Blue Christmas (song)
|Single by Elvis Presley|
|from the album Elvis' Christmas Album|
|Released||November 9, 1964 (447-0720)|
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.
Elvis Presley versions
original 1957 version
Sourced from Keith Flynn.
- Elvis Presley - lead vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar
- Scotty Moore - lead guitar
- Bill Black - double bass
- D. J. Fontana - drums
- Dudley Brooks - piano
- The Jordanaires - backing vocals
- Millie Kirkham - backing vocals
1968 live version
Sourced from Keith Flynn.
- Elvis Presley - lead vocals, electric rhythm/lead guitar
- Scotty Moore - acoustic rhythm guitar
- Charlie Hodge - backing vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar
- D. J. Fontana - percussion
- Alan Fortas - percussion
- Lance LeGault - tambourine, possible backing vocals
Other charting versions
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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. The following are charting recordings.
- 1960: The Browns' version peaked at No. 97 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in December 1960.
- 1982: Shakin' Stevens' version featured on The Shakin' Stevens EP which peaked at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart
- 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)
- 2012: Blake Shelton recorded a cover backed by the Pistol Annies for his Cheers, It's Christmas album.
- 2016: Loretta Lynn recorded a cover which appeared on her White Christmas Blue album.
- 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.