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December 11, 2019

virtual advent tour 2019: day 11
posted by soe 6:00 am

Virtual Advent Tour 2019

Season’s Greetings! Today is the 11th day on our Virtual Advent Tour. With only two weeks until Christmas Day, I hope your planning is going well and that you are managing to fit in fun amidst the chores. Rudi and I finished decorating our tree tonight while watching an old Yogi Bear/Hanna-Barbera special, and I dug the Christmas cards out yesterday, with the hopes that I can spend some time writing them while Rudi’s out of town for the next week.

Behind today’s door is a post from DOD, my dear old dad, who has once again provided us with some interesting facts about one of our favorite Christmas traditions — music:

Two More for the Ages

It’s always been interesting to me how a song evolves from classical or popular music to become one of the Christmas season’s classics. And we already know that you are not required to write about Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Wise Men, Shepherds, or mangers to have your song be accepted and loved at Christmas time. Having Googled “Christmas songs that don’t necessarily refer to Christmas,” the category and number seem to vary in the area between 12 and 20. Most music fans could readily identify songs such as Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride,” made popular as a holiday song by Arthur Feidler and the Boston Pops, singer/cowboy Gene Autry’s “Frosty the Snowman,” written by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson, and, of course, “Jingle Bells,” a tune James Lord Pierpont, a church organist who was tasked by his minister dad to write a little ditty for Thanksgiving Service (and which of us hasn’t been so tasked).

While it’s tough to say why a song becomes popular enough to move into the Christmas category and be viewed with sanctified awe and respect, we do readily accept those moves. Look what we have accomplished with Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” But I digress. I actually have two songs that did not fall into any of the Google informative paragraphs, but which, if you look into information about either, you will find that those two songs have been accepted as Christmas tunes. Thought I’d run some thoughts by you to see whether you concur. The songs are presents — one each — from the 50’s and 60’s. One came to pop music from folk music and the other from the pop format. Both became increasingly popular through singers of country music, but I would expect to hear either song on any Christmas music-formatted radio station between Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. Although both tunes list a composer and a lyricist, words count, so we’ll be writing about the person who gave us the pleasure of singing along.

In 1957, the Lennon Sisters (Lawrence Welk’s very own) recorded and released a song about a shopper who overhears a little girl standing outside the window of a toy store. The girl is enthralled by a dolly whose sales card reads, Shake me I rattle, squeeze me I cry. Please take me home and love me. While the song does not mention the Christmas season, you should know that it was snowing. The woman recalls an earlier time when she herself was looking in a toy store window at a doll and was a penny short of the price. We don’t know whether she was able to negotiate the purchase, but the woman goes into the shop and buys the doll and sends it home with the little girl. Regrettably, the Lennon Sisters didn’t make the charts with the song. However, in 1963, Marion Worth recorded the song and it made it to the pop charts up to #42. A decade later, Cristy Lane resurrected the song which made it to #16 on the country music charts. Three decades of successful recordings. And Cristy Lane added it to both of her Christmas albums.

“Shake Me I Rattle (Squeeze Me I Cry)” has lyrics by Hal Hackady (1922–2015) who was born in Middletown, CT, and graduated from Wesleyan University. He went on to a career writing tv shows (GE Theater) and Broadway shows (Snoopy, the Musical). He wrote the song “Just One Person” for Snoopy and it was a favorite of the Muppets. It was sung at the funeral of Jim Henson and again in the tv tribute show to Henson. Both performances are available on YouTube, but be prepared to be affected. Hackady sure could write some sensitive music.

On to song 2.

In 1949, Jack Segal (1918–2015) from Minneapolis, Minnesota, spent 15 minutes dashing off a lovely little ballad, “Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair).” Very popular singer Jo Stafford recorded the song in January, 1950, but it didn’t go anywhere. (Some may surmise that it just missed the Christmas season. Could be, could be.) The song sat around the office for a couple of years until Harry Belafonte recorded the tune in 1952. (Yes, Harry also gave rise to Jester Hariston’s “Mary’s Boy Child” later in his career and not part of this story.) “Scarlet Ribbon” was released in 1954 and started its way into our hearts. In 1959, a country group, the Browns, recorded/released the song in November, 1959, just in time for you-know-what holiday. They took the song to #13 on the pop charts and #7 on the country music charts. If you are the person who is not familiar with the song, it describes the plight of a dad who overhears his daughter’s bedtime prayer in which she asks for scarlet ribbons for her hair. Poor day. All of the stores are closed and shuttered — not like these days, eh? — and while he drives around and searches for some ribbons, he finds none. He goes home, peeks in her room and there on her bed are a profusion of scarlet ribbons. He has no idea where they came from, but obviously as a good member of the dad club, he accepts the appearance of the ribbons and knows how happy it will make his daughter. No kidding, I can almost feel those tears welling up now.

The song has been recorded by at least 50 artists; it’s been in tv shows (Wayne Newton sang it on Bonanza), and it was sung by one of the musical acts in something Brian Epstein called Another Beatles’ Christmas Eve Show in 1964. Other artists who have added it to a Christmas album include Burl Ives, Patti Page, Jim Reeves, Michael Crawford, Cliff Richard and Celtic Thunder. If that doesn’t make you want to put it in your next Christmas album, I’ll be surprised.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Merry Christmas, DOD, and thanks for taking part again in this year’s Tour. I always learn so much from the posts you write.

We’ll see you back here tomorrow.

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