"Silver Bells" was first performed by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in the motion picture The Lemon Drop Kid, filmed in July–August 1950 and released in March 1951. The first recorded version was by Bing Crosby and Carol Richards, released by Decca Records in October 1950. After the Crosby and Richards recording became popular, Hope and Maxwell were called back in late 1950 to refilm a more elaborate production of the song.
"Silver Bells" started out as the questionable "Tinkle Bells." Said Ray Evans, "We never thought that tinkle had a double meaning until Jay went home and his first wife said, 'Are you out of your mind? Do you know what the word tinkle is?'" The word is slang for urination.
This song's inspiration has conflicting reports. Several periodicals and interviews cite the writer Jay Livingston stating that the song inspiration came from by the bells used by Santa Clauses and Salvation Army people on New York City street corners. However, an interview with co-writer Ray Evans to NPR said that the song was inspired by a bell that sat on Ray and Jay's shared office desk.
In the original version the lyrics were "Hear the snow crunch, see the kids bunch, this is Santa's big day" but was later changed to "Hear the snow crunch, see the kids bunch, this is Santa's big scene".
- "The Lemon Drop Kid" in The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures (online database).
- "Record Reviews", Billboard, Oct. 28, 1950, p. 40.
- Furia, Philip and Lasser, Michael (2006). America's Songs: The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley. Routledge. p. 233.
- American Songwriter Magazine. July–August 1988.
We wrote a song called 'Tinkle Bell,' about the tinkly bells you hear at Christmas from the Santa Clauses and the Salvation Army people. We said 'this is it, this will work for the picture,' so I took it home and played it for my wife. She said 'you wrote a song called 'Tinkle Bell'? Don't you know that word has a bathroom connotation?' So I went back to Ray the next day and told him we had to throw the song out, and we did.
- Silver Bells Songfacts
- What's in a song? 'Silver Bells' — NPR interviews the author Ray Evans, with audio.
- Lyrics to Silver Bells
- Piano Sheet Music to Silver Bells
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics