Wednesday, December 05, 2012

My Christmas Mixtape - Side B: The Funny Songs



1. Dave Cameron - Twas the Night Before Christmas (1975)  In the mid-seventies, I worked at WRHY, Starview (PA). Starview was an FM rock station broadcasting to the Harrisburg/Lancaster/York market; I did weeknights, 7pm to midnight. Dave Cameron was the morning drive-time host and he was multi-talented; in addition to the radio show, he was a singer, he worked weekends as a singing waiter at a restaurant in Valley Forge. He was also a humorist and he wrote and recorded this version of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" which was aired on the station during the Christmas season of 1975. This recording opened the funny side of my old Christmas mixtape. There are lots of pop culture references such as Telly Savalas who played a Tootsie Pop sucking police detective on the show Kojak.

Listen to Dave Cameron - "Twas the Night Before Christmas"
         

2. Stan Freberg - Green Chri$tma$  "Green Chri$tma$" is a dead-on send up of Christmas advertising by one of the best at the real ad game. Stan Freberg is an author, recording artist, animation voice actor, comedian, radio personality, puppeteer, and advertising creative director. When "Green Chri$tma$" was recorded in 1958, it met with huge resistance because of feared offense to the advertising community; and it wasn't just radio that resisted, his own label, Capitol initially refused to release it. By the 1970s it started getting airplay on FM rock stations which is where I heard it and the record was a much sought after collector's item until it was included in Dr. Demento's Greatest Christmas Novelty CD of All Time.      
 

3. Cheech and Chong - Santa Claus and His Old Lady  "Santa Clause is not a musician..." "I can dig, that cat didn't know any tunes..." You don't need to smoke anything to enjoy the humor of Cheech and Chong. This good-hearted look at Santa Claus and Christmas from the standpoint of a misguided musician works every time. The more years you listen to it, the more endearing it gets. This was first released as a single in 1971. Now it can be found on various Christmas collection CDs including the Dr. Demento CD.      

4. Yogi Yorgesson - I Yust Go Nuts At Christmas  "Just before Christmas dinner I relax to a point, then relatives start swarming all over the joint". This dates back to that Capitol Christmas album we played as kids. This is as funny now as it was then. Yogi Yorgesson may not actually have been Swedish, but as a Norwegian born comic singer he knew his territory. Yogi Yorgesson was a stage name used by Harry Stewart (born Hans Skarbo) who had several humorous personas of different nationalities. I've been listening to this record for so long that this screwball view of Christmas has been assimilated by my brain as part of Christmas tradition. "I Yust Go Nuts At Christmas" was released by Capitol in 1949, backed with "Yingle Bells". It was his biggest selling record, earning a gold record for selling one million copies; hard to believe, Harry.      

5. Billy May and His Orchestra - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo   Here's another track that dates back to that Capitol Christmas album that we had as kids. The Billy May Orchestra recorded this in 1953 and it really swings. I'm sure that the players had a blast recording it. "What heck is a mambo!"      

6. Yogi Yorgesson - Yingle Bells  I first heard this song in the mid-seventies when I finally found the re-released single of "I Yust Go Nuts At Christmas". Even though we already heard Yogi in this mix, the record is too funny to leave out. If you listen to the mix in your iTunes player, you will see the original 1949 picture cover as released by Capitol Records. Just looking at it cracks me up.     

Listen to Yogi Yorgesson - "Yingle Bells"


 7. Stan Freberg - Christmas Dragnet  Here's another Christmas classic by the great Stan Freberg, a perfect parody of a Dragnet episode. Dragnet was a police drama that began on radio and also became a popular television show in the fifties and sixties. Each episode was based on a real case from the files of the Los Angeles Police Department. Jack Webb was forever associated with his character, Joe Friday. Freberg's parody got the voices and personalities of the characters sounding as real as could be. The story is so well written that if you hear it a few times you won't get through the Christmas season without quoting it. "Love to have ya..."       

8. Tom Lehrer - A Christmas Carol   "Relations sparing no expense will send some useless old utensil..." Musical satirist Tom Lehrer released this bit of Christmas cheer in 1959 on a live album, An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer.      

9. Mel Blanc - Yah Das Ist Ein Christmas Tree  Mel Blanc is best known as the voice of the classic Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoons; he also did characters from The Flintstones and The Jetsons to name a few. He recorded this Christmas song in the fifties as a parody of a certain type of German song that was used as a teaching tool. This initially came out on a 78 rpm record. It was included on that Capitol Christmas album that molded my childhood.    

10. St. Nick (The Just For Laughs Players) - Jingle Bells (Laughing All The Way) This was a single, released in 1981, later compiled on a 1985 CD called Christmas Comedy Classics, both are long out of print.    

11. Allan Sherman - The Twelve Days Of Christmas  For most baby boomers who grew up in the sixties, Allen Sherman was the first comedian to have huge success making comedy albums, even denting the singles chart occasionally. He performed this classic on a TV special in 1963, and Warner Brothers rushed it out as a single.    

12. The Royal Guardsmen - Snoopy's Christmas  "Merry Christmas, my friend..." The Royal Guardsmen first hit in 1966 with "Snoopy vs. The Red Baron", followed by "The Return of the Red Baron". "Snoopy's Christmas" was released in 1967 and is actually the best song of the three. For the mix I did not use my old 45, but instead this is a 1999 remaster for CD.      

