Some other popular holiday season songs
For a list of all holiday season songs on Songbook, see:
- Jingle Bells
- It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
- Carol of the Drum (Little Drummer Boy)
- Feliz Navidad (José Feliciano)
- Happy Holiday / Holiday Inn (separate mini-feature page)
- Jingle Bell Rock
Update, 15 December 2015: The list of the 25 most performed ASCAP holiday songs of the previous decade (2000-2009), released by ASCAP in 2009, previously found on this page, has been relocated to the “Selected holiday season songs, index” page.
Jingle Bells by James Lord Pierpont (1857) didn’t make the list. But it is far from forgotten. It is a children’s favorite, and Jazzstandards.com ranks it #275, well above White Christmas (#404) in their ranking of the top 1,000 jazz standards.
Jingle Bells is one of the best known and commonly sung winter songs in the world. It was written by James Lord Pierpont (1822–1893) and copyrighted under the title “One Horse Open Sleigh” on September 16, 1857. Despite being inextricably connected to Christmas, it is not specifically a Christmas song.
When James Lord Pierpont’s song was originally published in 1857, it had a different chorus melody, which was more classical. The 1857 lyrics differed slightly from those we know today. It is unknown who replaced the chorus melody and the words with those of the modern version. The song was reprinted in 1859 with the revised title of “Jingle Bells, or the One Horse Open Sleigh.”
“Jingle Bells” was first recorded by the Edison Male Quartette in 1898 on an Edison cylinder. In 1902, the Hayden Quartet recorded the song.
Benny Goodman & his Orchestra – I don’t know whether this is the original 1935 version
Glenn Miller & his Orchestra
With vocals by Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, Ernie Caceres and the Modernaires — recorded on 20 October 1941, and issued on the single Bluebird 11353, b/w “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”
Radio broadcast transcription, probably from The Chesterfield Show (aka “Moonlight Serenade” or “Chesterfield’s Moonlight Serenade”), date unknown — vocals: Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, Ernie Caceres and the Modernaires
Introduction (partial), according to a Youtube comment: “Christmas Eve, [Moonlight] Serenade, and Chesterfield Time with Glenn Miller and he really has a stocking full of tunes. It’s the night before Christmas and all through the band, We’re singin’ and ringin’ and rockin’ the stand, The trumpets are blarin’ and burstin’ with pride, The Chesterfield smokers are satisfied, I’m speaking for Hutton and the four Modernaires, It’s time to forget all your worries and cares…”
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Edward Pola, George Wyle) – Written in 1963, it was recorded and released that year by Andy Williams on his first Christmas album, though no promotional single was released. Wikipedia says,
The original version of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams has since become a radio airplay standard, attaining more and more popularity with each passing holiday season since the song’s original release. It was also selected as the theme song for Christmas Seals in both 1968 and 1976.
Andy Williams — from The Andy Williams Show, 1963(?). Williams often sang live on the show, but this appears to be a lip synch performance to the track released in 1963 on his first Christmas Album.
Carol of the Drum (Little Drummer Boy) — words and music by Katherine K. Davis
Little Drummer Boy, originally known as Carol of the Drum, is a popular Christmas song written by the American classical music composer/teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis* in 1941. It was recorded 1955 by the Trapp Family Singers and further popularized by a 1958 recording by the Harry Simeone Chorale. This version was re-released successfully for several years and the song has been recorded many times since.
Trapp Family Singers — issued on Christmas with the Trapp Family Singers — Vol. 1, Decca DL 9553, in 1955, according to SecondHandSongs.com
However, the dates of the recording and its release are in question:
- SecondHandSongs.com says “A previous release (ca. 1953) on a smaller format may exist.”
- See the forum topic “Work: Carol of the Drum (Bastien) – Trapp Family 1955,” regarding dating of the recording and release of “Carol of the Drum” by the Trapp Family Singers. Blogger Lee Hartsfield claims that the Trapp Family Singers recording was made for “Deutsche Grammophon between 1951-53, and it appeared in the U.S. on Decca in 1953 on a two-part 45 rpm EP set.”
