December 19.2014 – The Story Behind “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole

Hear the story here!

See the video here! Nat King Cole The Christmas Song

It was a sweltering hot July afternoon in 1945 when Mel Tormé showed up for a writing session at the Toluca Lake house of his lyric partner Bob Wells. Mel let himself in and called out for Bob. No answer. He walked over to the piano, and there, resting on the music board, was a pad of paper with four lines of a verse:

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

Jack Frost nipping at your nose

Yuletide carols being sung by a choir

And folks dressed up like Eskimos

When Wells finally walked in the room, dressed in tennis shorts and a T-shirt, Tormé asked him about the little poem.

“It’s so damn hot today, I thought I’d writing something to cool myself off,” Wells replied. “All I could think of was Christmas and cold weather.”

The “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” image was a memory from Wells’ childhood in Boston, when there’d be vendors on street corners at Christmas, serving up paper cones full of roasted chestnuts.

“I think you might have something here,” Tormé said.

Sitting down at the piano, he flashed on a melody idea for the opening lines. Wells grabbed his pad and pen, and the duo was off and running like a bobsled down a snowy hill.

As Tormé relates in his autobiography, “Improbable though it may sound, ‘The Christmas Song’ was completed about 45 minutes later. Excitedly, we called Carlos Gastel [manager of Nat Cole and Peggy Lee], sped into Hollywood, played it for him, then for [lyricist] Johnny Burke, and then for Nat Cole, who fell in love with the tune. It took a full year for him to get into a studio to record it, but his record finally came out in late fall of 1946; and the rest could be called our financial pleasure.”

The Nat King Cole Trio first recorded the song early in 1946. At Cole’s behest – and over the objections of his label, Capitol Records – a second recording was made the same year utilizing a small string section, this version becoming a massive hit on both the pop and R&B charts. Cole again recorded the song in 1953, using the same arrangement with a full orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, and once more in 1961, in a stereophonic version with orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael. Nat King Cole’s 1961 version is generally regarded as definitive, and in 2004 was the most loved seasonal song with women aged 30–49,[2] while Cole’s original 1946 recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974.

LYRICS: Written by Mel Tormé, Bob Wells
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight

They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times
Many ways, Merry Christmas to you

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times
Many ways, Merry Christmas to you

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About Robynn

Robynn Jaymes has spent her whole life in radio… 30 years!! And almost half of them have been at Star Country. Originally from Cincinnati, Robynn came to the area as a Liberty University student. Along with all things country music, Robynn is a big fan of Football!—The Virginia Tech Hokies, The Washington Redskins and, of course, the Cincinnati Bengals. And also, “I’m addicted to the Weather Channel,” she says. Right now, Robynn is a big fan if the music coming from Miranda Lambert, Lady Antebellum and Kenny Chesney! Robynn is also a winner of the Billboard Air Personality of the Year award. Hear all new Warm & Fuzzies with Robynn M-F at 11:45AM!

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