Monday, December 10, 2012

25 Days of Holiday Music: Day 10

Our 10th holiday song this month was written by the songwriting duo of Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson. Don't worry if you haven't heard of them. Today's song is probably the best-known tune in their collective catalogs. That is, unless you count "Who Shot the Hole in My Sombrero?" by Hayes. (Yes, he wrote a sombrero song. But, no, I'm kidding about it being well-known or even popular).

Christmas is sold as a time when friends, family, and loved ones gather en-masse. But for many people, Christmas is a lonely time, and perhaps no holiday song tells the tale of unrequited love better than Hayes and Johnson's "Blue Christmas." It was first recorded by country artist Doye O'Dell in 1948. Within a few years, the song became a fixture in holiday music rotations with recordings by several artists.

In 1957, however, "Blue Christmas" gained crossover appeal. That is when Elvis Presley recorded a version for Elvis' Christmas Album. Musically, Elvis' cover of "Blue Christmas" is interesting because it is a "blue" song -- or, rather, it makes use of "blue notes," particularly in the backing vocalists' part. "Blue Christmas" was not a single when first released on Elvis' Christmas Album. But the 1957 version was released as a single in 1964 and peaked at #11 in the UK. It did not chart in the US. But don't you worry about Elvis: Elvis' Christmas Album (1957) is the best-selling Christmas/holiday album of all time in the United States (as least as of 2008).

And just because I can, here is Elvis with a live performance of "Blue Christmas." This video includes a slight flub on the King's part, but no blue noting background singers. 

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