This collection of sounds spanning the later half of the 20th century has no predetermined theme or flow; it’s a collection of music that has been curated by me and reflects my personal taste toward holiday music. I have never been a huge fan of traditional Christmas music, but occasionally I am surprised by a specific performance or recording. Enjoy!
A Gift for You From Phil Spector (Phillies Records, 1963)
It’s always lovely weather for the Ronettes. I think this album was one of the first things I heard as a child that got me excited about Christmas and wasn’t Vince Guaraldi. This recording reminds me of days when it actually snowed at Christmas and lots of hot chocolate was consumed.
“Back Door Santa” (Atlantic, 1968)
This song found its way into my life as a young adult, when I purchased this 45 at a used bookstore. It floored me because it contained an original horn track that was used by Run-D.M.C. on “Christmas in Hollis.” This scorcher is a great song for the dance floor at any Christmas party.
Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers
“Merry Christmas Baby!” (1947)
Fortunately, this 45 got a proper re-release in 1975 for future fans of the great Charles Brown. This beautiful blues ballad is sure to warm the heart at Christmas time. (Also recommended: the Otis Redding version, recorded in 1967 for ATCO. Pure gold.)
Nat King Cole
“The Christmas Song” (Capitol, 1946)
One of the most famous songs on this mix. The version that is widely known was an updated recording from 1961. I would like to thank Wong Kar-wai for creating the experience I associate with this song today.
“I’d Like You for Christmas” (Liberty Records, 1957)
This is another warm, saucy piece of beauty written by London’s husband Bobby Troup. London’s voice on this recording is simply stunning.
“Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis”
Blue Valentine (Asylum Records, 1978)
Over the years, I have heard my name in countless songs, but this one always hits me the hardest. Tom Waits never ceases to stop creating conversations that have helped me get through life. This LP is a deserted-island record for me and will continue spinning in my home for the rest of my days.
Christmas (Kranky, 1999)
Sorry, but I must put Elvis aside for this one. This sparse, beautiful piece of magic is the only version of this song for me. Early Times and hot water recommended with some honey and lemon.
“Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas” (Atlantic, 1963)
Another soulful song from an amazingly talented woman. Certain to brighten any Christmas celebration.
Champion Jack Dupree
“Santa Claus Blues” (Joe Davis Record Company, 1945)
Good luck finding one of these 78s lying around. But, fortunately for us, songs like this have been released on collections over the years. Classic piano blues by this New Orleans musician is sure to spice things up this Christmas.
“Santa Claus” (Damaged Goods Records, 1992)
One of my favorite bands from the neo-garage movement is Thee Headcoatees. This Christmas slant on the song “Farmer John”—recorded by the Premiers in 1964—features all the fuzz you need for any rocking party. Don’t forget the PBR.
“Trim Your Tree” (Gem Records, 1954)
Warning: This song insinuates things that might be deemed inappropriate for family time. That being said, enjoy the party.
“Truckin’ Trees for Christmas”
Truckers’ Christmas (Capitol, 1973)
A song about a trucker who hauls trees for Christmas down a mountain every year. Happy Appalachian Christmas, everyone.
“Christmas (Comes But Once a Year)” (King Records, 1960)
Another smooth vocal treatment over some rockin’ riffs and bell sounds. This song was actually released on the B-side of Charles Brown’s recording of “Please Come Home for Christmas.” These guys seemed to be having a lot of fun cutting this one.
“Mr. Santa Claus (Bring Me My Baby)” (Fortune Records, 1962)
Another Northern-soul scorcher full of high-energy Detroit madness. The most important thing on the Christmas list for sure.
The Vince Guaraldi Trio
“Christmas Time Is Here”
A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy, 1965)
Nothing really needs to be said for this—it speaks volumes for itself.