(Pictured: Lou Rawls, a funky drummer.)
For a few years around the turn of the 1970s, WCFL in Chicago featured separate listings of Christmas hits on its Christmas-week surveys. Looking at those surveys the other day, I found several unfamiliar titles, which sent me down various rabbit holes to learn more.
“Winter’s Children” by Capes of Good Hope appeared in 1966 under “Christmas Premiers.” There’s more about it in this post from Kent Kotal’s Forgotten Hits. “Winter’s Children” is apparently a baroque pop-rock reboot of Bach’s “Sleepers Awake,” and the Capes were from Chicago.
In 1970, WCFL’s un-numbered Christmas list included “Goin’ Home” by Bobby Sherman, which is from Sherman’s Christmas album, mentioned in a previous post. It’s subtitled “Sing a Song of Christmas Cheer,” and it incorporates one verse of “Silent Night.” All in all, it ain’t bad. That same year, WCFL also charted “The Chant” by Jane Avenue Bus Stop, co-written by Paul Hoffert and Skip Prokop, founders of the Canadian band Lighthouse (“One Fine Morning”). I am not sure how Christmassy it is, given its subtitle: “Nam Myoho Renge’kyo,” which my typically half-assed research effort reveals to be a Buddhist chant to strengthen one’s capacity for wisdom, courage, confidence, vitality, and compassion. The fact that the single was released on the Buddah label is just a bonus.
In 1971 and 1972, WCFL listed a Christmas Top 10. The 1971 list was topped by Peter Paul and Mary’s version of “The Marvelous Toy” and a Four Seasons version of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Like other stuff I have heard from the Seasons’ 1962 Christmas album, it’s horrid. Definitely not horrid: Lou Rawls’ version of “The Little Drummer Boy,” originally released in 1967. The list of good versions of “The Little Drummer Boy” is very short, but Lou is on it.
The 1972 Christmas Top 10 included a version of “The Little Drummer Boy” by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, for those who needed to hear it with bagpipes. (Pro tip: you do not.) It is one of several novelties that WCFL inflicted on Chicago during that festive season. Among them: “Can You Fix the Way I Talk for Christmas” by Vincent and Pesci. That’s Frank Vincent and Joe Pesci, better known as actors, with the distinction of having killed one another in three different movies—Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino. Vincent plays Santa; Pesci does a Porky Pig stutter over a children’s chorus. It is every bit as dire as you imagine. Also dire: “How I Love Those Christmas Songs” by the Country Squirrels. America’s fascination with speeded-up rodent voices at Christmas (“The Chipmunk Song” and “The Happy Reindeer” by Dancer, Prancer, and Nervous, to name two other examples) is inexplicable by any method currently known to science.
Also appearing on WCFL’s 1972 chart was a musician worth knowing more about: Louis Paul, born and raised in Memphis, who as a young man gigged with everybody who came through town, and was eventually in a band called the Guilloteens. Elvis Presley was a fan, and he got them a gig in Los Angeles, where Phil Spector was impressed enough to produce them, although they signed with Hanna Barbera Records before their work with Spector got beyond the demo stage. (“From Wall of Sound to Huckleberry Hound,” as Paul put it.) Paul got a solo deal with Stax in 1972; “It’s Christmas Time (And We Are All Alone)” was one of a handful of singles that resulted. Paul died this past September in a four-wheeler accident at age 67.
Also on the 1972 chart is “Christmas Song” by Shawn Phillips, which is quite good. “Hotel Christmas” by David Woeller is a Shel Silverstein song produced by Ron Haffkine. Based on that, I’d guess it has a Dr. Hook feel, but various Internet sites label it country. And we’ll have to guess, since it’s not up at YouTube.
If you are a Facebooker (and I still am, despite all attempts to cut back), the WCFL-AM Chicago group features this kind of thing, frequently.