Classic Holiday Tunes from the 1950s
The Classic Days of Hi-Fi!
With the 1950s brought high fidelity music into the home at Christmas. Long-playing record albums were still a new idea. As music enthusiasts selected tunes for their holiday homes, the following albums gained their place within the hits of the decade.
Long-playing record albums were a recent invention and made great gifts as in the 1950s because they were still considered to be luxury items. From orchestra and hymns, secular tunes and folk songs, to sing-along and rock and roll, here is a selection taken from the top 100 best-selling albums of the decade.
If you are seeking a bit of nostalgia for Granny and Gramps, consider the following nine albums which were best sellers of their time!
Christmas Album - Elvis Presley
Did you know that this album ruled supreme for the 1950s? Not only a popular Christmas album, this was the number #1 selling album of the decade!
Recorded in 1957 and with sales of 7 million Elvis' Christmas Album remains a classic. Recorded in three days at Hollywood's Radio Records it featured a mixture of hymns, gospel, and secular Christmas tunes.
When the album was released in October, 1957 certain media members, music industry folk, and church members denounced it as an attempt by the young rock n' roll rebel to profane Christianity. However, the public enjoyed the album, and Elvis took his place as folk-hero.
The 30 minute album featured 12 songs.
Merry Christmas - Johnny Mathis
During his 50-year career as a musician Johnny Mathis recorded nine Christmas Albums, this was his first.
When Johnny Mathis recorded this 1958 album he was 23 years old and one of the hottest "crooners" in the business.
Johnny teamed up with Percy Faith and his orchestra. sticking with the "tried and true" variety, such as O holy Night, Blue Christmas, and Sleigh Ride. Mathis did open up with what became his signature holiday song, Winter Wonderland. The album remained popular for decades, as Oprah Winfrey puts it, - If you don't have Johnny Mathis, you don't have Christmas!
The Star Carol - Tennessee Ernie Ford
An all-American selection of carols and hymns.
Tennessee Ernie's Ford's album Hymns had been the biggest selling album of his career when he decided to follow up with The Star Carol in 1958. At the time Ford had a hit TV show, The Ford Show. Recorded at Hollywood's Capitol Records recording studio, when The Star Carol was released it matched the popularity of Hymns with one million copies sold.
A Jolly Christmas - From Frank Sinatra
1950s holiday music without Frank Sinatra? Never!
Through the 1950s Frank Sinatra enjoyed hit after hit with an assorted repertoire of hits. As 1957 arrived he decided it was time to record his first Christmas album. He went into the recording studio with arranger Gordon Jenkins blending religious songs and seasonal favorites. Capitol Records added two previously recorded tracks - "White Christmas" and "Christmas Waltz" - from 1954. At first the public were cool towards the album, but over time it has become a holiday favorite, selling well over one million copies.
Christmas Sing-Along With Mitch - Mitch Miller & The Gang
The sing-along series was the karaoke of the decade!
Merry Christmas - Bing Crosby
King of the crooners brings a White Christmas home to the family.
Bing Crosby's "Merry Christmas" collection was originally released in 1949 with ten songs on five 78-rpm disks. then re-released in 1949 as a 10-inch album - with eight of the original songs. Bing's hit single "White Christmas" was originally recorded in just 18 minutes in 1942 - the song has since sold more than thirty million copies!
When 12-inch long-playing records became possible in 1955, the music was re-released once again with a dozen songs, including one of my favorites, "Mele Kalikimaka". The Andrew Sisters joined Bing on the tracks, "Jingle Bells," and "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town".
The album first made the Billboard charts in 1957 where it reached Number #1. For the next few years it was top of the charts each Holiday Season, and in 1962, the album went gold!
Mantovani Christmas Carols - Mantovani
A very classical Christmas!
Mantovani was the most popular light classical conductor of the the 1950s. The Christmas Carols LP was originally released in 1953, and was a sought after Christmas gift, because during the decade long playing records were considered a luxury. The album first gained notice on the Billboard charts during 1957 when it reached Number #4. In 1958 a new stereo version was released and the album gained more ground in popularity, continuing popularity for a number of years, reaching gold in1962!
Not all of the songs were about Christmas as Mantovani managed to add a few of his signature waltzes to the mix.
Christmas with the Robert Shaw Chorale
The Robert Shaw Chorale Christmas album offered a more "upmarket" alternative to other Christmas albums of the 1950s.
This 1957 album is put together as eight medleys of three songs each. While songs such as "Away in a Manger," and "Joy to the World" were more mainstream hymns, listeners were in for a surprise with a selection of folk traditional folk songs from France, Britain, and Appalachia.
All of the music feature the elegant Robert Shaw arrangements and collaboration with Alice Parker. When the album was released it quickly climbed to Number #5 on the charts every year, making gold in 1967.
Christmas With Conniff
An upbeat selection of popular Christmas tunes of the day.
Singing along with the Ray Conniff Singers proved to be a lasting hit over time. Considered one of the more commercial Conniff LPs with secular Christmas songs like Here Comes Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman. Released in 1959 the album remained on the hit charts for a decade.
100 Best-Selling Albums of the 50s
by Charlotte Greig
London, UK 2004