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Christmas BluesChristmas Blues, aka The Savoy Jazz Christmas Album, consists of an odd, often fabulous mix of obscure blues, jazz, and jive from the rich vaults of Savoy Jazz Records. Among its many treasures are Jimmy Butler's outrageously salacious "Trim Your Tree" (read more), the Marshall Brothers' romping "Mr. Santa's Boogie" featuring former members of prototypical doo woppers the Ravens, and "Santa's Secret" by Johnny Guarnieri with Slam Stewart - later recorded by the Squirrel Nut Zippers under it's more intuitive name: "Santa Claus Is Smoking Reefer." Wild stuff!

Plus, we get yuletide wax from blues giants like Big Maybelle and Gatemouth Moore, and wacky novelties like Debbie Dabney's hormonally-charged "I Want To Spend Christmas With Elvis." The latter record, by the way, was originally released on Regent Records under the name Marlene Paul. Even better, it was written by a young Bobby Darin and Don Kirshner and featured the rock 'n' roll guitar of - get this - Kenny Burrell!

Historically speaking, though, Christmas Blues' foremost archive is the Ravens' 1948 version of "White Christmas," an obvious blueprint for the Drifters' definitive 1954 rendition - one of the greatest Christmas songs ever (read more). Christmas Blues also includes the Marshall Brothers' "Mr. Santa's Boogie" (1951) featuring former Raven and future Ink Spot Maithe Marshall.

Mr. Santa's BoogieSavoy originally issued Christmas Blues on LP in 1985 under the title Mr. Santa's Boogie (often subtitled Santa's Secret), with fourteen choogling tracks. The original CD edition (1994) changed the name and cover art, but little else. (Not that anyone but me cares, but the 1994 CD is frequently portrayed by what amounts to alternative cover art from the inside of the booklet. Confusing, I know, but it's the same album.)

When they reissued it again in 2003, the label changed the simplified the title to Savoy Christmas Blues and added three tracks: the flipsides of the Big Maybelle and Ravens singles, plus a version of "White Christmas" by the Meltones - which, given the sketchy annotation, I can only assume is not Mel Torme's early group, usually spelled Mel-Tones.... But then, Savoy subtracted two obscure tracks by the equally obscure A.B. Green - which is no great loss, but they could've easily fit it all on one CD. So, in the end, the album swelled by a grand total of one measly track. And they dropped the cool original LP liner notes, which had been faithfully reproduced in the first CD edition!

Regardless, Christmas Blues is great, totally essential stuff. It was one of the first Christmas albums I ever bought, and I recommend you do the same.

Albums Albums

SongsSongs

  • Christmas Blues (Gatemouth Moore, 1948)
  • Christmas Blues (Washboard Pete, 1948)
  • Far Away Christmas Blues (Johnny Otis with Little Esther Phillips, 1950)
  • I Want To Spend Christmas With Elvis (Debbie Dabney, 1956)
  • Love For Christmas (Felix Gross, 1949)
  • Mr. Santa's Boogie (Marshall Brothers, 1951)
  • Santa's Secret (Johnny Guarnieri, 1944)
  • Silent Night (Big Maybelle, 1957)
  • Silent Night (Ravens, 1948)
  • Trim Your Tree (Jimmy Butler, 1954)
  • White Christmas (Big Maybelle, 1957)
  • White Christmas (Ravens, 1948)

Further ListeningFurther Listening

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