Blue Christmas (song)

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"Blue Christmas"
Elvis Presley Blue Christmas 2.jpg
Single by Elvis Presley
from the album Elvis' Christmas Album
B-side "Wooden Heart" (447-0720)
"Santa Claus Is Back in Town" (447-0647)
Released November 9, 1964 (1964-11-09) (447-0720)
November 26, 1965 (1965-11-26) (447-0647)
Format 7-inch
Recorded September 5, 1957 (1957-09-05), Radio Recorders, Hollywood, California
Length 2:07
Label RCA Victor 447-0720
RCA Victor 447-0647
  • Billy Hayes
  • Jay W. Johnson
Elvis Presley singles chronology
"Ain't That Loving You Baby" /
"Ask Me"
"Blue Christmas"
"Do the Clam"
Elvis' Christmas Album track listing
"Blue Christmas"
Single by The Beach Boys
from the album The Beach Boys' Christmas Album
A-side "The Man with All the Toys"
Released November 9, 1964 (1964-11-09)[1]
Format 7-inch
Recorded June 24, 1964 (1964-06-24) – June 28, 1964 (1964-06-28)[2]
Length 4:41 (for both songs)
Label Capitol Records
  • Billy Hayes
  • Jay W. Johnson
Producer(s) Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Dance, Dance, Dance"
"The Man with All the Toys"
"Do You Wanna Dance?"

"Blue Christmas" is a Christmas song written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson and most famously performed by Elvis Presley. It is a tale of unrequited love during the holidays and is a longstanding staple of Christmas music, especially in the country genre.

Initial recordings and major versions[edit]

The song was first recorded by Doye O'Dell in 1948,[3] and was popularized the following year in three separate recordings: one by country artist Ernest Tubb, one by musical conductor and arranger Hugo Winterhalter and his orchestra and chorus, and one by bandleader Russ Morgan and his orchestra (the latter featuring lead vocals by Morgan and backing vocals by singers credited as the Morganaires).[4] Tubb's version spent the first week of January 1950 at No. 1 on Billboard magazine's Most-Played Juke Box (Country & Western) Records chart, while Winterhalter's version peaked at No. 9 on Billboard's Records Most Played by Disk Jockeys chart and Morgan's version reached No. 11 on Billboard's Best-Selling Pop Singles chart.[5] Both Morgan's and Winterhalter's versions featured a shorter pop edit of the original lyrics. Also in 1950 crooner Billy Eckstine recorded his rendition, backed by the orchestra of Russ Case, with these shortened lyrics in a variation close to what is now the common standard for this song; the orchestral backing of this recording has often been wrongly accredited to Winterhalter.[6]

Elvis Presley cemented the status of "Blue Christmas" as a rock-and-roll holiday classic[7] by recording it for his 1957 LP Elvis' Christmas Album. Presley's version is notable musicologically as well as culturally in that the vocal group the Jordanaires (especially in the soprano line, sung by Millie Kirkham) replace many major and just minor thirds with neutral and septimal minor thirds, respectively.[citation needed] In addition to contributing to the overall tone of the song, the resulting "blue notes" constitute a musical play on words that provides an "inside joke" or "quail egg" to trained ears.[citation needed] "Blue Christmas" was also included on a 1957 45 EP (Extended Play) entitled Elvis Sings Christmas Songs (EPA-4108), which also included "Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me)" on side one, with "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas" on side two. Presley's original 1957 version was released as a commercially available single for the first time in 1964. This single was also a hit in the United Kingdom, reaching No. 11 on the British singles chart during the week of 26 December 1964.[citation needed]

The rock band The Beach Boys recorded a version featuring Brian Wilson on lead vocals, releasing it in the United States on November 16, 1964, in two separate formats simultaneously:
(a) the B-side of the "The Man with All the Toys" single.
(b) a track on The Beach Boys' Christmas Album.
The Beach Boys' version reached No. 3 on the US Christmas charts, but did not chart in the UK.[citation needed]

Other notable versions[edit]

Following the success of Presley's version, the song has been recorded by a host of rock and country artists, as well as some working in other genres.

List of versions: Doyle O’Dell 1948, Ernest Tubb 1948 #1 (Country Western Juke Box Chart), Hugo Winterhalter 1948 #9 (DJ’s most played chart), Russ Morgan 1948 #11, Billy Eckstine 1950, Elvis 1957, 1964 #1, 1968 (live), Johnny Mathis 1958, Pat Boone 1959, The Platters, The Browns 1960, Bobby Vee 1962, Jim Reeves 1963, Patti LaBelle 1963, Johnny Cash 1963, Brenda Lee 1964, Beach Boys 1964 #3 (Christmas Charts), Skeeter Davis, Jimmy Dean 1965, The Ventures 1965, Dean Martin 1966, Tammy Wynette 1970, Johnny Cash and the Statler Brothers 1976, Willie Nelson 1979, Marie Osmond 1979, Shakin’ Stevens 1982, Merle Haggard 1982, Ann & Nancy Wilson (Heart) 1992, Wynonna 1993, Jerry Lee Lewis 1993, Engelbert Humperdinck 1996, Mickey Gilley, Ray Stevens as Porky Pig, Vince Gill 1998, Celine Dion 1998, Boxcar Willie, Ringo Starr 1999, Bruce Springsteen 2000, Jon Bon Jovi 2001, Brooks and Dunn 2002, Peter Cetera with daughter Claire 2004, Andy Williams, Anne Murray 2008, Martina McBride (w/Elvis’ version) 2008 #36 (Country), Michael Buble 2011, Kelly Clarkson, Big & Rich 2013, Asleep At The Wheel 2015, Loretta Lynn 2016 15th most performed Xmas song. Best selling Xmas album of all time: 15 million

In film and television[edit]


  1. ^ Badman, Keith. The Beach Boys. The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band: On Stage and in the Studio Backbeat Books, San Francisco, California, 2004. ISBN 0-87930-818-4 p. 72
  2. ^ Badman, Keith. The Beach Boys. The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band: On Stage and in the Studio Backbeat Books, San Francisco, California, 2004. ISBN 0-87930-818-4 p. 58
  3. ^ Greene, Andy (30 November 2011). "Readers' Poll: The Best Christmas Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner. Retrieved 8 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "russmorganorchestra Resources and Information". Archived from the original on 2012-02-16. Retrieved 2016-09-27. 
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 50,62. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  6. ^ Billy Eckstine, All Of My Life, Jasmine 2-CD set, 2008, featuring a photo of the actual single
  7. ^ "Elvis SongPedia". Retrieved 2016-09-27. 
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920-2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 25. ISBN 0-89820-161-6. 
  9. ^ "Glee". Retrieved 2016-09-27. 

External links[edit]