By B. Lee Cooper
Enduring yuletide hymns, like “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night,” and endearing holiday hits, such as “White Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “The Christmas Song,” ruled America’s airwaves every December throughout the mid-20th century. Of course, everything — including Christmas recordings — changed when rock ’n’ roll emerged. A menagerie of mistletoe melodies began to appear on the radio and on turntables across the United States. Bing Crosby, Perry Como, The Andrews Sisters and Gene Autry yielded their monopoly on holiday hit territory to an array of new musicians, who in turn opened the doors for yet another generation of artists. The following alphabetical list of Christmas songs spotlights a wide variety of holiday tunes released over the past seven decades that are worthy of a spin at your next holiday party or gift-wrapping blitz, or when you’re just tired of hearing the same handful of songs on the radio.
2. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” by Ray Charles and Betty Carter (ABC-Paramount, 1962). Soulful revival of the 1949 Frank Loesser tune.
3. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” by Vanessa Williams and Bobby Caldwell (Mercury, 1996). Sultry exchange sizzles.
4. “Back Door Santa” by Clarence Carter (Atlantic, 1968). Is Santa’s first name really Jody?
6. “Blues For Christmas” by John Lee Hooker (Hi-Q, 1960). No expectation of a future duet with Andy Williams on this tune.
7. “A Bluesman’s Christmas” by Coco Montoya (Alligator, 2003). Musical life on the road at Christmas is terrible.
8. “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” (Rhino, 1990) by The Inner Voices. Female doo-wop delicacy about Kris Kringle.
9. “Christmas Blues” by Canned Heat (Liberty, 1968). Lonesome boogie
11. “Christmas (Comes But Once A Year)” by Amos Milburn (King, 1960). Famous Amos begs Santa for presents.+
12. “Christmas Day” by Detroit Junior (Foxy, 1960). Holiday happiness is a pocket of cash and a sweet young thing.
13. “Christmas Dragnet — Parts I and II” by Stan Freberg, with Dawes Butler (Capitol, 1953). Sgt. Joe Friday of … “Yulenet?”
14. “Christmas Fais Do Do” by Marcia Ball (Alligator, 2003). Buckle up for a Cajun-style Christmas party.
16. “Christmas Pretty Baby” by Blues Boy Willie (Ichiban, 1997). Longing for a gorgeous gal on Christmas Day.
17. “Christmas Snow” by Michael Burks (Alligator, 2003). Absentee guitar-slinger whose love is as pure as …
18. “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)” by Natalie Cole. Like father, like daughter, like Mel Torme (Elektra, 1991).
20. “Christmas Time Is Here” by The Vince Guaraldi Trio. Jazzy instrumental holiday tune forever linked to Snoopy and the Peanuts gang (Fantasy, 1967).
21. “Christmas Train” by Carey Bell (Alligator, 2003). Harmonica wizard riding the rails back home
22. “Deck The Halls With Boogie Woogie” by Katie Webster (Alligator, 1992). Piano-pounding version of the traditional tune.
24. “Duke’s Christmas” by Duke Robillard (Stony Plain, 2000). Jazzy treatment for a medley of holiday songs.
25. “Empty Stocking Blues” by Floyd Dixon with Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers (Aladdin, 1950). Alone on Christmas Eve after being deserted by his girlfriend.
26. “(Everybody’s Waitin’ For) The Man With The Bag” by The Brian Setzer Orchestra (Surfdog, 2008). Brassy take on Kay Starr’s homage to Santa’s annual midnight escapades.
27. “Far Away Blues (Xmas Blues)” by The Johnny Otis Orchestra, with Little Esther and Mel Walker (Savoy, 1950). Another blue, blue, blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas tune.
28. “Fattening Up The Turkey” by Dave Hole (Alligator, 2003). Slide guitarist bemoans flirtatious female behavior.
