On September 7, 1957, visions of sugar plums replaced palm trees as Elvis concluded three days at Radio Recorders studio in Hollywood recording the tracks for Elvis’ Christmas Album, to be released in October. The collection of popular and sacred Christmas songs and four previously-released gospel favorites, Presley’s fourth recording for RCA Victor Records, would go on to multi-platinum status and be reissued in many different formats over the years. Elvis stayed in a proper Christmas mood for most of the tracks – the gospel songs, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, “Silent Night”, “Here Comes Santa Claus”, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, and “White Christmas” – but let loose a little on Ernest Tubbs’ “Blue Christmas” and gave a very merry spin to two songs commissioned specifically for the album. The first was “Santa Bring My Baby Back (to Me)”, by Aaron Schroeder and Claude Demetrius. The second was written on the spot in the studio at Elvis’ request by the team who wrote many of his biggest hits, including “Jailhouse Rock”: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Elvis choose Leiber and Stoller’s blues-y, rock-and-roll “Santa Claus is Back in Town” to lead off Side One of the album, which dedicated one side to the secular selections and the other side to the sacred.
Elvis’ Christmas Album spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, but was not without its share of controversy. Irving Berlin, composer of “White Christmas”, attempted to have the song and the entire album banned from radio play. Bing Crosby’s famous version of the almost-instant classic appeared on the Billboard charts every year from 1942 to 1962, and Berlin obviously much preferred der Bingle’s rendition. Calling it “a profane parody of his cherished yuletide standard,” Berlin instructed his staff to call radio stations nationwide to demand Elvis’ off-White version be kept off the air. Most radio stations, recognizing a good-for-business-hit when they heard one, refused to comply. If teenage girls couldn’t have Elvis and a sprig of mistletoe for Christmas, the next best thing would be this album. With its gospel favorites and classic carols, Mom and Dad might even want to listen, too.
Image Credit: RCA Victor Records