Informative, full colour, 24 page booklet written by Jeff Harris.
The idea of Christmas themed blues and gospel numbers stretches back to the very dawn of the recorded genres. “Hooray for Christmas” exclaims Bessie Smith to kick off her soon to be classic “At The Christmas Ball” , which inaugurated the Christmas blues tradition when it was recorded in November 1925 for Columbia. A year later, circa December 1926, the gospel Christmas tradition was launched when the Elkins-Payne Jubilee Singers recorded Silent Night, Holy Night for Paramount Records. After these recordings it was off to the races with numerous Christmas blues numbers recorded by singers of all stripes, a pace that continued as blues evolved into R&B and then rock and roll. For some reason there are far fewer gospel Christmas songs although there were plenty of Christmas sermons in the 1920s and 1930s when recorded sermons rivalled blues in popularity among black audiences.
Going hand in hand with Christmas is quite a number of New Year songs, a good vehicle for juxtaposing the problems of the past year with the glimmer of hope that the upcoming year will bring better fortune. Whether these artists sung these numbers as part of their regular repertoire is unclear but it is almost certainly the case that many of these songs were recorded at the prompting of the record companies. Like any business they were always looking for a new angle or gimmick to sell records and advertised these boldly, often with full-page ads, in black newspapers like the Chicago Defender.
Perhaps you think this is a bit cynical but then you probably still believe in Santa Clause and good will towards men! Well, sit back, tip a glass of holiday cheer and enjoy our survey of Yuletide classics spanning the 1920s through the 1950s, a simpler, more wholesome time !