That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 18: Christmas Time Down South
In 1989, the CDB recorded a bunch of Christmas songs for their first Christmas album, but the album, ‘Christmas Time Down South,’ wasn’t released until 1990.
Well, because here’s a little music industry secret… most Christmas albums are recorded in the spring or summer for a release in the fall. But dad didn’t want to do that.
He wanted the Christmas spirit to be strong, so he and the band recorded the songs in December of 1989 for a September release in 1990.
It must’ve worked, because ‘Christmas Time Down South’ is magical. It’s one of my favorite Christmas albums, and yes, I’m sure you could say I’m biased, but it’s still a great album.
Personnel wise, the band lineup remained the same as ‘Simple Man,’ but James Stroud didn’t produce this album. He was pretty busy at the time as he had become one of Nashville’s hottest producers. Lynn Peterzell – who had engineered both ‘Homesick Heroes’ and ‘Simple Man’ - which Stroud produced -took his place for the Christmas album.
It’s also worth noting that despite the band members performing on the album, the label decided to release it as just Charlie Daniels.
And even though many Christmas songs are secular in nature, ‘CTDS’ doesn’t forget that Jesus is the reason for the season.
Onto the music.
The title track, “Christmas Time Down South,” is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It’s just packed with good old-fashioned Southern Christmas cheer, “Christmas time down South and all the joy it’s bringin’, don’t it make you feel like singin’ everybody’s got that holiday feelin’ there just ain’t any doubt,” and the next version of the chorus says “Christmas time down south oh, what a joyous season, never do forget the reason, Jesus Christ was born this day, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Just like Linus said, Charlie Brown.
The song just touches my heart and in years past when things have been hectic during the holidays, as they often are, this song does wonders for getting my heart back in the Christmas spirit.
Next up is “Hallelujah” written by guitar picker Bruce Brown. To my knowledge, this was Bruce’s first cut as a songwriter, but it would not be his last. He went on to co-write a couple of songs with Travis Tritt for his ‘Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof,’ “Wishful Thinking” and “Tell Me I Was Dreaming.” The latter song went to #2 on Billboard’s Country Singles Chart in 1994. Not too shabby.
But “Hallelujah” retells the story of Jesus’ birth with Mary and Joseph making their way to Bethlehem, the shepherds being told of the Savior’s birth, and the wise men who came to see the newborn King.
It’s a powerful song with a catchy melody.
“Little Folks” is another song near and dear to my heart, but this version isn’t the one that means the most to me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful song about children, and it was no doubt inspired in large part by me, but dad recorded the song again for ‘Renegade,’ the next album and things got even more personal, but I’ll talk about that in the next soapbox.
The production on this song has a Christmassy feel to it, but it’s not a straightforward Christmas song. It references Christmas trees, and traditional Christmas is very kid-centric so it works. It just shows that even though dad was never very successful with slower ballad type songs, he could still write them, and write them well.
“Carolina I Hear You Calling” is a derivative version of an older song called just “Carolina.” The original only had one verse and a long instrumental section. Dad added a new first verse and moved the original verse to be the second one. The original was about a musician who longed to go home to his family in Carolina but worries that he’s stayed away too long. The new version adds the twist that it’s because it’s Christmas time that he starts feeling drawn home from his memories of growing up there.
Next up is the beautiful “My Christmas Love Song to You,” which really needs to be covered by someone. It’s a sweet song that captures the magic of a true love during the holidays and “Every year you seem to be more beautiful to me.”
That was my mom and dad’s marriage to a “T,” and something to strive for in my own life.
Next up is “Mississippi Christmas Eve,” an acoustic flavored uptempo with lots of mandolin about the holidays in the Magnolia State, which may not include snow very often or sleigh bells, but that doesn’t mean that the Christmas spirit isn’t just as strong, and the song says if you ever gonna wanna leave, ‘cause there ain’t no place this side of heaven, like my country home on a good old Mississippi Christmas Eve.”
“Jesus is the Light of the World,” is another retelling of the Christmas story which not only talks about the events leading up to Jesus’ birth, it also proclaims – as the title says – Jesus is the light of the world and adds the promise, “and the best part even though He’s gone away, He’ll be coming back someday.”
“Cowboy’s Christmas Gift” is a Christmas wish from a ranch hand who can’t afford any gift for his friend except for well wishes and hopes for a joyous holiday season.
Next up is a song that does mention Christmas, but isn’t necessarily a “Christmas song.” “Carolina, I Remember You” was written about growing up in North Carolina when dad was a boy and “warm lights on a clear night on a cold Christmas Eve.”
It is the same recording from the ‘Full Moon’ album, but with one tweak, the spoken word intro was removed, and the song starts with Taz’s Floyd Cramer inspired piano intro rather than the strings that the one on ‘Full Moon’ does.
The final song on ‘Christmas Time Down South’ is a true Christmas classic, and dad’s favorite Christmas song, Mel Tormé’s “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.)”
Dad loved the Nat King Cole version of the song, and so do I. It’s a Christmas standard, and on my playlist of favorite Christmas songs. Just to slightly nitpick a bit, dad sings “every mother’s child is gonna try to see if reindeer really know how to fly” but the actual lyric is “spy” instead of “try,” but it still works.
Dad does a great job with it, and puts his own spin on it, and he ends the song – and the album – with a heartfelt, “Merry Christmas, everybody.”
As much of a joy this album brings, there were a few things which kind of put a damper on things.
First of all, sadly, producer/engineer Lynn Peterzell passed away four years after the album was released from a heart attack while he was working in the studio. I believe they found him slumped over the mixing board the next morning. He was only 39.
Secondly, the album had the eventual misfortune of being released on September 11, 1990. That in itself wasn’t bad until 11 years later, the significance of the 9/11/2001 attacks would forever overshadow anything good that happened on that day. We always post on anniversaries of album releases, but this one seemed uncomfortable to post for quite a while, but we still post it.
Thirdly, the album didn’t do all that well.
By nature, Christmas albums are seasonal, but the ‘CTDS’ album went cut out pretty quickly, and wasn’t available for a long, long time, even with the advent of iTunes and downloads in the early to mid 2000s, and streaming in the last ten years or so.
The title track was available on a collection of country Christmas songs released through Sony a few years ago, then our Blue Hat Records label licensed the ‘CTDS’ album for a 3-CD collection that was sold through our website and other retail outlets.
After being unavailable for WAY too long, it finally started streaming in 2021. I didn’t even know it had been released until I stumbled across it.
The ‘Christmas Time Down South’ album was dedicated to dad’s employees who kept the CDB rolling along for - at the time - almost 2 decades.
“This album is dedicated to the men and women of the CDB organization who answer the phones, type the letters, write the checks, issue the contracts, do the publishing and put some sanity into the chaos of show business.
Here’s to the ones who tune the guitars, mix the sound, call the lights, check-in and out of the hotels and hump the mountain of equipment back and forth across this continent and no matter how tired, always rise to the occasion.
Here’s to the ones who drive the lonely late-night miles.
Here’s to all you people who take such good care of me. Here’s to my brothers and sisters.
I love you each and every one.“ - Charlie Daniels 1990
Christmas will be here before you know it, and if you have never heard ‘Christmas Time Down South,’ play this during the Holidays. I promise it will bring a smile to your face.
Check it out here: https://smarturl.it/CDB_Christmas
Next time, dad goes “Renegade.”
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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