for the week, as well as the country music star who inspired Elvis Presley to record this very single!

So, you're probably guessing that today's holiday favourite is going to be coming from Elvis Presley.  And, you would be correct in that regard.  In fact, today's selection will be coming straight from Elvis Presley's first Christmas album which was released fifty-six years ago in the autumn of 1957!

(If you happen to have a first edition copy of the album still in the shrink wrap, and still with the gold "To/From" label stuck on the outside, you may be sitting on a small fortune!)

Anyway, the album itself was released on October 15, 1957, and it contained some seasonal favourites as well as some original compositions.  The original songs were "Santa, Bring My Baby Back To Me" and "Santa Claus Is Back In Town".

As for the holiday favourites?  Well, they were there as well, albeit with some controversy.  I may have talked about this in a previous blog entry last year, but Elvis' interpretation of "White Christmas" was actually banned from several radio stations in the United States and Canada because "White Christmas" songwriter Irving Berlin disapproved of Elvis' cover version.

Well, okay...maybe a better description would be that Irving Berlin loathed Elvis' version of "White Christmas" so much that he felt as though Elvis had stolen the sheet music for the song from him and vomited all over it!  Whatever the case, Berlin was so disgusted by Presley's version that he had staff members call every radio station in Canada and the United States, ordering them to yank Elvis' Christmas album from airplay!

Most American stations refused Berlin's request.  Quite the opposite happened in Canada, where most stations refused to play the record.  And, honestly, I don't know what all the fuss was about, because I didn't mind Elvis' version.  Granted, Bing Crosby was the best one, but I had nothing against Elvis' version either.

Of course, I won't be talking about "White Christmas" in this blog.  I've already done a blog entry on that song.

Instead, I thought I would choose this song to talk about.  Why?  Well, we'll get to that in a minute.

ARTIST: Elvis Presley
SONG: Here Comes Santa Claus
ALBUM: Elvis' Christmas Album
DATE RELEASED: October 15, 1957

"Here Comes Santa Claus".  Probably my favourite song off of Elvis' entire Christmas album.  I know I like it better than that horrible, horrible "Blue Christmas".  That song is so depressing, I almost want to take a pitchfork and stab a couple of elves with it!

DISCLAIMER:  I would never, ever harm an elf or any living creature.  Unless it happens to be Justin Bieber singing songs from HIS Christmas album...and even then, I probably wouldn't do it, as Christmas is not about hurting people.

Anyway, the song (which clocks in at just six seconds shy of two minutes), was originally written by country music singer Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman, and first recorded by Autry a decade before Elvis recorded his version.  And if you watch the video below, you can hear Autry's 1947 interpretation below.

Would you like to know what inspired Autry to write the song?  It turns out that he was inspired by the 1946 Santa Claus Lane Parade (or the Hollywood Christmas Parade as it is known to be called now).  Gene Autry actually participated in the parade that year as he rode his horse down the main thoroughfare along with all of the other floats, performers, and marching bands that one typically found in parades.  And as it so happened, Autry was just a few places in front of Santa Claus and his sleigh.  So, naturally, as Autry travelled down the street, the spectators could be heard exclaiming "Here comes Santa Claus!"

So, that's how the song came to be.  It was inspired by spectators at a Christmas parade!  

Now, although Gene Autry's version is widely considered to be the most well-known and most successful version of "Here Comes Santa Claus" (It did reach the #9 position on the Billboard Charts in 1947), believe it or not, he was not the first person to record the single.  A demo version was released in 1946 by singer/guitarist Johnny Bond.  And here's an interesting fact about the song that I didn't even know until I researched this song for the blog entry today!  In Bond's demo version, he wanted to use a sound effect that simulated the jingling of sleigh bells, but didn't have any bells to use.  So he improvised by using ice cubes instead!

And of course, when Autry heard Bond's version, he was inspired to replicate the sleigh bell sound effect using real bells!

Over the years, besides Elvis and Gene Autry, other artists have recorded this song from Doris Day and Alvin and the Chipmunks to Mariah Carey and the cast of Glee.  And, why wouldn't they?  After all, every Christmas is capped off with the arrival of the man draped in red velvet, right?

This concludes a shorter than normal edition of the Sunday Jukebox (I'm cutting it short because as I type this out, we're having a blizzard, and I want to type this out before we lose power), but I promise you that I will make it up to you on Day #16.  And, what can we expect on Day #16?  How about one of the coolest snowmen you'll ever hope to meet?  And, no, it's not Frosty either!

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