"Winter Wonderland" is a winter song, popularly treated as a Christmastime pop standard, written in 1934 by Felix Bernard (music) and Richard B. Smith (lyricist). Through the decades it has been recorded by over 150 different artists.
Dick Smith, a native of Honesdale, Pennsylvania, was reportedly inspired to write the song after seeing Honesdale's Central Park covered in snow. Smith had written the lyrics while in the West Mountain Sanitarium, being treated for tuberculosis, better known then as consumption. The West Mountain Sanitarium is located off N. Sekol Ave. in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The original recording was by Richard Himber and his Hotel Ritz-Carlton Orchestra on RCA Bluebird in 1934. At the end of a recording session with time to spare, it was suggested that this new tune be tried with an arrangement provided by the publisher. This excellent "studio" orchestra included many great New York studio musicians including the legendary Artie Shaw. The biggest chart hit at the time of introduction was Guy Lombardo's orchestra, a top ten hit. Singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer took the song to #4 in Billboard's airplay chart in 1946. The same season, Perry Como hit the retail top ten. Como would record a new version for his 1959 Christmas album.
Due to its seasonal theme, "Winter Wonderland" is often regarded as a Christmas song in the Northern Hemisphere, although the holiday itself is never mentioned in the lyrics. There is a mention of "sleigh-bells" several times, implying that this song refers to the Christmas period. In the Swedish language lyrics, Vår vackra vita vintervärld, the word tomtar is mentioned.
The bridge of the song contains the following lyrics:
"In the meadow we can build a snowman,
then pretend that he is Parson Brown.
He'll say 'Are You Married?' We'll say 'No man,
but you can do the job while you're in town!'"
In the period when this song was written, parsons (now known as Protestant ministers) often traveled among small rural towns to perform wedding ceremonies for denominational followers who did not have a local minister of their own faith.
The original bridge, about a couple who make a spur-of-the-moment decision to get married, was supposedly considered inappropriate for children. A 1953 version of the sheet music contains the following replacement bridge
In the meadow we can build a snowman,
and pretend that he's a circus clown.
We'll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman,
until the other kiddies knock 'im down!
When it snows, ain't it thrillin'?
Tho' your nose, gets a chillin'
We'll frolic and play, the Eskimo way,
Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland.
In addition, the fact that (as noted above) the circuit-traveling country parson trekking from village to village is no longer part of the American cultural scene has also contributed to the circus clown replacing Parson Brown. However, some musicians have performed and even recorded the song with both stanzas - Parson Brown and Circus Clown.
The song has been parodied by Bob Rivers as "Walkin' 'Round in Women's Underwear", and by Elsa Boreson as "Walkin' in My Winter Underwear". Both songs are frequently played on Dr. Demento's radio show. Jason Lytle of Grandaddy later wrote "Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland" as a promotional single that saw an appearance on the compilation album The Windfall Varietal.
In Britain, many football teams sing variations of the song to celebrate a particular player or manager. There is also a version by supporters of British boxer, Ricky Hatton, and another sung by supporters of darts player Phil Taylor.
Awards and achievements
In Nov 2007, ASCAP, a performance rights organization in the United States, listed "Winter Wonderland" as the most-played ASCAP-member-written holiday song of the previous five years, and cited the Eurythmics' version of the song is the one most commonly played.
- Kunerth, Jeff (December 9, 2010). "The story behind Winter Wonderland". The Religion World (Orlando Sentinel).
- Guy Lombardo Chart Hits at TsorT.info
- Bernard, Felix & Smith, Dick. Winter Wonderland. New York: Bregman, Vocco and Conn, Inc. (1953) Catalog number B.V.C.883-3
- Kikki Danielsson, Nu är det advent Retrieved November 29, 2011
- Mayweather-Hatton - Chanting In A Boxing Wonderland Retrieved November 29, 2011
- ASCAP Announced Top 25 Holiday Songs. 12 November 2007