“Christmas Is Just Around the Corner/Let Every Day Be Christmas in Your Heart” (Valley Records, ca. 1953-54)
Knoxville high-school student Darell Glenn had a legitimate pop hit in 1953, when he was 17, with “Crying in the Chapel,” a song written by his father, Artie Glenn, and issued by the brand-new Valley Records as its first single. But Glenn’s success with the song was overshadowed by a bunch of cover versions that followed—by Rex Allen, Art Lund, Ella Fitzgerald, and, most notably, in 1960, Elvis Presley. Valley Records issued a handful of further singles from Glenn in the year or two after “Crying in the Chapel,” but none had any significant commercial impact. One of those was “Christmas Is Just Around the Corner,” b/w “Let Every Day Be Christmas in Your Heart,” a murkily recorded country-pop number that seems to have disappeared as soon as it was released. It’s nothing special—there’s no surprise in the fact that it wasn’t a hit. But Glenn, who has largely been forgotten, was an important pop pioneer in Knoxville.
Christmas Classics (Rosemary Records, 1981)
Ben Bolt is best known around Knoxville as a teacher. A former student of Andres Segovia, he offered private instruction for a couple of generations of Knoxville guitarists (including Brian Bell of Weezer) and spent more than 20 years on the faculty of Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City. (He’s also published a well-regarded and best-selling line of instructional books and DVDs.) This little seasonal obscurity, released in 1981 on Bolt’s own Rosemary Records, has mostly disappeared—there’s absolutely no evidence of it online, either at Bolt’s own website or archival sites like discogs.com. (Most of the copies in existence seem to circulate among Knoxville’s second-hand stores.)
But it’s a nice little holiday record, goofy cover and all. Bolt splits the difference between John Fahey’s Christmas albums and holiday best-sellers from Windham Hill with elegant, crisp solo guitar versions of classic carols and hymns. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but there’s no schmaltz, either. It’s well worth a couple of bucks.