Listen to The Royal Guardsmen - "Snoopy's Christmas"            

13. Bob & Doug McKenzie - The Twelve Days Of Christmas (McKenzie Bros)  "Bob and Doug McKenzie are a pair of fictional Canadian brothers who hosted "Great White North", a sketch which was introduced on SCTV for the show's third season when it moved to CBC Television in 1980. Bob is played by Rick Moranis and Doug is played by Dave Thomas. The duo became a pop culture phenomenon in both the United States and Canada."(Wikipedia). This track comes from their top ten charting, Grammy nominated album, The Great White North (1982).      

14. Mojochronic - Yuletide Zeppelin I  Robert Drake, on his annual 24 hour Christmas eve show on WXPN in Philadelphia says that every time he plays this, the phones light up like a proverbial, yes, Christmas tree.          

15. Stephen Colbert - Another Christmas Song This 2008 single comes from Stephen Colbert's Christmas special, A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!   

16. Courtney Jaye - Mele Kalikimaka Courtney Jaye plays a unique blend of country and traditional Hawaiian music, the product of having lived most of her professional life in Hawaii or Nashville. She is a blog favorite and friend, and to add to the good cheer of the 2012 holiday season, she gave this delightful version of the traditional Hawaiian Christmas tune to anyone visiting her website.  

17. Joe Dolce - Jingle Bell Rock Joe Dolce is a singer/comedian who did straight music for most of his career but he had his biggest hit with a comedy record done with Italian accent and slang, called "Shaddap Up You Face" which was inspired by his Italian grandparents; the record went on to sell 6 million copies. In the wake of that success, he made a Christmas album using the same Italian persona. "Jingle Bell Rock" came out as a single in 1981 which is when John DeBella used to play it on the WMMR Morning Zoo, and it wound up on my old mixtape.     

18. National Lampoon - Kung Fu Christmas  "Kung Fu Christmas" originated on the National Lampoon Radio Hour which was a syndicated, comedy radio show in 1974. When NBC first put Saturday Night Live on the air, they used almost all the staff of the Lampoon Radio Hour for their Not Ready for Prime Time Players and also their writing staff; and those who didn't go to SNL all went on to Second City. 

"Kung Fu Christmas" was written, performed and produced by Bill Murray, Christopher Guest, Gilda Radner, and Brian Doyle Murray. The NLRH produced a great many song parodies which were all amazing in their writing (hugely funny), and in their execution; Christopher Guest was most especially good at sounding exactly like whoever was the subject of the parody. 

The names of the people who worked on the NLRH read like a who's who of comedy: Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Christopher Guest, Michael O'Donoghue, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray, Gilda Radner, Harry Shearer, Harold Ramis, Joe Flaherty, Richard Belzer, Tony Scheuren, and Flo & Eddie, just to name a few. We carried the NLRH on my college radio station WECI. "Kung Fu Christmas" was released as a single in 1974; it also appears on a CD box set of NLRH, but that is a different version. For the mix I used the single.    

19. Martin Mull - Santafly  In all that discussion of "Kung Fu Christmas", we didn't even get into the content of the parody; it was soul hit records of the time such as "Shaft", and also the prevalence of the martial arts/Blaxploitation movies that inspired Kung Fu in many aspects of popular culture. On the other hand, Martin Mull's Christmas parody is much easier to identify; it was Curtis Mayfield's classic "Superfly" theme from the movie of the same name. Martin Mull is an actor, comedian, recording artist, and painter. 

At the time of "Santafly", Mull had not moved into acting in movies and television. Back then he was a comedian/singer-songwriter and he was known for his live performances where he set up the stage with living room furniture. In the seventies, Mull released a string of albums containing his songs which were all enormously funny. "Santafly" has never been released on an album or CD, this is the single from Christmas, 1973.      

Listen to Martin Mull - "Santafly"  
     

20. Robert Earl Keen - Merry Christmas From the Family This delightfully dysfunctional Christmas song was recorded by alt-country singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen in 1994. It's the kind of song that even if you don't like it at first, it grows on you like a fungus. This track came from Keen's Gringo Honeymoon album. C'mon down to Texas and hang out with us at the trailer park y'all.       

21. Asleep at the Wheel - Christmas in Jail  You can't go to Texas without hearing from The Wheel, the kings of Texas swing. "Christmas in Jail" comes from the album Merry Texas Christmas Y'All (2007).  

22. Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Nutrocker  Emerson Lake & Palmer did this cover of the 1962 hit instrumental by B. Bumble and the Stingers which is based on one of the sections of The Nutcracker, by Tchaikovsky. The ELP version was recorded live and came out on their album, Pictures at an Exhibition (1971).  

23. Ludacris - Ludacrismas (Fred Claus End Credits)  Ludacris (Chris Bridges) was great in the movie Fred Claus (2007) as the North Pole DJ. The soundtrack of the movie was really good, but the album doesn't include this original track by Ludacris that plays during the closing credits.     

Jump to:  Side A: The Rock Songs  
Jump to:  My Christmas Mixtape: Expanded and Reconfigured for 2012

 

2 comments:

Laura said...

Found your blog through a google search while looking for the name of I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas....it's an old family favorite and my sister and I wanted to play it for her husband. Glad your page popped up; we had a lot of laughs. Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Hi. I found your site while trying to run down some info about the Starview radio station. I attended high school in Carlisle Pa from late 1970 until I graduated in 1973. I ended up in Carlisle when my father was assigned a faculty position at the USAWC.

Being an Army Brat, I had already lived over a great deal of the world by the age of 14, and I would just like to say there were damned few (if any) radio stations that could compare to Starview.

In the spring of 1973, it was not uncommon to hear The first 4 cuts from Dark Side of the Moon, followed immediately by In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, and that was at 10 o'clock in the morning.

It was truly a most extraordinary station.