The Harry Simeone Chorale — from the 1958 album Sing We Now of Christmas
Marlene Dietrich — Der Trommelmann, a 1964 recording with a German language lyric
The Vienna Boys Choir – date unknown
Feliz Navidad (José Feliciano) It is rare that the writer of one of the most popular Christmas songs is also the performer most associated with the song. The song was written, recorded, and released in 1970.
Feliciano’s version of “Feliz Navidad” (in which he plays both an acoustic guitar and a Puerto Rican cuatro) is one of the most downloaded and aired Christmas songs in the United States and Canada. The addition of the horns as a final touch was the idea of producer Rick Jarrard. It was also recognized by ASCAP as one of the top 25 most played and recorded Christmas songs around the world.
José Feliciano — live, date unknown
Happy Holiday and Holiday Inn (Irving Berlin) — These numbers were written separately, but have often been linked since being combined in a medley in the film Holiday Inn (1942). I’ve given Berlin’s original titles, but the first is frequently referred to as “Happy Holidays,” while the second is sometimes known as “(Come to) Holiday Inn.”
From The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin, p.351:
The combined numbers were introduced by Bing Crosby (Jim), Marjorie Reynolds, singing dubbed by Martha Mears (Linda), and ensemble. They can be heard on the original soundtrack release (Sunbeam Soun-trak). The recording by Crosby with the Music Maids is part of the album Song Hits from “Holiday Inn” (Decca).
For his first holiday album (1963), Andy Williams recorded Happy Holidays in medley with a different song, The Holiday Season, written by Kay Thompson.
Bing Crosby with John Scott and his Orchestra, featuring The Music Maids, 1942
John Scott Trotter was the musical director on the radio program Kraft Music Hall during Crosby’s ten year stint as host, from 2 January 1936 until 9 May 1946. Trotter arranged and conducted music for Crosby from 1937 to 1954. Vocal group the Music Maids was a regular on Kraft Music Hall from 1939 to 1944.
Clips from Holiday Inn and the Beef Wellington Remix are combined in this video creation of scottamcclure.
According to Wikipedia:
Beal was a Massachusetts-born public relations man and longtime resident of South Ocean Avenue in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Boothe was a Texas writer in the advertising business.
Regarding the Helms recording, Wikipedia says:
“Jingle Bell Rock” has been performed by many, but Helms’ version is the most known in the world. Its title and some of its lyrics are takeoffs on the old Christmas standard, “Jingle Bells.” It makes brief references to other popular songs of the 1950s, such as “Rock Around the Clock,” and mentions going to a “Jingle hop.” An electric guitar played by Hank Garland can be heard playing the first notes to the chorus from the aforementioned “Jingle Bells.”
Bobby Helms — 1957
From the biography at AllMusic, by John Bush:
Though his name is unfamiliar to most, Bobby Helms rules the airwaves every year around December 25th. His single “Jingle Bell Rock” first became a hit in 1957, and it reappeared on the charts four of the following five years to become an all-time Christmas classic. Before he was pigeonholed, though, Helms had a successful country career with two number one hits to his credit. [read more]
The Ventures — 1965
Wayne Newton — from his 1966 holiday LP Songs For a Merry Christmas
*ASCAP credits the song under the title Carol of the Drum alone to Katherine K. Davis. However, Little Drummer Boy (the preferred title has no article) is credited to Davis, Henry Onorati, and Harry Simeone. More recordings have been made under the latter title, a title which seems to refer to a specific 1958 arrangement by Simeone which amended a 1957 arrangement credited to Dot Records producer Onorati. Receiving writing credits for arrangements is rather exceptional.
The unnamed Czech folk song Davis claimed to have based the composition on has never been identified.