As most Americans are aware, when Christmastime approaches, the sound of holiday music is heard over the radio, in stores and in multiple venues, and many of the songs are not only familiar, but they are repeated over and over.
A recent Examiner.com oldies popular music column took a look at 15 holiday songs that had significant impact on the Billboard Magazine's Hot 100 pop charts and the Christmas Singles charts, which were initiated in 1963, and to view that article, click here.
Some of those songs -- such as "White Christmas", "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer", "The Christmas Song" and "The Chipmunk Song -- have been heard repeatedly every year since they were initially big hits in the '40s, '50s and '60s, and it's difficult to escape hearing such tunes as "Jingle Bells" and "Winter Wonderland" this time of year.
In an attempt to offer something a little different with regard to Christmastime songs, this column provides information about some good songs that aren't among the oft-repeated selections. The list deliberately omits any song that reached the national Top 40, although most of the songs were recorded by artists who are familiar to most oldies pop music fans. To hear any of the songs, simply click on the title.
- "WHITE CHRISTMAS" (The Drifters, 1954): Featuring the lead singing of Clyde McPhatter and great bass vocals by Bill Pinkney, this cover of the Bing Crosby classic reached No. 2 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1954, and the following year, it became the very first Billboard pop charter for the North Carolina group, when it made No. 80 on the Hot 100.
- "SANTA CLAUS IS WATCHING YOU" (Ray Stevens, 1962): One of the top novelty recording artists of all-time wrote and sang this as a Yuletide follow-up to his big hit, "Ahab The Arab." Born Harold Ray Ragsdale in Clarksdale, Ga., he later had two chart-topping singles -- "Everything Is Beautiful" (1970) and "The Streak" (1974) -- and this one peaked at No. 45.
- "RUN RUDOLPH RUN" (Chuck Berry, 1958): Recorded in typical Chuck Berry style, this song was written by Johnny Marks, who also penned such Christmastime classics as "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer" and "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree." The single charted at No. 73 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- "AMEN" (Lloyd Price, 1964): This song is most recognizable as a big hit for The Impressions, who took it to No. 7 on the national pop charts, but this rendition bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 124 for the New Orleans vocalist known as "Mr. Personality." The song was originally featured in the film "Lillies Of The Valley."
- "DOMENICK THE DONKEY" (Lou Monte, 1960): Recorded by a New Jersey vocalist who specialized in Italian-flavored novelty songs, this single bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 114. The lyrics tell about a donkey who helps Santa bring presents to children in Italy, and the orchestration is provided by Joe Reisman.
- "CHRISTMAS TEARS" (The Four Seasons, 1964): Originally an R&B hit for Freddie King in 1961, this was sung on the Vee Jay label as the flip side of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" for this legendary New Jersey quartet.
- "I'M GONNA LASSO SANTA CLAUS" (Little Brenda Lee, 1956): This was the second release for this world-famous artist, and although the Decca label refers to the singer as Little Brenda Lee (9 years old), she was actually 12 years old at the time she recorded it.
- "ADESTE FIDELES" (Bing Crosby, 1960): This is one of the rare occasions when a true Christmas hymn made inroads on the Billboard Hot 100, as it charted at No. 45 in 1960 for the recording artist whose "White Christmas" remains the top-selling record of all-time. The song was a No. 5 national hit in 1925 for the Associated Glee Club of America.
- "WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEW YEAR'S EVE?" (Dante & The Evergreens, 1960): Although uncharted, this remains one of the best renditions of this holiday song, and it's certainly unlike the southern California quartet's previous two recordings, "Alley Oop" and "Time Machine." Don Drowty was the lead singer.
- "DONDE ESTA SANTA CLAUS" (Augie Rios, 1958): The title translates into English as "Where Is Santa Claus?", and the novelty song went to No. 47 on the Billboard pop charts for a 12-year-old vocalist and child actor from New York City. The single was released on the Metro label, and it featured the Mark Jeffrey Orchestra.
- "CHILD OF GOD" (Bobby Darin, 1960): This is the B-side of a two-sided holiday recording by a famous entertainer from The Bronx who had 23 Top 40 hits. This charted at No. 95 as the flip of No. 51 "Christmas Old Lang Syne."
- "GEE WHIZ, IT'S CHRISTMAS" (Carla Thomas, 1963): The Memphis songstress, sometimes referred to as the Queen of Memphis Soul, became a national star with the 1960 Satellite label's release of her smash hit “Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes),” which she penned at the age of 16. The daughter of soul singer Rufus Thomas, she had 22 national chart singles.
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