Merry, rockin’ sleigh rides at home

Published 6:33 pm Tuesday, December 10, 2019

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I’ve had some fun this year developing a few top-10 lists on different subject matters. The most recent of those dealt with my top 10 “One Hit Wonders” from individual artists or bands.

With that in mind – plus the fact that we’re two weeks away from Christmas – I wanted to share my top 10 songs dealing with the most wonderful time of the year.

So…..drumroll please….here are my rankings (starting at the bottom and building unbridled excitement as we ascend up the list to number one:

“Merry Christmas from the Family” this one may not rank on anyone else’s list (top 10 or even a top 1,000) but the humorous lyrics (written and performed by alternative Country artist Robert Earl Keene) are, while a bit on the distasteful side, something many can relate to when it comes to dysfunctional families.

“Blue Christmas” sung by the “King” – Elvis Presley, was released in 1957. It was written in 1948 by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson and recorded by several other artists, to include country crooner Ernest Tubb, prior to Presley’s version nine years later. The King’s bluesy version makes the listener think about all those individuals whose hearts will be sad over the holidays because they are alone or thinking of lost loved ones at what it supposed to be a joyous time of the year.

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” written by Meredith Willison in 1951 has been a hit for multiple artists over the years. My favorite versions are by Perry Como (1951) because of listening to it over and over as a child (either on an album or from my dad trying to sing it) and Johnny Mathis (1986).

“All I Want for Christmas is You” although this song was first released by Carla Thomas – aka the Queen of Memphis Soul” in 1966, the most well-known version is from 1994 performed by Mariah Carey. It’s cheerful and upbeat….no wonder it’s the best-selling Christmas single of all time by a female artist.

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” became an instant classic when Brenda Lee first sang it way back in 1958. Believe it or not, but she was only 13-years-old at the time and went on to become a legend in Country Music. What you may not know about this song are the legendary musicians backing up Lee’s vocals: Hank Garland and Harold Bradley on guitar, Floyd Cramer on piano, Boots Randolph on sax, Bob Moore on bass, and Buddy Harman on drums.

“Merry Christmas in Dixie” released in 1982 by perhaps the greatest Country Music band of all time – Alabama. Any song with Randy Owens on lead vocals is an instant classic (that guy could sing the dictionary and it would soar on the music charts). I love the line – “it’s snowing in the pines” – as it allows my mind to drift to the peaceful scene of the fluffy particles filling the farm fields and woods of the south….a place where we don’t experience a lot of snow.

“The Christmas Song” most think this 1946 classic sung by Nat King Cole, one of my favorite artists of all time, is entitled “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Here’s another neat fact about this particular song. It was written by Bob Wells and Mel Torme during the hot months of summer in their effort to “stay cool by thinking cool.” Once the writers came up with lines such as “Chestnuts roasting; Jack Frost nipping; Yuletide carols; and Folks dressed up like Eskimos”….they completed the song’s lyrics in less than one hour.

“Sleigh Ride” is another song that was written (this one by Leroy Anderson) during the heat of summer (July of 1946). This upbeat song has been covered by many artists, to include The Andrew Sisters, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Carpenters. My favorite version is by Johnny Mathis, recorded in 1958.

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” the sheer power of Darlene Love’s voice is enough to land this song in my top 10 list. And just how popular is this holiday classic that was released in 1963? Consider this….in 2016 it was among the top 50 songs played on the radio during the Christmas season.

“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” – released in 1943 by the legendary crooner Bing Crosby. The song was written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent as a tribute to our brave soldiers who were putting their lives on the line for our freedom during World War II and longed to be back home for the holidays.

Okay….that’s my top 10. Let me hear from you on what your favorites are.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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