Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (song)

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"Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
Picture sleeve of children's series 10" single released by Columbia Records (MJV-56)
Single by
from the album Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special
B-side "If It Doesn't Snow on Christmas"
"Here Comes Santa"
"Here Comes Santa Claus"
Released September 1, 1949[1]
Format 7", 10"
Recorded June 27, 1949[1]
Genre Christmas
Length 3:10
Label Columbia 38610
Columbia MJV-56
Columbia 4-38610
Columbia 33165
Challenge 1010
Challenge 59030

"Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is a song written by Johnny Marks based on the 1939 story Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer published by the Montgomery Ward Company.


In 1939 Marks' brother-in-law, Robert L. May, created the character Rudolph as an assignment for Montgomery Ward, and Marks decided to adapt the story of Rudolph into a song. Marks (1909–1985) was a radio producer who also wrote several other popular Christmas songs.[2]

The song had an added introduction, stating the names of the eight reindeer which went:

"You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?"

The song was sung commercially by crooner Harry Brannon on New York City radio in early November 1949,[citation needed] before Gene Autry's recording hit No. 1 in the U.S. charts the week of Christmas 1949. Autry's version of the song also holds the distinction of being the only chart-topping hit to fall completely off the chart after reaching No. 1. The official date of its No. 1 status was for the week ending January 7, 1950, making it the first No. 1 song of the 1950s.[3]

The song was also performed on the December 6, 1949, Fibber McGee and Molly radio broadcast by Teeny (Marion Jordan's little girl character) and The Kingsmen vocal group. The lyrics varied greatly from the Autry version.[citation needed]

Autry's recording sold 1.75 million copies its first Christmas season, eventually selling a total of 12.5 million. Cover versions included, sales exceed 150 million copies, second only to Bing Crosby's "White Christmas".[4][5]

Other notable recordings[edit]

  • 1950: The song was recorded by Bing Crosby. His version reached No. 6 on Billboard magazine's Best Selling Children's Records chart and No. 14 on Billboard's pop singles chart that year.[6]
  • 1950: Spike Jones and his City Slickers released a version of the song that peaked at No. 7 on Billboard magazine's pop singles chart and No. 8 on Billboard's Best Selling Children's Records chart.[7]
  • 1960: The Melodeers released a doo-wop version of the song that peaked at No. 72 on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 singles chart.[10]
  • 1968: The Temptations released a version of the song that peaked at No. 12 on Billboard magazine's special, year-end, weekly Christmas Singles chart (this same version later got as high as No. 3 on the same chart in December 1971).[13] Their version of the song was also included on the group's 1970 Christmas album, The Temptations Christmas Card.
  • 1977: Filipino singer Rico J. Puno covered the song for his holiday album, Christmas.
  • 1979: Paul McCartney recorded an instrumental version of the song under the title Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reggae. It was released as the B-side of his first Christmas hit, Wonderful Christmastime.
  • 1985: Ray Charles recorded the song for his holiday album The Spirit of Christmas.
  • 1985: Corey Hart performed the song live at a concert held at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in August 1985. The special collector's edition clear red vinyl 45-rpm single was released in October of that year.
  • 1997: RuPaul recorded a version of the song with altered lyrics for the album Ho, Ho, Ho.
  • 2011: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and Goofy sing their version of the song in the Disney Karaoke Series: Christmas Favorites album.
  • 2012: Rapper DMX performed an a cappella version of the song with his own ad-libs.[15]

In popular culture[edit]

The lyric "All of the other reindeer" can be misheard in dialects with the cot–caught merger as the mondegreen "Olive, the other reindeer", and has given rise to another character featured in her own Christmas television special, Olive, the Other Reindeer. (She mentions Rudolph by name to one of the reindeer, and the reindeer tells her that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer doesn't exist; it's all an urban legend.)

The song in its Finnish translation, Petteri Punakuono, has led to Rudolph's general acceptance in the mythology as the lead reindeer of Joulupukki, the Finnish Santa.

On the December 23, 2011, edition of WWE SmackDown, Booker T sang a capella the parody of the song, "Cody the Red-Nosed Reindeer", with a reference to Cody Rhodes, in order to cost Rhodes the match against Zack Ryder.

The series of light novels Sword Art Online has a chapter named "The Red-Nosed Reindeer" after the song, due to a character of the series singing the song by the end of the chapter.[16]


  • ASCAP Work ID: 480058686 (ISWC: T0701273995)
  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Kim, Wook (December 17, 2012). "Yule Laugh, Yule Cry: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Beloved Holiday Songs". Time. Archived from the original on December 21, 2014. 
  3. ^ Casey Kasem American Top 40 April 8, 1979
  4. ^ Badger, Reid; Salem, James (December 22, 1996). "America's Holiday Sound– Distinctive artists". The Tuscaloosa News (Google News). Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  5. ^ Jackson, Kenneth T. (August 15, 1998). The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Volume 1. Gale. p. 550. Retrieved October 17, 2013. , while Autry's version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" sold more than 12.5 million copies 
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 31. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  7. ^ Whitburn p. 43
  8. ^ Whitburn p. 36
  9. ^ Whitburn p. 25
  10. ^ Whitburn p. 49
  11. ^ Whitburn p. 18
  12. ^ "'Burl Ives' Billboard 200". 
  13. ^ Whitburn p. 61
  14. ^ Whitburn p. 42
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Sword Art Online Volume 2, Chapter 4.". 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Mule Train" by Frankie Laine
U.S. Billboard Best Sellers in Stores number-one single
January 7, 1950 (Gene Autry)
Succeeded by
"I Can Dream, Can't I" by The Andrews Sisters