Friday, December 12, 2014

Is There Really a Santa Claus, Part 9

As part of our ongoing review of the 39 tracks on my latest holiday mix, today we take a quick look at Tracks 23 through 25:

Track 25
Winter Wonderland, Johnny "Bowtie" Barstow (2004)
This is the seventh "song" by Johnny "Bowtie" Barstow to make its way onto one of my holiday mixes, which makes him the most frequently represented artist (followed by Wing with five "tunes" and Red Sovine with four). Like the previous selections, this track is from Bowtie's 2004 classic A Bowtie Christmas, which features not only 10 classic holiday carols, but 14 additional time-tested standards, including "Mack the Knife," "Oh Danny Boy," and "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover."

I posted some information about Barstow two years ago in connection with the appearance of his song "The First Noel" as Track 29 of my Here Comes Santa Claus CD. I'm not sure how much more there is to add, as there isn't much information about his artistry in general circulation. As for the song, this is the second time "Winter Wonderland" has appeared on one of my mixes. The first version was recorded by Oliver Crumb and appears on my 2011 mix, Gee, Whiz . . .  It's Christmas (Again!). The song was written in 1934 by Felix Bernard, who wrote the music), and Richard B. Smith, who wrote the lyrics.

In its original version, the song’s bridge included the following lyrics:
In the meadow we can build a snowman,
then pretend that he is Parson Brown.
He'll ask, "Are you married?" We'll say, "No, man,
but you can do the job while you're in town!"

When the song was first released in the 1930s, itinerant ministers of various Protestant denominations known as parsons traveled the countryside to perform marriages and other services for those who needed a minister and lacked the resources to find one of their faith on short notice. The original bridge suggested that the couple at issue had to marry in some haste. This was considered an inappropriate topic by some, which may be the reason subsequent versions of the song featured the following, less controversial lyrics:
In the meadow we can build a snowman,
and pretend that he's a circus clown.
We'll have lots of fun with Mister Snowman,
until the other kiddies knock 'im down! 

The following late-night television commercial gives you some additional flavor of Bowtie's work:

He's certainly one-of-kind, wouldn't you say?

Track 24
I Like Christmas, Franklyn MacCormack (1950)
Franklyn MacCormack
"Hello there. Welcome to the old study. Won't you come in? So nice to have you here on a night like this, when we can share a dream together as the night grows late."
— McCormack's Nightly Radio Greeting

Franklyn MacCormack (1906-71) was the longtime host of a popular radio show called The All Night Showcase on WBBM and WGN (720 AM) in Chicago. The show ran from 11:05 pm to 5:30 am six nights a week, and MacCormack was its self-styled "host and companion" throughout the late 1950s until his death, on the air, in 1971. It featured moody, thoughtful music, including lots of outstanding jazz, interspersed with stories, observations and poetry. MacCormack developed a considerable following among late-night listeners, and his mellifluous baritone was a perfect match for the atmosphere he worked to create.  

In addition to his radio program, MacCormack produced an impressive number of records, many of which tried to recreate the feel of his radio program by combining music and spoken word selections. "I Like Christmas" was released as a 45 RPM single in 1950. The B-side was called "My New Year's Wish for You," which is available on my second New Year's collection, titled Ringin' In a Brand New Year. I love old radio programs, and it sounds to me as though Franklyn MacCormack had a winner.

Listen to Franklyn MacCormack's All Night Showcase from 8/15/64

Listen to Franklyn MacCormack's All Night Showcase from 6/27/65

Track 23
Hallmark Christmas Countdown (2013)

This comedy track was broadcast during the 2013 Christmas season on NBC's Saturday Night Live. It's a parody of the types of shows often featured on the Hallmark TV channel. Many of the channel's shows are very good, but there's also a fair amount of lower-quality, predicable fare as well. Take a look at this:

IMPORTANT NOTE TO CHROME USERS (12.13.14): I haven't been able to figure out why, but the SNL videos I've posted no longer seem to be playing in the Chrome browser. They appear to work fine in Internet Explorer and Firefox, and they worked in Chrome until about 36 hours ago, but they no longer seem to. I'm not the most tech savvy guy in the world, but I am looking into the problem and will try to correct it. For now, however, you might try an alternate browser if you have problems with Chrome. Sorry for the inconvenience. 

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