Coming Down the Chimney

So, you know that Andy Williams song where he starts out singing “Happy Holiday,” but then goes into some lyrics about hanging up your sock? I’m sure you do, because it gets played constantly at this time of year, but I’m not entirely sure where it came from. Finding information on “Happy Holiday” itself is easy enough. It was written by Irving Berlin in 1942, and used in the movie Holiday Inn. But those other lyrics? About all I can find is this Wikipedia page, which says it was written by Kay Thompson, author of the Eloise books. It looks like it was first released on Williams’ 1963 Christmas album.

The song is really catchy, but the lyrics come across as rather dashed off. “Santa’s a great big bundle of joy”? Seriously? Isn’t that more a phrase you’d use to describe a baby? And why are we leaving a peppermint stick for old St. Nick? I thought the traditional offering was milk and cookies; it’s more likely that he’d DELIVER candy canes than take them from you. Then we get to, “Whoop-de-doo and dickory-dock, and don’t forget to hang up your sock.” I don’t think there’s any possible way to keep a straight face while singing those lyrics, or even thinking of them. Also, does Santa come down EVERY chimney at “exactly twelve o’clock”? That’s interesting, actually, because I seem to remember having the idea as a kid that Santa would arrive at midnight, but I don’t recall my source for this. When you think about it, though, is it really that likely that he’ll hit every house in the same time zone at exactly the same minute? Yeah, I know the whole thing is impractical anyway, but that makes it even MORE impractical. Well, apparently he’s not hitting Bruce Springsteen’s house until half past three. I guess Andy goes to bed considerably earlier than Bruce.

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2 Responses to Coming Down the Chimney

  1. Sam Irvin says:

    In answer to your question about the Andy Williams medley: “Holiday Season” (words and music by Kay Thompson) / “Happy Holiday” (Irving Berlin, from the movie “Holiday Inn”). The medley was arranged by Marty Paich; conducted by Robert Mersey; piano by Dave Grusin; recorded for Columbia Records in the fall of 1963. In December 1963, the “Holiday Season” / “Happy Holiday” medley was included in “The Andy Williams Christmas Album” (Columbia Records, CS 8887) which peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Holiday Album Chart that same month. Kay Thompson’s “Holiday Season” (on its own, wihout “Happy Holiday”) was first performed by Kay Thompson and her Rhythm Singers on “Request Performance” (CBS-Radio, December 23, 1945). Thompson finally got around to copyrighting the song on March 31, 1955. On that same 1945 radio show, Kay introduced her own special arrangement of “Jingle Bells” entitled “Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells.” And, in 1963, on the same “Andy Williams Christmas Album,” Andy recorded his version of “Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells.” Andy’s relationship with Kay dated back to 1944 when Kay was head of the vocal department at MGM and she hired little 16-year-old Andy and his brothers to sing in her large choirs for all the big MGM musicals like THE HARVEY GIRLS. Then, in 1947, Kay formed a nightclub act called Kay Thompson and the Williams Brothers (including Andy and his three brothers) and they became the number one and highest paid nightclub act in the world. It was at this time that Kay and Andy also became secret lovers — an affair that lasted several years, even though she was nearly 20 years his senior. When the nightclub act broke up in 1953, Kay continued managing Andy and helped him launch his solo career. She got him his first record deals — first with RCA’s Label X and then with Cadence Records where he scored a number one hit with “Butterfly” and several more Top 40 records including “Promise Me Love” composed by Kay Thompson. Kay also got Andy his first regular singing gig on television — on “The Tonight Show Starring Steve Allen.” Kay secretly provided the arrangements for all the songs Andy performed on “The Tonight Show” from 1954-1956. Kay also coached Andy for acting — and traveled with him to do a summer stock tour of “Pal Joey” at the Kenley Theatre chain in Ohio. She was a creative consultant on the first three Andy Williams summer replacement series in 1957, 1958, and 1959. For more information, visit Cheers! Sam Irvin, author of “Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise” (Simon & Schuster).

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