|Single by Elvis Presley|
|from the album Elvis' Christmas Album|
|B-side||"Wooden Heart" (447-0720)
"Santa Claus Is Back in Town" (447-0647)
|Released||November 9, 1964
November 26, 1965 (447-0647)
|Recorded||September 5, 1957|
|Genre||Christmas, Pop, Rock and roll|
|Label||RCA Victor 447-0720
RCA Victor 447-0647
|Writer(s)||Billy Hayes, Jay W. Johnson|
|Elvis Presley singles chronology|
|Single by The Beach Boys|
|from the album The Beach Boys' Christmas Album|
|A-side||"The Man with All the Toys"|
|Released||November 9, 1964|
|Recorded||June 24, 1964- June 28, 1964|
|Genre||Christmas, Pop, Rock|
|Length||4:41 (for both songs)|
|Writer(s)||Billy Hayes, Jay W. Johnson|
|The Beach Boys singles chronology|
"Blue Christmas" is a Christmas song written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson. It is a tale of unrequited love during the holidays and is a longstanding staple of Christmas music, especially in the country genre.
Initial recordings and major versions
The song was first recorded by Doye O'Dell in 1948, and was popularized the following year in three separate recordings: one by country artist Ernest Tubb; one by bandleader Hugo Winterhalter and his orchestra; and one by bandleader Russ Morgan and his orchestra (the latter featuring lead vocals by Morgan and backing vocals by singers credited as the Morganaires). Tubb's version spent the first week of January 1950 at No. 1 on Billboard magazine's Most-Played Juke Box (Country & Western) Records chart, while Winterhalter's version peaked at No. 9 on Billboard's Records Most Played by Disk Jockeys chart and Morgan's version reached No. 11 on Billboard's Best-Selling Pop Singles chart. Also in 1950 Hugo Winterhalter released a new version, this time sung by Billy Eckstine, with shortened lyrics in a variation close to what is now the common standard for this song.
Elvis Presley cemented the status of "Blue Christmas" as a rock-and-roll holiday classic by recording it for his 1957 LP Elvis' Christmas Album. Presley's version is notable musicologically as well as culturally in that the vocal group the Jordanaires (especially in the soprano line, sung by Millie Kirkham), replace many major and just minor thirds with neutral and septimal minor thirds, respectively. In addition to contributing to the overall tone of the song, the resulting "blue notes" constitute a musical play on words that provides an "inside joke" or "Easter egg" to trained ears. Presley's original 1957 version was released as a commercially-available single for the first time in 1964. This single was also a hit in the United Kingdom, reaching No. 11 on the British singles chart during the week of 26 December 1964.
American rock band The Beach Boys recorded a version featuring Brian Wilson on lead vocals, releasing it in the US on November 16, 1964, in two separate formats simultaneously:
(a) the B-side of the "The Man with All the Toys" single.
(b) a track on The Beach Boys' Christmas Album.
The Beach Boys' version reached No. 3 on the U.S. Christmas charts but did not chart in the U.K.
Following the success of Presley's version, the song has been recorded by a host of rock and country artists, as well as some working in other genres, with over sixty-five recorded versions:
In 1963, Patti Labelle and The BlueBelles recorded their version on album Sleigh bells, Jingle bells, and Bluebelles
The most successful version of the song in the United Kingdom was recorded by Shakin' Stevens. His 1982 version of the song peaked at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart (behind "Save Your Love" by Renée and Renato).
A 2011 version of the song recorded by Michael Bublé was included on his holiday album Christmas. Capitalizing on the blues influence of earlier covers, the Bublé recording applies the fire of traditional New Orleans polyphonic jazz and a larger big band sound.
In 1997 ska band The Toasters covered the song on their album Christma-ska.
Bruce Springsteen sang the song live at The Carousel in Asbury Park, New Jersey on December 7, 2010 with the E Street Band. The intimate concert, in front of approximately 60 fans, was Clarence Clemons' last performance with the E Street Band. The performance of the song "Blue Christmas" was then included in the bonus part of the Bruce Springsteen DVD The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town in 2011 with four other tracks from the concert.
In 2005, Kelly Clarkson performed the song at the Sony Ericsson Christmas Calling television special that aired on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. In 2013, she recorded a studio cover of the song for her sixth studio album Wrapped in Red.
Use in film and television
- In 1974, the song was featured in the children's Christmas special The Year Without a Santa Claus.
- In 2009, Elvis' version was used in a TV commercial for Verizon Wireless.
- In 2011, Damian McGinty (as his character Rory Flanagan) sang the Elvis version of the song in the Christmas episode of TV series Glee, titled "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" (aired on December 13).
- Badman, Keith. The Beach Boys. The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band: On Stage and in the Studio Backbeat Books, San Francisco, California, 2004. ISBN 0-87930-818-4 p. 72
- Badman, Keith. The Beach Boys. The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band: On Stage and in the Studio Backbeat Books, San Francisco, California, 2004. ISBN 0-87930-818-4 p. 58
- Greene, Andy (30 November 2011). "Readers' Poll: The Best Christmas Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner. Retrieved 08 December 2011.
- http://www.russmorganorchestra.com/russ.html: see table section "Vocalists with Band Included"
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 50,62. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 25. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- Sony Ericsson Christmas Calling: The Soundtrack to Your Season. December 11, 2005. 60 minutes in. Channel 4. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0495514/.
- Kelly Clarkson: Blue Christmas: Christmas Calling (Video) (Television production). Youtube. 2005. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
- Malach, Maggie (September 5, 2013). "Kelly Clarkson Releases 'Wrapped in Red' Track Listing". PopCrush. Townsquare Media. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
- Blue Christmas lyrics
- Music video featuring Elvis Presley and a superimposed Martina McBride
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics