Holiday greetings from Kentucky! My name is Will; I teach math at a small college and have been blogging about music and personal history at The Music of My Life since July. HERC asked me recently if I would make a guest contribution to the Christmas festivities here at the Hideaway—I’m more than pleased to oblige!
One of the most important pieces of furniture at my house, when I was growing up, was Dad’s cabinet hi-fi. I don’t know when he got it—probably the late 50s or early 60s. My first memories of it are from somewhere around 69 or 70, while we were living in Stanford, KY. In June 72, we moved to Walton, 20 miles south of Cincinnati, and the hi-fi resided in the living room for the duration of our 11 years there. It somewhat resembled this:
This is a Zenith, and I’m thinking that’s what Dad had as well. It had the capacity to hold multiple LPs on the spindle above the album currently playing, waiting to be dropped one at a time. It also had an adaptor that would slide over the spindle when you wanted to play 45s. I’m sure my sister and I mistreated the needle time and again, but we used it quite a lot. By the time I was in high school, one of the speakers was going bad. My folks must have gotten rid of it when they moved the ten miles to Florence in 83. I still miss it.
Every December while we were in Walton, Dad would fish out some of his Christmas albums from the basement and we’d listen to them on that hi-fi. The two I most remember were from Mitch Miller and the Gang. One, 1958’s Christmas Sing-Along with Mitch, featured mostly religious Christmas music.
Amy and I, however, favored the more secular Holiday Sing Along with Mitch, from 1961.
This album truly contains the Christmas songs of my youth.
Fifteen years ago or so, I came across a CD version of Holiday Sing Along in a cut-out bin in Lexington—it was an immediate must-buy! I make sure to play it pretty much every year now, but I know my son won’t have the associations with it that I do.
All but one of the songs on Holiday Sing Along are still standards, fairly likely to show up on your generic modern-day Christmas album. The exception, though, is one of my very favorites. I don’t know why it’s not all that popular—it’s a call-and-response number, and the chorus builds from verse to verse, not entirely unlike “The Twelve Days of Christmas”—maybe that’s a little tiring? A couple of weeks ago, I looked to see what other versions exist. I was surprised to learn that the main alternative to Mitch’s take comes from Bob Dylan.
So, here’s the apparently-not-all-that-often-heard “Must Be Santa.”