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|
|Elvis' Christmas Album track listing|
|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 "quail 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 rock band The Beach Boys recorded a version featuring Brian Wilson on lead vocals, releasing it in the United States on November 16, 1964, in two separate formats simultaneously:
(a) the B-side of "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 US Christmas charts, but did not chart in the UK.
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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.
- 1960: The Browns' version peaked at No. 97 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in December 1960.
- 1963: Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles on their album Sleigh Bells, Jingle Bells & Bluebelles
- 1970: Tammy Wynette on the album Christmas with Tammy
- 1982: Shakin' Stevens' version peaked at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart
- 1990: John Denver on the album "Christmas, Like a Lullaby"
- 1995: Collective Soul on the album "You Sleigh Me!" (various artists)
- 2001: Jon Bon Jovi on the album A Very Special Christmas 5 (various artists)
- 2008: Martina McBride's virtual duet with Elvis Presley on the album Christmas Duets reached No. 36 on the US Country Chart (also included on a re-released version of her 2013 album White Christmas entitled The Classic Christmas Album)
- 2016: Loretta Lynn included a cover on her album White Christmas Blue.
- 2016: The Lumineers did a cover.
- 2016: Black Stone Cherry did a cover.
List of versions: Doyle O’Dell 1948, Ernest Tubb 1948 #1 (Country Western Juke Box Chart), Hugo Winterhalter 1948 #9 (DJ’s most played chart), Russ Morgan 1948 #11, Billy Eckstine 1950, Elvis 1957, 1964 #1, 1968 (live), Johnny Mathis 1958, Pat Boone 1959, The Platters, The Browns 1960, Bobby Vee 1962, Jim Reeves 1963, Patti LaBelle 1963, Johnny Cash 1963, Brenda Lee 1964, Beach Boys 1964 #3 (Christmas Charts), Skeeter Davis, Jimmy Dean 1965, The Ventures 1965, Dean Martin 1966, Tammy Wynette 1970, Johnny Cash and the Statler Brothers 1976, Willie Nelson 1979, Marie Osmond 1979, Shakin’ Stevens 1982, Merle Haggard 1982, Ann & Nancy Wilson (Heart) 1992, Wynonna 1993, Jerry Lee Lewis 1993, Engelbert Humperdinck 1996, Mickey Gilley, Ray Stevens as Porky Pig, Vince Gill 1998, Celine Dion 1998, Boxcar Willie, Ringo Starr 1999, Bruce Springsteen 2000, Jon Bon Jovi 2001, Brooks and Dunn 2002, Peter Cetera with daughter Claire 2004, Billy Idol 2006, Andy Williams, Anne Murray 2008, Martina McBride (w/Elvis’ version) 2008 #36 (Country), Michael Buble 2011, The Dogs D'Amour (as a free download) 2012, Kelly Clarkson, Big & Rich 2013, Asleep At The Wheel 2015, Loretta Lynn 2016 15th most performed Xmas song. Best selling Xmas album of all time: 15 million
In film and television
- 1974: In the children's Christmas special The Year Without a Santa Claus
- 2007: In the movie The Number 23, the Dean Martin version is playing on the radio in the scene where Jim Carrey's character prepares for his job's Christmas party on December 23
- 2009: Elvis' version was used in a TV commercial for Verizon Wireless
- 2011: Damian McGinty's character sings the Elvis version in the Glee episode "Extraordinary Merry Christmas"; it's included in Glee: The Music, The Christmas Album Volume 2
- 2015: the Dean Martin version is used in the film 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.
- "russmorganorchestra Resources and Information". Russmorganorchestra.com. Archived from the original on 2012-02-16. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
- 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". Elvissongpedia.greggers.net. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 25. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- "Glee". Wetpaint.com. Retrieved 2016-09-27.