Sunday, December 7, 2014

Roll Over "Holly Jolly Christmas"!

Burl Ives, c. 1949
The commercialization of Christmas that has taken place over the last hundred years or so gave rise, during the 1940s through the 1960s, to a cottage industry in secular Christmas songs to supplement the traditional carols of yore.  These have ranged from inspired ("Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" - especially as sung by Judy Garland in "Meet Me In St. Louis") to great fun ("All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth") to insipid drivel ("Have a Holly Jolly Christmas").  For me, it is one of the tragedies of the age that Burl Ives (1909-1995), with all his talents as a folk singer and actor, seems destined to be remembered by younger generations only for his hammy rendition of that stupid song, a rendition that has always sounded to me like he hated it, too.  With this week's offering I attempt to redress the balance, by presenting the second Columbia album featuring his inimitable and beautifully sung stylings of folk-song material:

The Return of the Wayfaring Stranger:
1. On Sourwood Mountain
2. Little Mohee
3. Troubadour Song
4. Lord Randall
5. Bonnie Wee Lassie
6. Colorado Trail
7. Roving Gambler
8. John Hardy
9. The Divil and the Farmer
Burl Ives, vocal with own guitar accompaniment
Recorded February, 1949
Columbia set C-186, four 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 60.43 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 39.79 MB)


  1. Thanks, Bryan - "Holly Jolly Christmas" is an abomination, and it was not the only one in his 60s discography. There were such treacly tunes as "Little Bitty Tear" and "My Funny Way of Laughing". Ah, well - I was very fond of his earliest hits when I was a toddler, and still enjoy the recordings he made early in his career.

    1. Buster, I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one who feels that way about "Holly Jolly"!

  2. Awww ... If you want to be a musical snob, there are much better targets than the innocuous "Holly Jolly Christmas." In fact it's perfectly possible for those of us who grew up with the Rankin-Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special to be fond of BOTH Holly Jolly Christmas AND Burl Ives' earlier folk song recordings. (One of my favorite albums when I was a kid was Burl Ives Sings for Fun on Decca. I loved "The Fox" and "Three Jolly Huntsmen," and his spooky performance "My Good Old Man" really creeped me out as a seven-year old!)

    On the other hand, the excruciating winsome "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth," which you inexplicably single out for praise, is one of my top half-dozen most hated Christmas songs. De gustibus, I guess.

    1. De gustibus indeed. I actually still enjoy the "Rudolph" special, and the other songs in it (especially "Silver and Gold"), but "Holly Jolly" has become about as appealing to my adult sensibilities as Barney the Purple Dinosaur. Must admit I prefer "All I Want..." in the Homer & Jethro version ("All I Want For Christmas Is My Upper Plate")!