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Beach Buzz Dec 12

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Many of the songs that we would classify as Christmas Beach music (or Christmas music played within the Beach genre) have been around as far back as the early '50's. In it's heyday, Dr. Chris Beachley and Fessa John Hook's  Rhythm 'N' Beach Weekly Top 40 Countdown, which aired on many radio stations throughout the Southeast, included a Christmas song edition during the month of December. A more recent version of the All Time Beach Christmas Top 40 was published on the inside back cover of Volume 2 of the Fessa's Beach Music Guide. Here's a brief look at the some of the stories behind a few of these tunes.

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#1 All Alone On Christmas – Darlene Love. This rollicking holiday song was written by Steven Van Zandt from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. He and several members of the band actually backed up Love on the recording, which was the featured tune on the 1992 soundtrack for the movie Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. It was not Love's biggest Christmas hit nationally however: that honor belongs to her 1963 smash (Christmas) Baby Please Come Home, which is at #20 on this Top 40 list. Part of Phil Spector's '60's Wall of Sound, the song was originally intended to be recorded by Ronnie Bennett (Spector).  The classic has been covered by literally hundreds of artists over the last almost fifty years.

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#3 White Christmas – The Drifters. This version of the Irving Berlin classic was recorded in 1954, with the group having just survived their first tumultuous year together – lead singer Clyde McPhatter would leave the group to embark on a solo career before the year was over. This was one of the few tunes that the early Drifters recorded together that featured vocals of both McPhatter and  Bill Pinkney. Still one of the most played tunes during the holiday season, the song has also been utilized in several movie soundtracks, including 1990's Home Alone.

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#4 – Christmas Ain't Christmas (Without The One You Love) – The O'Jays. Written at the early stages of their career by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, this has to be one of the most played and most covered Soul/R&B holiday tunes of all time. The O'Jays were just coming of age nationally when they recorded this one in 1969 on Neptune Records.  Gamble and Huff formed the Philadelphia International label soon after, re-releasing a version of the tune by The Ebonys the very next year. The O'Jays would move to the label and go on to great success recording some of their biggest hits there over the next fifteen years.

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#7 – Please Come Home For Christmas – Charles Brown. The late Charles Brown was a tremendous R&B singer/songwriter with a career that began in the mid '40's and lasted up until his passing in early 1999. He may be most remembered, however, for two holiday songs – Merry Christmas Baby, which he co-wrote while with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers in 1947 and the all time classic Please Come Home For Christmas, originally released on the King label in 1960. Cover versions? - You betcha, everybody from The Eagles to Johnny Adams to Toby Keith to Cee-Lo Green, and hundreds in between.

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#9 Silent Night – The Temptations. This is one six minute plus tune that a lot of radio jocks do not mind playing at Christmas time. The Temptations had recorded shorter versions of this all time classic earlier in their careers, however this memorable rendition of the song was included on their 1980 album Give Love At Christmas. By this time Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin were the only original remaining members of the group. Dennis Edwards is heard on the recording as well as the members took turns singing lead on the extended version of the song.

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#12 Blue Decorations – The Embers. This one was from the legendary Beach music group's 1986 Christmas Memories album. The Embers, both then and now, have featured a Christmas show as part of their live repertoire during the month of December. They have also recorded and released several holiday tunes (and albums) in recent years. Their first foray into yuletide songs, however, came just a few years after the band was formed. The group recorded a tune entitled Shimmy Winter Wonderland as The Swinging Embers featuring Jackie Hamilton on Johnny Vincent's Ace Records in 1962.

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#14 (All I Want For Christmas Is To) Lay Around An Love On You – Chick Willis. Blues veteran Chick Willis cut this track in 1991, a holiday adaptation of an earlier mid-'80's sleeper hit for Ray Charles in the Country music market. This seasonal version was issued on Ichiban Blues At Christmas, Volume 1 on the now defunct Atlanta based Ichiban Records. It was a Soul/Blues label that between 1991 and 1997 issued four killer Christmas compilations of artists such as Willis, Theodis Ealey, Francine Reed, Jimmy Dawkins, Trudy Lynn, William Bell, Kip Anderson and Nappy Brown, to name a few. It is a collection of holiday music well worth finding and owning!

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#15 Hey Santa Claus – The Moonglows. One of the most significant of the early R&B groups, The Moonglows were organized in 1951 in Cleveland, Ohio by Harvey Fuqua. The group eventually auditioned for and were signed by local disc jockey Alan Freed, who later arranged a contractfor them at the Chicago based Chance Records.  This Fuqua written upbeat holiday classic was released on the label in 1953. The song is a cross between R&B and Doo-Wop, utilizing a singing technique known as 'blow harmony'. The Moonglows moved over to Chess Records the very next year.  This great seasonal tune along with several others was re-released on the label's outstanding 1989 compilation Have A Merry Chess Christmas.

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#21 Christmas Time Is Here – Chairmen Of The Board. The Motor City's loss was certainly Beach music's gain in the late '70's when General Johnson and The Chairmen of the Board moved South. General and Mike Branch soon formed Surfside Records, which would go on to release many Chairmen hits over the years. When this song was released in 1991, there had been relatively few holiday tunes recorded by true Beach music artists up to that point in time. This one may have been the demarkation line for much more seasonal Beach tunes to come. Certainly the Chairmen's influence in the business shaped what many of the bands were willing to undertake.

