Blue Christmas (song)

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"Blue Christmas"
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 (1964-11-09) (447-0720)
November 26, 1965 (1965-11-26) (447-0647)
Format 7-inch
Recorded September 5, 1957 (1957-09-05), Radio Recorders, Hollywood, California
Genre Christmas, Pop, Rock and roll
Length 2:07
Label RCA Victor 447-0720
RCA Victor 447-0647
Writer(s) Billy Hayes, Jay W. Johnson
Elvis Presley singles chronology
"Ain't That Loving You Baby"
"Blue Christmas"
"Do the Clam"
Elvis' Christmas Album track listing
"Blue Christmas"
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 (1964-11-09)[1]
Format 7-inch
Recorded June 24, 1964 (1964-06-24) - June 28, 1964 (1964-06-28)[2]
Genre Christmas, Pop, Rock
Length 4:41 (for both songs)
Label Capitol Records
Writer(s) Billy Hayes, Jay W. Johnson
Producer(s) Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Dance, Dance, Dance"
"The Man with All the Toys"
"Do You Wanna Dance?"

"Blue Christmas" is a Christmas song written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson and most famously performed by Elvis Presley. 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[edit]

The song was first recorded by Doye O'Dell in 1948,[3] 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).[4] 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.[5] Also in 1950 Billy Eckstine recorded a new version, backed by the orchestra of Russ Case, with shortened lyrics in a variation close to what is now the common standard for this song; the orchestral backing of this recording has often been wrongfully accredited to Hugo Winterhalter.[6]

Elvis Presley cemented the status of "Blue Christmas" as a rock-and-roll holiday classic [7] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]. "Blue Christmas" was also included on a 1957 45 EP (Extended Play) entitled "Elvis Sings Christmas Songs" (EPA-4108), which also included "Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)" on side one, with "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" on side two. 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.[citation needed]

The 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.

Cover versions[edit]

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[citation needed]:

  • In 1963, The Platters recorded their version of the song on album Christmas with the Platters.
  • In 1964, twenty-year-old Brenda Lee recorded her version for the album Merry Christmas from Brenda Lee.
  • In 1978, Misfits recorded live the song at Max's Kansas City
  • In 1995, alt-rock band Collective Soul's version was included in the You Sleigh Me: Alternative Christmas Hits compilation. The previous year, it was included in the band's fan club CD.
  • In 1997, ska band The Toasters covered the song on their album Christma-ska.
  • In 1999, Mary Margaret O'Hara (sister of actress Catherine O'Hara) released Christmas EP, featuring a slow, bluesy version of the song, with strong support from Hugh Marsh (violin), Rusty McCarthy (guitar), David Piltch (bass), Don Rooke (lap-steel), and Michael Sloski (drums).
  • 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.
  • 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 2013, Misfits re recorded the song for their Christmas EP Horror Xmas.

Use in film and television[edit]


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Greene, Andy (30 November 2011). "Readers' Poll: The Best Christmas Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner. Retrieved 8 December 2011. 
  4. ^ see table section "Vocalists with Band Included"
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 50,62. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  6. ^ Billy Eckstine, All Of My Life, Jasmine 2-CD set, 2008, featuring a photo of the actual single
  7. ^ "Elvis SongPedia, Blue Christmas". 
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 25. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  9. ^ Sony Ericsson Christmas Calling: The Soundtrack to Your Season. December 11, 2005. 60 minutes in. Channel 4. 
  10. ^ Kelly Clarkson: Blue Christmas: Christmas Calling (VIDEO) (Television production). Youtube. 2005. Retrieved October 18, 2013. 
  11. ^ Malach, Maggie (September 5, 2013). "Kelly Clarkson Releases 'Wrapped in Red' Track Listing". PopCrush. Townsquare Media. Retrieved September 6, 2013. 
  12. ^

External links[edit]