30. “Five Pound Box Of Money” by Michelle “Evil Gal” Willson (Rounder, 1995). Delirious update of Pearl’s deliciously materialistic desire from Kris Kringle.
32. “Happy Christmas Tears” by Little Jimmy King with The Memphis Horns (Bullseye Blues, 1995). Guitar-punctuated tale of Christmas joy.
33. “Hot Rod Sleigh” by Toby Keith (Polydor, 1995). NASCAR-related transportation for Santa.
34. “I Farted On Santa’s Lap (Now Christmas Is Gonna Stink For Me)” by The Little Stinkers (Beltrami, 2002). Gift-giving is a gas.
37. “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas” by Gayla Peevey (Columbia, 1953). Now that’s thinking BIG!
38. “(I Want A) Rock And Roll Guitar” by Johnny Preston (Mercury, 1960). A bystander hears a child’s Christmas wish.
40. “I Want My Baby For Christmas” by Jimmy Liggins and His Drops Of Joy (Specialty, 1950). And so does every other lonely blues and R&B singer.
41. “I Was A Bad Boy This Year” by The Tractors (Audium, 2002). But he still got an electric guitar from daddy.
42. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by The Pilgrim Travelers (Specialty, 1952). Gospel rendition of a seasonal classic dedicated to mother.
43. “I’m Your Santa” by Lil’ Ed and The Blues Imperials (Alligator, 1992). Ed Williams offers to provide special Christmas cheer for his sweet Baby.
44. “(It Must’ve Been Ol’) Santa Claus” by Harry Connick Jr. (Columbia, 1993). Who was that red-clad, bearded dude eating cookies and sipping milk beside the Christmas tree?
45. “It’s Christmas Time” by The Five Keys (Aladdin, 1951). Seasonal follow-up to “The Glory of Love”
46. “Jingle Bell Boogie” by Big Jack Johnson (Rooster Blues, 1990). Guitar boogie salute to the yuletide classic.
48. “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms (Decca, 1957). Can you believe that the B-side of this holiday classic was “Captain Santa Claus (And His Reindeer Space Patrol)”?
49. “Jingle Bells” by Les Paul (Capitol, 1951). The Wizard of Waukesha left Mary Ford on the sidelines during this fascinating instrumental sleigh ride.
51. “Just A Lonely Christmas” by The Moonglows (Chance, 1953). A “Sincerely” great R&B Christmas ditty.
52. “Let’s Make Christmas Merry, Baby” by Amos Milburn and His Aladdin Chicken Shackers (Aladdin, 1949). The marvelous Mr. Milburn was so ahead of his time, he cut this cool tune before rock and roll took off in the 1950s.
53. “The Little Drummer Boy” by Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band (A&M, 1987). A friendly hijacking of the Harry Simeone Chorale classic.
54. “Merry Christmas Baby” by Booker T. and The MG’s (Stax, 1966). Guitarist Steve Cropper pecks out a moody, soulful version of this much-admired holiday tune.
55. “Merry Christmas Baby” by Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band (Columbia, 1986). The Boss borrows his soulful arrangement from the 1968 Otis Redding version.
57. “Merry Merry Christmas Baby” by Margo Sylvia and The Tune Weavers (Class Artists, 1988). Holiday-oriented re-working of the delightful 1957 “Happy Birthday” hit.
58. “Monster’s Holiday” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers (Garpax, 1962). A holiday celebration fit for a king — well, Stephen King!
60. “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” by Bob Rivers and Twisted Radio (Atlantic, 1993). Traditional hymn lyrics sung to the melody of “House Of The Rising Sun.”
62. “Please Come Home for Christmas” by The Eagles (Asylum, 1978). Tasteful revival of the 1960 Charles Brown tune.
63. “Please Let Me Be Your Santa Claus” by William Clarke (Alligator, 1992). Bluesy begging for holiday companionship.
