Christmas Every Day: December (for reals)

Some stalwarts want the Christ back in Christmas, but talking in code has always helped the faithful keep track of who really knows what. December is a wink and a nod to you-know-who you-know-when (and if you don’t, i’m not telling).

For example “The Last Month of Year” is a fine gospel number represented by many great groups. It lets you know when J-Baby arrived. Of the many elevating versions i like the reincarnated Elvis, Chris Isaak, howlin’ on it.

Reverently, Cyndi Lauper (really!) croons to the baby “December Child.” Don’t fall asleep yet….

Obliquely, “One Day in December” takes us around the world celebrating that one holiday. If you don’t the one, Sid the Science Kid can clue you.

Rooftop uses modulated rap to get out his message: “This December” will no longer be camouflaged as a month, it’s about that King of Kings guy.

Taking off The Four Season’s ‘Oh, What a Night’ funny Christian rockers AplogetiX play parodeus with the vagaries of day and year on the Holy Bearing with “December 5 or 6 B.C.” Wry, guys.

More Christian rock from Collective Soul, who feel the need to wrap their questioning search for faith in parable and riddle. “December” rattles about like a prancing pony-led carriage..

Ready to jive, hepcats? Well, The Flashcats count it down to “December 25” set to a happenin’ bit of music you might recognize. This swings a bit more secular… but, baby, it swings! And check out the killer compilation album Mambo Santa Mambo.


Baby It’s Cold: 1953 charcoal ‘n chalk

The fusion of black doo wop and country swing hasn’t quite happened to make bona fide rock ‘n’ roll yet. So let’s check out the unsegregated part of town. It’s pretty swell.

One of the biggest deals in music overall, and a hugely successful ‘crossover’ to the white side of the music world, Louis Armstrong, churned out hits in the ’20s and ’30s. By 1953 his “Christmas Night in Harlem” and “Cool Yule” are nice enough tunes by that old guy.

For those who dig their blues unadulterated with that fancy jazz syncopation, Lightning Hopkins tears himself up for “Merry Christmas.” Damn. Look out, whites.

Phil Moore was a movie studio style acceptable black man. His Phil Moore Four had that ‘in’ and were able to keep from bleaching their sound, yet play to everyone. “The Blink Before Christmas,” b/w “Chinchy Old Scrooge” lay down the black and raise up the Beat (Generation). Xmas don’t get much cooler.

The most acceptable black man in music, Nat King Cole, plays it completely mainstream with “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” (featured in the documentary ‘Jingle Bell Rocks‘) (Flipside “Mrs. Santa Claus“). Poor may be read as code for black, but with NKC race is hardly an issue.

Here on the cusp of rock ‘n’ roll, we simply must give doo wop its due. 1953 is early in the meteoric rise of The Moonglows to pop iconography. Still covering Doris Day and the McGuire Sisters, they slip in some danceable yule tunes:  “Just a Lonely Christmas” and–it should be on everyone’s top twenty of happenin’ Santa songs–“Hey Santa Claus.” Dig THAT.

Country music generally recycles holiday standards tried and true from the previous decade (or century). But as we approach nascent RnR, and rockabilly is nearing the middle class, young and old are hearkening to Nashville’s original noises.

Korean War soldier Faron Young took over, when Eddie Fisher was discharged, as Army pop songster. His yodeling honky tonkin’ “You’re the Angel on My Christmas Tree” was recorded before his discharge a year later. Smooth and sultry.

Standing up for The Grand Ole Opry, Red Foley puts cowboy range (not quite a yodel up and down the octaves) with “Put Christ Back into Christmas.” Hey, it’s not just the 21st Century that disregards religious sanctity!

But, if you want to hear rock ‘n’ roll about to happen, check out Hank Snow with “The Reindeer Boogie.” The Yodeling Ranger clawed his way up to Nashville from Nova Scotia (steer clear of his horrific bio if you can) and has been credited with putting Elvis on that stage. Get your fast dancing shoes on.

A Month of Love: Ebonaires

After WWII young men began to take nothing for granted, but find their own way… you know the greatest or next to generation or sumpin. Doo wop grew out of this pushiness. Jazz and blues came together in perfect harmony, keeping time on the downbeat. It’s a leader of musical styles, the grampa of R&B.

I’d tell you more about the Ebonaires if i could. Their song “Love for Christmas” will speak for them. It’s from the early ’50s.