One of the joys of being a collector of Christmas material is the large number of different categories in which you can specialize. Decorations, lights, advertisements, wrapping paper, miniature figures for Christmas village scenes, creche figures or Coca-Cola material. The list is endless.
One area that will provide a lifetime of searching is Christmas records. Christmas singles and albums recorded and released in the last 90 years would fill a very large book. From 1926-1957, favourites of the Christmas season were released on heavy 78RPM records. Sold singly or in many instances in full albums that contained two, three, or four records. The 78s were eventually replaced by the vinyl long-playing 331/3RPMs. In addition, many Christmas single hits after 1949 were issued on the popular 45RPM vinyl records.
Christmas records have been recorded by famous artists, unknown artists, groups, and many were instrumental with full orchestras or just organ and chimes. After World War II, Christmas was recognized by companies, department stores, and other organizations as a perfect way to not only advertise their product, but to provide customers with records as a thank you gift for purchasing automobile tires, batteries, phonographs, or making purchases at a specific store. It was an advertising tool to create repeat customers, not only in the holiday season, but for the rest of the year...
Some holiday movies were created around certain songs that would remind the viewer of the good times of Christmas past and present. The movie and the songs would often become a seasonal favourite. The popular Christmas song received its greatest boost during World War II with the introduction of "White Christmas". The song was written by Irvin Berlin in 1940. Its fame came about when Bing Crosby sang it in the 1942 musical movie Holiday Inn. He sang it as a duet with Marjorie Reynolds and the song won an Academy Award in 1943. What everyone thinks of as the original recording of "White Christmas" is not in fact the original, but a second recording made on March 19, 1947. The master of the original had been copied so many times that it was no longer useable. So Bing Crosby had to record a second one and it is this master recording that is heard every holiday season.
On October 4, 1943, Bing Crosby recorded "I’ll Be Home For Christmas" with the John Trotter Orchestra for Decca Records. It shot to number three on the charts and stayed there through the Christmas season, and remains a Christmas favourite. "I’ll Be Home For Christmas" became the most requested song by soldiers and their loved ones back home during World War II. Both of these hits from more than 70 years ago continue to be heard each holiday season.
In 1949, the first releases of Christmas favourites were produced on the new vinyl. 45RPMs - Christmas Hymns and Carols appeared on RCA records. It was a special 45RPM set of red vinyl records sold or given out by the local RCA authorized dealers. The RCA Red Seal Record has crossover appeal for the collector of Christmas records or the collector of company advertising material. Into the early 1950’s, vinyl 45RPM sets began to replace the heavy 78RPMs.
With the end of World War II the Baby Boom was under way, and Christmas records began to be focused on the millions of new children in the United States and Canada. In December, 1949 the big hit was "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" sung by Gene Autry. The song was based on a story by Robert May, which he had written for his young daughter to assist her in coping with the death of her mother in 1938. May worked for the Montgomery-Ward Department Store chain and when he read his story at a party, the company purchased it and put it in a comic book, which was given to children after their visit to Santa Claus at the department store. Eventually when Robert May fell on hard times, the company returned the rights to the story to him. (I don’t believe that would ever happen today.)
Millions of children grew up listening to "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", the next year Gene Autry had a second hit with Frosty the Snowman. The song on the B side of the record was "When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter". Children’s records were produced throughout the 1950’s on various labels and connected to popular children’s television shows. In 1953 "Howdy Doody and Santa Claus" was released by RCA. All the famous characters from the show were heard on the record. Children’s records were manufactured in bright red and yellow colours. Peter Pan Records released many Christmas records for children in the 1950’s and 60’s. One of the singing groups was the Caroleers who later put out their own 331/3RPM Christmas album.
Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s hundreds of Christmas records were issued each season by such artists as Johnny Mathis, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, The Norman Luboff Choir, Loretta Lynn and Elvis Presley. My favourite was the singing dogs barking Jingle Bells. I can remember my little cousin broke the record and then we spent the afternoon trying to glue it back together with Elmer’s Glue. It did not work. A friend has informed me she and her siblings wore out "Alvin and the Chipmunks." The magic of the holiday season is everyone has a favourite song which takes them back to a special place in time. It’s what makes Christmas special.
Other albums were issued by such companies as Goodyear Tire, Firestone Tire, A&P Grocery stores. The albums were issued through company outlets. RCA continued to issue 45RPMs with four songs on each featuring their famous artists Perry Como, The Ames Brothers, Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole.
As for the acceptable conditions of a record, it depends on the collector. Some collect just for the album cover, others are more interested in actually playing the records. Christmas albums can be found at yard sales, second hand stores, flea markets from 25 cents to a few dollars. The material is unlimited.
Merry Christmas - my favourites are "Silver Bells" and the "Christmas Song".
A short list of some Christmas favourites and the year that each was released:
- 1942 "Happy Holidays"
- 1946 "The Christmas Song"
- 1947 "Here Comes Santa Claus"
- 1950 "Silver Bells"
- 1951 "It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas"
- 1954 "There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays"
- 1957 "Jingle- Bell Rock"
- 1957 "The Little Drummer Boy"
- 1958 "The Chipmunk Song"
- 1962 "Do You Hear What I Hear"
- 1963 "It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year"