64. “Really Been Good This Year” by Saffire — The Uppity Blues Women (Alligator, 2003). Less-than-honest claims of good behavior designed to prompt Santa to deliver many, many presents.
65. “Rock And Roll Christmas” by George Thorogood and The Destroyers (Rounder, 1995). Powerhouse rock ’n’ roll salute to Santa and the glorious days of Christmases past.
67. “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee (Decca, 1960). Little Miss Dynamite ruled the ’60s holiday charts with this December dazzler.
69. “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” by The Cadillacs (Josie, 1957). Earl “Speedoo” Carroll rocks Gene Autry’s novelty hit.
71. “Sandy Claw Stole My Woman” by Bobby Parker (Black Top, 1995). You just can’t trust anybody! Hope he returns her by New Year’s Eve!
72. “Santa Ain’t Jivin’” by The Shadows (Ichiban, 1997). Gifts reserved for naughty-but-nice girls.
74. “The Santa Claus Boogie” by The Tractors (Arista, 1994). Magnificent studio band tribute to — who else — The Man With The Bag.
75. “Santa Claus Got Stuck (In My Chimney)” by Ella Fitzgerald (Decca, 1950). Don’t even ask …
77. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ (In A Boogie Woogie Choo-Choo Train)” by The Tractors (Arista, 1995). Another audio example of rejecting Rudolph in favor of more high-tech travel.
78. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” by Bruce Springsteen (Columbia, 1985). When The Boss says, “You better watch out!” he really means it.
80. “Santa Claus, Santa Claus” by Louis Jordan (Pzazz, 1968). A plea for the jolly old elf to deliver … a new female companion.
81. “Santa Claus Wants some Lovin’” by Albert King (Stax, 1974). High expectations for pre-Christmas bedtime rewards.
82. “Santa, I Want A Stratocaster” by The Excellos (Ichiban, 1997). Suffering from adolescent guitar envy, the singer promises that he’ll sting it if Santa will bring it.
84. “Santa’s A Fat Bitch” by The Insane Clown Posse (Island, 1997). Guess who’s getting nothin’ for Christmas?
86. “Santa’s Messin’ With The Kid” by Eddie C. Campbell (Mr. Blues, 1977). Santa enters with a private key, puts Eddie’s wife on his knee, drinks all the eggnog and is generally disrespectful.
87. “Shimmy Down The Chimney (Fill Up My Stocking)” by Alison Krauss (Capitol, 2004). An uninhibited country gal’s invitation for an all-night celebration.
89. “Sleigh Ride” by The Ventures (Dolton, 1965). Bob Bogle and Don Wilson provide a surfing guitar version of this 1951 Leroy Anderson chestnut.
90. “Spending Christmas with The Blues” by Floyd Miles and Gregg Allman (King Snake, 1996). Terrific guitar solo over a lyrical tale of no mistletoe, no Christmas gifts and no holiday loving.
91. “Stay A Little Longer, Santa” by Shemekia Copeland (Alligator, 2003). A loving invitation for Kris Kringle to relax after a long, cold night of gift-giving.
93. “There’s Trouble Brewin’” by Jack Scott (Groove, 1963). Santa’s paying too much attention to the pretty girls again.
94. “’Twas The Night Before Christmas” by Louis Armstrong (Brunswick, 1977). Not a creature was stirring as Ol’ Satchmo recited this well-known tale.
96. “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” by King Curtis (Atco, 1968). Silky smooth, jazz-oriented saxophone rendition of The Orioles’ 1949 doo-wop classic (with a tip of the hat to composer Frank Loesser, too).
98. “Winter Wonderland” by Noble “Thin Man” Watts (King Snake, 1996). Saluting the reign of The Fat Man and his bag of toys, The Thin Man of saxophone fame revisits this holiday chestnut with a Memphis blues style.
100. “Yulesville” by Edward “Kookie” Byrnes (Warner Brothers, 1959). Hipster interpretation of holiday happiness. GM