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#27 Gee Whiz It's Christmas – Carla Thomas. The daughter of Memphis radio deejay and singer Rufus Thomas, Carla started composing, singing and recording while still a teenager. One of the first artists to record at the legendary Stax Studios, she had written and released Gee Whiz! (Look At His Eyes) in 1960. The more upbeat Gee Whiz, It's Christmas, co-written with Steve Cropper, came along in 1963. Like many of the Stax singles, this one was picked up by Atlantic Records for national distribution. The classic holiday tune would be very difficult to cover but a few have tried over the years.

 

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#28 I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – The Impressions. The Impressions had been around for almost twenty years when their jammin' rendition of the great tune was released in 1976. Curtis Mayfield had by this time gone solo – Fred Cash and Sam Gooden still remained as original members of the group. Their days of recording hit songs at ABC-Paramount and on Curtis' own Curtom label were behind them. This holiday single was one of the group's first releases on Cotillion Records. The soaring instrumentation and vocals has a Disco feel to it, in keeping within the era in which it was recorded.

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# 29  Christmas (The Best Time Of The Year) – Second Nature. This long standing South Carolina based band was co-founded in the early '70's by current keyboardist and manager Tommie James. Several years later while searching for new material, they got the idea to record a shagable Christmas tune. Enlisting the talents of songwriter Warren Moise, he wrote and produced the song (with input from General Johnson), which was subsequently released by the band on Surfside Records in 1982. One of the early holiday tunes in Beach music, it is still one my all time favorites!

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# 33 Santa Claus Boogie – The Tractors. This rockin' outfit were a group of Nashville session musicians who came together in the mid '90's, landing a contract with Arista Records. Originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, the group's timing was perfect as Country music was in the middle of a more modern crossover. Their holiday album, Have Yourself A Tractors Christmas, was released in late 1995 with several jumping original yuletide tunes, including this one. Santa Claus Is Comin' (In A Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train) is #37 on this Top 40 list as well.

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#36 Presents For Christmas – Solomon Burke. The late King of Rock 'N' Soul was an Atlantic Records mainstay by the time this great holiday tune was recorded in 1966. Solomon had recorded Christmas Presents From Heaven in 1955 on the Apollo label but wanted to do a song with a more upbeat seasonal groove. The release, co-written with his wife Delores, had a catchy rhythm track consistent with what was evolving in Soul music at this period in time. It has been included on scores of Christmas compilations over the last forty-five years.

 

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Since the mid '90's and particularly in the last ten years what we would call true Beach music artists have stepped up their production of holiday songs to a great degree. Much of this work has been captured on several series of compilations. Most of the songs were new recordings (either covers or originals) at the time of each compilation release, however, a few were singles from an earlier time that were being re-released. Thanks to Different Drummer (David Hicks), RubyJude Records (Judy Collins) and KHP Productions (Keith Houston) for their efforts in putting together these compilations over the years. There have also been a few independent singles released by various artists along the way as well as full holiday albums by groups like Band of Oz, Embers, Coastline and Chairmen of the Board. Since I play holiday music 24/7 during the month of December on our Way Down South Internet show, the opportunity is there to feature as much of this music as possible. Here are just a few of my all time favorite holiday tunes by Beach music artists, in no particular order.    

 

Merry Christmas (I Love You) – Embers   

Shaggin' Santa – Attractions

All Around The World – Terri Gore

Merry Christmas All – Poor Souls

Shakin' Santa's Sack – Fantastic Shakers

Holiday Heart – Jim Quick & Coastline

Santa, Please Bring My Baby Back – Chairmen of the Board

Love Me Like It's Christmas – Michele Becker

Boogie Santa - Rickey Godfrey & Rudy Blue Shoes

Call Me Claus – Bo Schronce

Christmas (The Best Time Of The Year) - Second Nature

Boogie Woogie Shake Shag On Christmas – Embers w/ Debbie Mac

I'm Coming Home For Christmas - Castaways

Red Suit – Molly Askins

I Hear The Bells – Rickey Godfrey & Andrea Keesee

Jingle Bell Jump  - Angel Risoff

Christmas On Credit – Rhonda Silver

Captain Creedmore's Crazy Crawfish Christmas – King Tyrone

Man Down My Chimney – Casey York

It Just Ain't Christmas – Doug Manning

Rudolph Russ Riley & The Jellyrolls

ArmWrapped In Yours – Band Of Oz

Christmas Love – Tim Cashion

Santa's Coming In A Cadillac – Ron Moody

Santa Claus Has Got The Blues – Bill Pinkney & Drifters

Only One Night Of The Year – Craig Woolard

Christmas Letter – Sammy O' Banion

Babes In Toyland – Hip Pocket

Closed For The Season (Christmas Mix) – Billy Scott

All I Want For Christmas (Is You) – Sea Cruz

                             

 

 Have A Great Holiday Season This Year!

Artists, DJ’s, Club owners etc. send me your latest news for potential inclusion in Beach Buzz at nealfur@aol.com.

 

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