Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas Eve, Eve and Song

Christmas is nearly upon us, which means it must be time for another medley of festive classics from the Big Band period of the 1930s-1950s.  I seriously thought 2012 would be the final time I'd be able to do one of these posts, seeing as Yuletide tunes from that time were thin on the ground anyway and I had all but exhausted both my knowledge and YouTube's.  I've dug deep this year, though, and consequently am able to bring you another selection of seasonal songs from our favourite eras. 

Little information seems to be available about Jimmy Ray & his Orchestra, which is a shame as these two Christmassy numbers - both recorded at the same session on the 19th November 1937 - are a couple of topping tunes.  I Want You For Christmas also appeared in my festive post from 2011 when I featured the Dick Robertson version; it must have been a popular standard of the late Thirties as it was also recorded around the same time by Russ Morgan and Mae Questal - but I think I'll keep those in reserve for next year if you don't mind!

Recorded nearly a year later on the 11th November 1938 (Don't Wait 'Til) The Night Before Christmas is another rare Christmas-titled tune by Sammy Kaye and his orchestra (styled "Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye"), the vocals taken by The Three Barons - a singing trio from Cleveland, Ohio (Howard Greene, Edward Parton and Joe McGhee) who also performed as The Three Riffs.

Christmas just isn't Christmas without a Crosby song or three but although Bing has rightly endured and remains popular to this day, his bandleader brother Bob is less well-known now.  It's only fair, then, to include his orchestra's recording of Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow from early in 1946 when the song was riding a crest following Vaughn Monroe's chart-topping version.

Although not expressly mentioned on this YouTube video, Bob Eberly was most closely associated in the 1930s, 1940s and early '50s with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra so it's a fair bet that's who's playing here.  Bob Eberly was in fact a brother of Ray Eberle, the singer with Glenn Miller and his Orchestra (it was Bob who actually recommended the young Ray to Glenn when the latter was looking for a new lead vocalist in 1938).  You can certainly hear the similarity!

I was somewhat surprised that Artie Shaw didn't get in to the Christmas music act until the early 1950s, but this version of Jingle Bells from August(!) 1950 is the only example I can find from that otherwise popular bandleader (although there may be others that I've yet to discover).  Leaning more towards the really big band sound of the Fifties it nevertheless retains enough of Shaw's trademark sounds to make it worthy of inclusion here.

It only remains, then, for me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  I hope you all have a ripping time and, for those of you in the UK, batten down the hatches and stay safe from that awful winter weather we're all due to get later today (and that goes for anyone else in the world experiencing the worst of the hiemal conditions).  I may return briefly on Christmas Day itself but in the meantime I hope Father Christmas visits you all and leaves you lots of presents (I can't wait to see what we all get, myself)!  Enjoy the music!


  1. Merry Christmas to you too, Bruce! Did you watch the Len Goodman programme on the Great British Dance bands last night? As I was watching I thought, "I bet Bruce is enjoying this too!" Definitely going to be one of the highlights of my Christmas, that one...

    1. Merry Christmas Mim!

      I saw that the Len Goodman Big Band programme was on BBC4 last night, but I ended up instead watching a recording of the Cary Grant-David Niven film The Bishop's Wife that was on BBC2 earlier. Thank goodness for iPlayer, 'tis all I can say. Glad to hear it's a good'un (better than a "SEVEN!", I'll warrant).

  2. Wonderful songs of the season.

    I used to play Sammy Kaye, Big Crosby, Perry Como and many others on old 1/4 inch (6mm) thick 78s and even newer 78s -- that were not made for a Victrola -- all on my Grandfather's old Victrola.

    I find it hard to beat many of those old Big Bands. Too bad the recording techniques of the time did not enable recordings to be made with better frequency response. (Although if a 78 in good condition was found fidelity was quite good even on a Victrola)

    To top it off my Trumpet teacher was R.W. Brown (Les Brown's Dad (Les Brown and His Band of Renown -- not the rapper fellow).


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