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.
1. “(All I Want To Do For Christmas Is To) Lay Around And Love On You” by Chick Willis (Ichiban, 1991). Funky rhythms and predictable lyrical lechery.
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?
5. “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley (RCA Victor, 1964). Way, way better than the 1947 version by Ernest Tubb.
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
10. “Christmas Boogie” by Canned Heat, with The Chipmunks (Liberty, 1968). Alvin, Simon, and Theodore meet up with Bob “The Bear” Hite, Al “Blind Owl” Wilson, and rockin’ Henry Vestine.
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.
15. “Christmas Morning” by Titus Turner (Okeh, 1952). Drinking and making merry on December 25th.
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).
19. “Christmas Tears” by Freddie King (Federal, 1961). Smoky, sad song for the season.
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.
23. “Dig That Crazy Santa Claus” by The Brian Setzer Orchestra. A Stray Cat meets St. Nick (Surfdog, 2005).
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.
29. “Five Pound Box Of Money” by Pearl Bailey (Roulette, 1959). Sassing and scolding, pleading and promising, Pearl makes her Christmas request crystal clear.
30. “Five Pound Box Of Money” by Michelle “Evil Gal” Willson (Rounder, 1995). Delirious update of Pearl’s deliciously materialistic desire from Kris Kringle.
31. “Green Chri$tma$” by Stan Freberg (Capitol, 1958). Proof in parody that Christmas capitalism is, unfortunately, nothing new.
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.
35. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by John Cougar Mellencamp (A&M, 1987). A truly rocking version of the humorous tale about childhood interpretations of parental behavior on Christmas Eve.
36. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by Homer and Jethro (RCA Victor, 1953). Where are Pinkard and Bowden when they’re really needed?
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.
39. “I Want Elvis For Christmas” by The Holly Twins (Liberty, 1956). Eddie Cochran plays guitar and impersonates The King on this Bobby Darin-Don Kirshner composition.
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.
47. “Jingle Bell Jamboree” By Keb’ Mo’ (Epic, 1994). Vivid description of the Moore family gathering at Christmas performed by young master Kevin.
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.
50. “Jingle Bells” by Booker T. and The MG’s (Stax, 1966). Memphis groove on this bell-ringer.
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.
56. “Merry Christmas Darling” by The Fabulous Thunderbirds (Epic/Legacy, 1986). Kim Wilson longs to reunite with his long-lost lover for a holiday celebration.
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!
59. “Nuttin’ For Christmas” by Barry Gordon with The Art Mooney Orchestra (MGM, 1955). The holiday equivalent of “Yakety Yak” or “Summertime Blues.”
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.”
61. “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” by David Bowie and Bing Crosby (RCA, 1982). Remarkable odd couple vocal pairing from Der Bingle’s 1977 TV special “Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas.”
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.
66. “Rockabilly Christmas” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (Big Bad/Vanguard, 2004). Swinging band greets the sleigh bell season.
67. “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee (Decca, 1960). Little Miss Dynamite ruled the ’60s holiday charts with this December dazzler.
68. “A Roly Poly (Rockin’ Rollin’ Santa Claus)” by Linda Lee Nichols (Gardena, 1960). That man ... The Fat Man.
69. “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” by The Cadillacs (Josie, 1957). Earl “Speedoo” Carroll rocks Gene Autry’s novelty hit.
70. “Run Rudolph Run” by Chuck Berry (Chess, 1958). Rock’s poet laureate converts Gene Autry’s red-nosed hero into a mastermind of maneuvering metropolitan freeways while delivering Santa to homes.
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.
73. “Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt (RCA Victor, 1953). Not even Madonna’s 1987 version can match the suggestive tone of this former Catwoman.
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 ...
76. “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” by Elvis Presley (RCA Victor, 1957). Now this is Eartha Kitt’s kind of Santa Claus!
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.
79. “Santa Claus Is Watching You” by Ray Stevens with The Merry Melody Singers (Mercury, 1962). Paranoia strikes deep, especially after the hefty Sears catalog arrives.
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.
83. “Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy” by Buck Owens and His Buckaroos (Capitol, 1965). The Bakersfield interpretation of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”
84. “Santa’s A Fat Bitch” by The Insane Clown Posse (Island, 1997). Guess who’s getting nothin’ for Christmas?
85. “Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag” by Gary Walker (Jin, 1965). Lyrical revision of James Brown’s funky hit depicts a very hip Fat Man doin’ the jerk and the twist, just like this.
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.
88. “Silent Night” by Huey “Piano” Smith and The Clowns (Ace, 1961). Banned from radio airplay.
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.
92. “There’s A New Kid In Town” by Kathy Mattea (Mercury, 1993). Sly reference to The Eagles’ secular hit of 1976.
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.
95. “Twistin’ Bells” by Santo and Johnny (Canadian American, 1960). The Farina Brothers sleepwalk through this dancing version of “Jingle Bells.”
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).
97. “White Christmas” by The Drifters, featuring Clyde McPhatter and Bill Pinckney (Atlantic, 1954). Irving Berlin’s contribution to the holiday songbook gets an R&B update.
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.
99. “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” by The Brian Setzer Orchestra (Surfdog, 2008). Dr. Seuss gets a Stray Cat’s treatment.
100. “Yulesville” by Edward “Kookie” Byrnes (Warner Brothers, 1959). Hipster interpretation of holiday happiness. GM