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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Straight No Chaser is the place for jazz lovers (and those who will soon be jazz lovers) to enjoy podcasts with their favorite music and artists. Winner of the 2017 JazzTimes Readers' Poll for Best Podcast, your host Jeffrey Siegel will take you inside the world of jazz, from the new releases to the best festiva;s to remembrances of jazz legends.

25 Days of Jazzmas: "Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer"

Dec 9, 2011

One of the best loved Christmas songs concerns the flaming proboscis of one Rudolph the Reindeer. Robert L. May created Rudolph in 1939 as an assignment to create a give-away coloring book for the Montgomery Ward stores. Supposedly, May considered naming the reindeer "Rollo" and "Reginald" before deciding upon using the name "Rudolph". In its first year of publication, 2.4 million copies of Rudolph's story were distributed by the department store. And the rest, as they say, goes down in history.

May's brother in law was the composer Johnny Marks, who decided to put the saga to music. The song was first sung commercially by crooner Harry Brannon on New York city radio in early November 1949, just days before Gene Autry released it, Autry's version of the song holds the distinction of being the only number one hit to fall completely off the chart after hitting #1 the week of Christmas 1949. The official date of its #1 status was for the week ending January 7, 1950, making it the first #1 song of the 1950s.It sold 2.5 million copies the first year, eventually selling a total of 25 million, and it remained the second best-selling record of all time until the 1980s. The first? Bing Crosby's version of Irving Berlin's "White Christms".

Click here to listen to Urbie Green's version of the tune. Urbie is considered by many the trombone player with the warmest tone, capable of great range, particularly in upper registers. He was a member of two of the finest big bands of the later swing era - bands led by Gene Krupa (1947) and Woody Herman (1950). Check out more holiday tunes from Green and his All-Stars (Al Cohn on tenor, Joe Wilder on trumpet, Mundell Lowe on guitar, and Milt Hinton on bass) on A Cool Yuletide - a relatively rare 10" LP.