Your Christmas tree has been decorated for several weeks. You have completed your gift shopping so that your gifts will be distributed on Christmas Day. Even as adults, some anxiously waited for Santa to come down the chimney early today. I’m here. Once your annual family Christmas dinner is complete, sit down with your family and enjoy the rest of another Christmas. If you have nothing to do, let me suggest a nostalgic he can travel back in time to December 25th.
Over the years, a few days before Christmas, we take a special trip down to the basement to switch records on the jukebox. Dig up the holiday chronicles that make this time of year so special. You may not have a jukebox, but you may have records, cassettes, reel-to-reel tapes or CDs. If so, I invite you to join me for a look back at some holiday recordings I’ve enjoyed in the past. It has contributed greatly to my enjoyment.
Visualize a blue or pink jubilee record label with the group’s name, Sonny Til and the Orioles. Remember this group’s soulful, heartwarming song “It’s Going to Be A Lonely Christmas”? At the time, it was not uncommon for records to be double-sided hits like this one. So if you flip it over, within a week you’ve found another great ballad with a question that plagues many. Makes sentimental and melancholy. If you’re old enough to remember these two songs of hers, allow me to go back in time and see if any other artists or songs ring the bell.
Those like me who appreciate bluesy, intimate and romantic holiday music should remember Billy Ward and his Dominoes and their version of “Christmas in Heaven.” Most people may be too young to remember this vocal his group, but they may be familiar with her two of the popular singers in this group. Remember the name Clyde McPhatter, if not, you probably know the name Jackie Wilson, who was the lead singer of “Christmas in Heaven.” Clyde McPhatter, who later sang with another vocal group, The Drifters, was the lead singer of “White Christmas.” Old-timers may want to find some of these songs to relive and enjoy the good times of the holiday season. I just feel good when I play these songs. It would be wonderful if I could experience Christmas again while listening to this song like I did back then.
Many of us danced to the doo-wop music of vocal groups such as the Penguins and the Moonglows under the red lights of underground parties. How many of you know the penguin’s “Jingle Jungle”? Can you sing a snippet of “Hey Santa Claus” by The Moonglows? And “It’s Christmas Time” by Five Keys. Chuck Berry’s ‘Run, Rudolph Run’; Marvin and Johnny’s ‘It’s Christmas’; Amos Milburn’s ‘Let’s Make Christmas Merry, Baby’; Charles Brown’s ‘Please Come Home For Christmas’; Lowell Fulson’s ‘You and Christmas’ Do you want to spend a night?” Many artists have recorded “Silent Night,” but the names Jerry Butler and Baby Washington pinpoint. Find these songs. Both were doing great at the time.
One of my favorite holiday songs is the 1980 version of “Silent Night” made by The Temptations. Their performances are popular across generations. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the unique and creative style of this song. But what about old songs from the old days with little to no airtime, songs that only surface when a disc jockey traverses memory lane with his Songs of Holidays Past, in an era when Christmas was such a special holiday? How many of these songs do you remember?
Patti LaBelle, an artist with roots in Philadelphia, is loved by many. Her unique style, with the ability to hit extremely high notes, can send chills through her body. Did you know that you thrilled many of us with your holiday song? Her record Her album, Sleigh Bells, Jingle Bells and Bluebelles, was recorded in 1963 at Newtown Recording Studios at 6600 North Broad Street in Philadelphia. This was my favorite then and still is. If you love Patti LaBelle’s music, you can enjoy a walk while reminiscing about her old Christmas and holiday songs.
No matter what era you come from, Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song” bridges the ages. Young and old, you’ve listened and been blown away by his smooth “roosting chestnuts on open fire…”. Only if you were in that era do you remember the godfather of soul, James Brown, singing this same song. James Brown has recorded two of his albums for Christmas, not one. His album, A Christmas Song, in which he performed the songs that Nat King Cole made famous, is always included when looking back at Christmas songs from the past.
So while observing Christmas 2022, you might want to start preparing for Christmas 2023. Then you can turn to collecting music from your past rather than my past. This time next year, your favorite Christmas and holiday music will bring you back to the past, just like I did.
Alonzo Kittrells can be reached at email@example.com or The Philadelphia Tribune (Back In The Day, 520 South 16th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146).