Sometime in the early 60s, a record company marketing consultant thought up the idea of having a "sampler" of his companies Christmas LPs given away by a major retail chain. The only one interested was Goodyear Tire dealers. If you got your tires rotated or bought a new set of tires, you got a free Christmas LP. Even if you did buy tires, you could buy the LP at a modest price (usually a dollar). It was an immediate success. Naturally, Goodyear's competitor, Firestone, decided they had to do the same thing. By the end of the decade, the complimentary, premium or giveaway Christmas LP was everywhere, from banks, insurance companies, restaurants, pharmacies, supermarkets, department and hardware stores.
However, the premium Christmas LP died out by the mid 70s. Christmas LPs fell out of vogue and premium LPs were hurt by the rising price of records in general. The Christmas premium compilations came back in the form of CDs and as recording artist began recording Christmas albums again. Granted, unlike the original LP of the 60s, the CDs were rarely free but were cheaper than most new CDs (usually $4).
Looking at the performers featured on these LPs, it becomes clear that they were aimed an older audience. These LPs are a who's who of MOR/easy listening radio artist of the 60s and early 70s. Always included was about two or three classical/opera artist or large choirs doing a sacred Christmas carols. Although the LPs of the 70s interspersed the MOR performers with country music stars and a few bubble-gum teen idols, they were mainly MOR artist on these LPs.
Another thing that bugged me as a child, was how these LPs never featured that version of the song that you heard on the radio or TV. Part of this was due to the fact that one record label was contracted to produce these LPs. In those days, the record labels were all different companies, not owned by one or two big conglomerates. The kids who have grown up with the NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL CHRISTMAS CDs will never know the frustration of your parents owning a Christmas LP with Hank Locklin or Sandler & Young singing "Rudolph the Red Nose Raindeer" instead of Gene Autry or Burl Ives.
Even stranger was when an artist known for a particular Christmas song was one the LP, but not singing THAT song they were famous for. A perfect example of this is Bing Crosby. He would appear on these LPs, but NOT singing "White Christmas." Maybe Tony Bennett or Andy Williams would sing that, but not Bing. Speaking of Andy Williams, he won't be singing "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" on these, but Robert Goulet or Jim Nabors might. Sometimes the liner notes (if there were any) would try to smooth things over with a comment like "Millions have fallen in love with "The Christmas Shoes" by NewSong. On this LP, we have included a version by Ted Nugent."
Some artist were staples of these LPs: The Three Suns, Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme, The Ray Conniff Singers, the Robert Shaw Corale, the Hollyridge Strings, Robert Goulet, Jerry Vale, Kate Smith, Mitch Miller, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, John Gary, Norman Luboff Choir, Andre Kostelanetz and Tennessee Ernie Ford.
According to friends who are record collectors, these LPs are not worth anything except for sentimental value on the record collecting market. The reason is they were inexpensive and abundant and only played one time a year. Also most of the songs have been reissued on CD. According to some websites there is a cult of collectors and fans of these Christmas LPs.
So, I have decided to give you an Ipod playlist in the style of the old premium/giveaway Christmas LPs. This is compliments of your local Desdinova blogger. Merry Christmas from all of us and thank you for your patronage.
We Wish You A Merry Christmas-André Kostelanetz & His Orchestra
Silver Bells-Andy Williams
Winter Wonderland-Bert Kaempfert and His Orchestra
Frosty The Snowman-Billy Idol
Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree-Brenda Lee
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer-Dean Martin
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas-Doris Day
Sleigh Ride-Ferrante & Teicher
White Christmas-Frank Sinatra With The Bobby Tucker Singers
The Little Drummer Boy-Harry Simeone Chorale
Jingle Bells-The Hollyridge Strings
Blue Christmas-Jerry Vale
Joy to the World-Jim Nabors
Get Lost Jack Frost-The John Barry Seven
It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas-Johnny Mathis
Do You Hear What I Hear-Kate Smith
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing-The Lennon Sisters
The Christmas Song-Linda Ronstadt
O Come All Ye Faithful-Luther Vandross
O Holy Night-Mahalia Jackson
Here Comes Santa Claus-The Mills Brothers
Hooray For Santa Claus-Milton Delugg Orchestra
Deck The Halls-Mitch Miller & The Gang
What Child Is This-The Moody Blues
The Christmas Waltz-Nancy Wilson
All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)-Nat King Cole
The Twelve Days Of Christmas-The Norman Luboff Choir
Happy Holiday-Peggy Lee
We Need a Little Christmas-Percy Faith
The First Noel-Plácido Domingo & Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Christmas Trumpets-Ray Anthony
Here We Come A-Caroling-Ray Conniff Singers
Medley - Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow / Count Your Blessings / We Wish You A Merry Christmas-Ray Conniff Singers
Christmas Day-Robert Goulet
Away In A Manger-The Starlight Orchestra & Singers
Carol Of The Bells-The Starlight Orchestra & Singers
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town-Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme
Silent Night-The Temptations
O' Tannenbaum (Christmas Tree)-The Three Suns
My Favorite Things-Tony Bennett
I'll Be Home For Christmas-Tony Bennett & The Count Basie Big Band
Jingle Bell Rock-Wayne Newton