Blue Christmas (song)
|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, 1957Radio Recorders, Hollywood, California,|
|Label||RCA Victor 447-0720
RCA Victor 447-0647
|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|
|Length||4:41 (for both songs)|
|The Beach Boys singles chronology|
"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
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 musical conductor and arranger Hugo Winterhalter and his orchestra and chorus; 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. Both Morgan's and Winterhalter's versions featured a shorter pop edit of the original lyrics. Also in 1950 crooner Billy Eckstine recorded his rendition, backed by the orchestra of Russ Case, with these 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 wrongly accredited to Winterhalter.
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. "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.
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.
Other notable versions
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.
- Tammy Wynette recorded the song.
- A 1960 version recorded by the Browns peaked at No. 97 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in December 1960.
- Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles recorded the song in 1963 on Sleigh Bells, Jingle Bells & 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).
- In 2008, a duet of the song by Elvis Presley and Martina McBride featured on the album Christmas Duets and reached #36 on the US Country Chart. It was also included on a re-released version of McBride's White Christmas album in 2013, entitled The Classic Christmas Album.
- Jon Bon Jovi covered it on the A Very Special Christmas 5 compilation, released in 2001.
- A comedic version was recorded in 1984 by Denny Brownlee in a stuttering voice resembling cartoon character Porky Pig, though the recording credits him as "Seymour Swine." The recording was originally done for the John Boy and Billy Show, and is still played on radio stations during the winter holiday season.
- Cyndi Lauper released a digital single of the song in 2011.
Use in film and television
- In 1974, the song was featured in the children's Christmas special The Year Without a Santa Claus.
- In the 2007 movie The Number 23, the Dean Martin version is playing on the radio in the scene where Walter Sparrow (played by Jim Carrey) prepares for his job's Christmas party on December 23.
- 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). McGinty's version is included in Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Volume 2.
- In 2015, the Dean Martin version was also used in Wild Card, starring Jason Statham.
- 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 8 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.
- Billy Eckstine, All Of My Life, Jasmine 2-CD set, 2008, featuring a photo of the actual single
- "Elvis SongPedia, Blue Christmas".
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 25. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- Mike Parker (December 17, 2013). "A Conversation with Denny Brownlee". Examiner.com.