Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
There’s something about Christmas music that’s great to listen to. Whether you’re in the car, wrapping gifts, baking cookies, or just relaxing by the fire or tree, the Christmas sounds are a seasonal wonder.
But, as the kids discussed on the Old “American Bandstand,” can you dance to it?
This week we continue our Christmas series with holiday dancing selections.
Let’s begin with some rock and roll.
Chuck Berry first recorded this song back in 1958 and it’s been covered many times by other artists.
From the Country Music Association’s Christmas TV Show in 2010…
That’s a true rocker, ideal for your Christmas sock hop.
So is our next selection that would also qualify given this rendition as a chance to show off your swing moves.
Brenda Lee did the original in 1958. Only 13 at the time Lee possessed a powerful, dynamic voice that sounded like one belonging to an older adult.
Lee was born in an Atlanta, Georgia, charity hospital as World War II was nearing an end. She weighed a mere four pounds. The tallest she ever became was 4′ 9″. Living in a house with no running water and sharing a bed with two siblings her only social salvation was using that amazing voice in church, belting out solos by the age of three.
As word spread about this young phenom Lee got recognized by radio and record producers. The Decca label wanted her to record “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” written by Johnny Marks.
In October of 1958 Lee was brought into a Nashville studio for the recording that didn’t get underway until midnight, many hours past her normal bedtime. The final take on the record was finished in less than an hour.
Decca was positive it was a hit. Disc jockeys preferred Christmas songs at the time by Elvis and Bobby Helms and turned their backs and ears on Lee’s effort. It sold less than 5,000 copies.
Then came 1960. Now 15 years old, Lee struck paydirt with “Sweet Nothings” that made it into the Top 10. A few months later Lee hit #1 with “I’m Sorry.” In the fall, she went to #1 again with “I Want To Be Wanted.”
Hmmm. Decca had the hottest female act in the country. So they released “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree ” again. It’s now the the fourth bestselling Christmas single of all time.
Once again, from the CMA Christmas Show in 2010…
Question. Did anyone ever say no to Frank Sinatra? If they did I bet it didn’t happen that often.
In 1954, Sinatra asked composer Jule Styne to come up with a new Christmas song. Styne then went to lyricist Sammy Cahn who thought a waltz would be a different concept.
The final product generated wonderful images of the season.
Sinatra included the song on the flip side of his version of “White Christmas” and on Christmas albums released in 1957 and 1968.
It’s now a Christmas standard.
In 2001 Hallmark featured Amy Grant on their annual Christmas CD sold in stores. She brought along a special guest on one of the tracks.
Bobby Vinton had 30 Top 40 songs in the 1960s and 1970s, and 24 of his albums made the Billboard Top 200. Vinton’s love songs appealed to not only young fans, but their parents as well.
Stanley Robert Vinton was born in 1935 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. The gifted child played clarinet, then the trumpet in a band he put together in high school. Some of the band members told Vinton he should sing, but Vinton was interested in band music. His ensemble played at college events and dances in the Pittsburgh area while he attended Duquesne University.
A local disc jockey, Dick Lawrence liked Vinton’s vocalizing and made some demo tapes that found their way to the Epic label where Vinton was offered a contract.
At first Vinton recorded two band music albums that didn’t do so well. Epic wanted to dump Vinton who realized his contract gave him the opportunity to record two more songs.
Vinton made it clear to Epic he wanted to sing. Epic wasn’t thrilled about the idea but eventually agreed.
Epic’s new singer went to #1 with “Roses Are Red” in 1962 and hit #1 again in 1963 with “Blue Velvet,” and “There! I Said It Again.” The following year Vinton hit the top of the charts again with “Mr. Lonely.”
No more band music for Vinton. He left the group to go solo.
Then came the British Invasion. Like other American acts Vinton suffered, but stuck around, parting ways with Epic to go to ABC records where in 1974 he proudly wore his Polish heritage on his sleeve, thanks to his mother.
“I came home from a tour in Italy and I made a record in Italian,” Vinton said. “My mom was in the audience and I sang it, but she seemed upset. She was pouting.
“I said, ‘Mom, what’s wrong?’
“She said, ‘How come you can make a record in Italian but you can’t make a Polish record?’
“I said, ‘Mom, they don’t make Polish hit records.’
“Well, why don’t you try and make one?’”
His single “My Melody of Love,” made the Top Ten and struck gold.
Vinton’s career was rejuvenated. He got his own syndicated television series, The Bobby Vinton Show, which remained on the air from 1975 to 1978.
Ever since he’s remained active, performing in concert.
And yes, he’s done Polish Christmas songs, perfect for a polka!
Time for slow dancing, with a bossa nova flavor.
This dates back to 1954 and Perry Como and revisited nicely by pianist Beegie Adair. For the holidays you can’t beat this chestnut.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
Why not go out and buy a CD with music you won’t hear on the radio this Christmas season.
We close with a fast ballroom dance featuring a quick three-step movement.