That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 32: A Merry Christmas to All
2002 was a bumper crop year for CDB albums. First, the mega Gospel collection, ‘How Sweet the Sound: 25 Favorite Hymns and Gospel Greats,’ then ‘Redneck Fiddlin’ Man’ and finally ‘A Merry Christmas To All.'
It was dad’s second Christmas album, the first one being back in 1990 – which is still one of my all-time favorite Christmas albums.
This album is different in that most all of the album consists of traditional Christmas songs than on ‘Christmas Time Down South,’ which was mostly original material, but there are still a few CDB originals on ‘A Merry Christmas To All.’
The band, Blue Hat Records distributor and the production team stayed the same, and dad wore a Santa suit on the cover.
On to the music.
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” kicks off this collection.
For someone who is known for rowdy uptempo rockin’ songs, he proves – yet again – that he can do soft and tender, even if most people don’t realize it.
This is the first of several songs that were made famous by Bing Crosby on this album. It was originally released in 1943 and made tit to the top ten, but it has been covered by everyone from Elvis to Johnny Mathis, Kelly Clarkson and countless others.
It’s one of those perennial Christmas songs that never goes away.
It’s about someone far away from home, who promises they will be home for the holiday, but they may only be home in their dreams.
It’s the longing for loved ones that they may not get to see this year.
It was actually written three years before it was originally recorded. It appears it was deemed too sad for a Christmas song, and then World War II happened.
Bing’s version captured the feelings of soldiers who weren’t able to be home with their families and became a massive hit.
Next up is “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” another Christmas standard that has been covered more times than you can count.
It was originally recorded by Judy Garland, but Frank Sinatra had a big hit with, but well-loved versions have been recorded by Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Pentatonix, Ella Fitzgerald, Michael Bublé, Whitney Houston, and that’s just scratching the surface.
It’s a sweet and hopeful Christmas wish for better times ahead.
Dad will never be known for his softer side, but he pulls it off beautifully, and Taz punctuates the song with perfect dashes of tinkling ivories.
One interesting note, dad changes the line that is most associated with the song, “through the years we all will be together if the fates allow.” Dad changes it to “if the time allows,” I was surprised to learn that the way it was originally written was “if the Lord allows.” I think if dad had known that, he would have probably gone with that line instead.
Dad’s favorite Christmas song is next up, “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” which he also recorded back for ‘Christmas Time Down South.’
The arrangement is not that different from the 1990 version, but both work well.
While it may not have much religious significance, dad always thought this song captured the magical feeling of the Christmas spirit better than any other song.
“O Little Town of Bethlehem” begins with an acoustic guitar version of the song with dad reading from the Christmas story in Luke 2 before going into the beautiful carol about Jesus’ birth in that sleepy little town.
The spoken word part goes perfectly with song. My favorite version of the song goes to Nat King Cole on what was dad’s favorite Christmas album. Nat’s is my second favorite… one guess which one is my favorite.
“Jesus is the Light of the World” was originally written and recorded for ‘Christmas Time Down South’ – and for those of you still trying to guess what my favorite Christmas album is, that’s one big HINT!
The song retells the story of Jesus’ birth and events leading up to that wonderful night and proclaims rightly that Jesus is the light of the world, and that when he grew up he “set the captives free” and healed the sick and raised the dead and caused the blind to see, and “the best part is even though He’s gone away, He’ll be coming back someday.”
Come quickly, Lord.
Dad takes “Blue Christmas” and practically turns it into “Blues Christmas.”
I’ve heard many versions of the song, from Elvis to Brenda Lee, to Sheryl Crow, Johnny Mathis to a stuttering Porky Pig impersonator perform the song, but I’ve NEVER heard it like this before.
Knowing how much dad loved Elvis, I halfway expected dad’s version to have that sort of groove and feeling, instead, it sounds like it could be from the Stevie Ray Vaughan Christmas album.
It’s got some majorly screamin’ guitars for a Christmas song.
“Blue Christmas” is a melancholy song anyway, but dad pushes on into that “the blues ain’t nothing but a good man feelin’ bad” range and embraces it head on.
That idea carries over onto the last song on this album.
“God Bless the Mother” is a CDB original Christmas song. It’s a Christmas blessing for the parents of our brave men and women serving in the military who wouldn’t be home for the holidays.
A blessing to the parents who raised their children to believe that freedom is precious, and that there are still some things worth fighting for.
As most of you know, dad had a soft spot for our heroes, and “let’s say a prayer to the Lord above that they’ll all be home next year.’
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is a favorite of children everywhere. The Rankin/Bass TV special came out the year I was born, so I’ve never known a world without Rudolph.
Dad said when he was on the road and the animated Christmas specials, Rudolph, Frosty, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and such would be airing while he was on the road in a hotel room,he would get really homesick for mom and me.
Just a quick bit of trivia about the song, Gene Autry almost didn’t record it. The song written by Johnny Marks and based on a department store giveaway children’s book (written by Marks’ brother-in-law) captured the heart of Gene’s wife, who urged him to cut the song. He did, as the last song in the session, if I’m not mistaken, but it would go on to be the second best-selling Christmas song of all time after “White Christmas.”
Dad’s version is a fast and bouncy take on the classic Christmas song with no real liberties taken with the arrangement, but it’s sure to bring a smile.
“Frosty the Snowman” is also fast, bouncy and fun. Technically it’s not a Christmas song as there’s no mention of the holiday, but it’s still a classic. Dad does his best to tie it to Christmas as he ad libs during the song fading out, “Goodbye Frosty! See you next year! Say hi to everyone at the North Pole!”
Christmas song or not, who doesn’t love Frosty?
“What Child is This” is based on the English folk song, “Greensleeves,” which dates all way back to the 1500s. This version is strictly instrumental, so there’s not much to talk about except the beautiful acoustic guitar work and a hint of fiddle, then a full string section. It’s a beautiful rendition
Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” is the best-known and best-selling Christmas songs of all time. Again, Bing Crosby is synonymous with this classic song, but dad sounds perfectly at home doing this style. In fact, the more I listened to it, the more I like it. Dad won’t ever replace Bing Crosby as the best-known singer of this song, but he is very sincere in his performance.
‘A Merry Christmas to All’ ends with a bang. “It’s Bad to Have the Blues (At Christmas Time) is about a man whose wife leaves him at Christmas time, but not only has she taken his money, and his big screen TV, she even took the Christmas tree.
How very Grinchy of her.
The man calls up his buddy who he lent $50 the previous week to see if he can pay up, but his buddy was about to call him to see if he could borrow $50 because as he put it “I can’t even pay attention, that’s how broke I am.”
A very nice B3 solo by Taz, and some hard-driving guitar solos punctuate the bluesy tune, and as he says so accurately, it’s bad to have the Christmas time.
Amen, been there, done that.
Dad dedicated the album to everyone who loves Christmas as much as he did. He dressed as Santa on the album cover, and he was as jolly, loving and generous as old St. Nick himself, and he’s truly missed year-round, but his absence is especially more pronounced during the holidays.
This album is a nice bit of CDB holiday cheer, and I thought it important to try to finish this soapbox before Christmas, so if you’ve never heard ‘A Merry Christmas to All,’ you might want to check it out HERE
Next, the CDB spreads Freedom and Justice For All!
What do you think?
Let’s all make the day count!
Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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