I first fell in love with Christmas music at the age of five. It was December of 1968 and ― like many households around North America ― our family was listening to Nat ‘King’ Cole. But what captivated me wasn’t his “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” but the flipside, an obscure Yuletide melody called “The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot”.
Its a sombre song, about a young boy, fatherless, and alone at Christmas time. And because of his circumstance, for some reason, Santa actually passes him by.
The notion that Santa could forget anyone, let alone a child like me, was terrifying. Between choruses, Cole’s rich baritone delivers several spoken word stanzas and it was hearing these ― for the very first time ― that made me feel he was right there in the room, speaking (and singing) directly to me.
This particular Christmas season coincided with the crumbling of my parents’ marriage and I became obsessed with the idea that, like Santa, Nat King Cole had some magical insight into my own life. That if I listened to the record hard enough, or long enough, I’d come to understand my predicament more clearly.
Not grasping the fact that Nat’s soliloquy was actually a pre-recorded track, I pestered my mother to play the record over and over again, day after day, hoping to find out how the boy’s story, and my own, would end.
Skip forward twenty years and the magical appeal of Christmas music became a full-fledged mania when, in a flea market, I discovered Miles Davis’s “Blue Xmas (To Whom it May Concern)” featuring caustic vocals by Bob Dorough ― who also wrote the tune.
This mid-’60s bebop classic put a decidedly unsentimental spin on the season. And the idea that someone would be critical of Christmas, especially in a song, was a revelation to me.
The funny thing is, for a long time, I hated Christmas music. It was either really cheesy, or it conjured up a holiday experience that was impossible to achieve.
It also seemed that the true spirit of Christmas was getting lost …
I was desperate to hear some music that was honest and real.
So when I stumbled on “Blue Xmas,” I was blown away. And I just knew there had to be more…so I started hunting…
As I began to uncover track after track of hip, heartfelt and irreverent music, I also found a community of musicians and fellow collectors who shared my passion.
Jingle Bell Rocks! is our story.