Dickie Valentine - Christmas Alphabet
"Christmas Alphabet" is a 1955 Christmas song, which became a No.1 hit in the UK Singles Chart for the singer Dickie Valentine. It was written by Buddy Kaye and Jules Loman, and produced by Dick Rowe. It first entered the UK chart on 25 November 1955, where it spent seven weeks. Three of those were at No.1.
It is also the first Christmas chart topper that is actually about Christmas, a trend that would continue off and on over the next several decades.
This is the only record I don't actually have in my collection, as it seems to have been released as a track on an EP of four(?) songs and wasn't actually released seperately. When I last saw the EP for sale at a record fair it was £69! I have an MP3 recording of the song which is fine for just listening to the music, but one day I hope I can own a physical copy of the EP so I can finally complete my collection!
Johnny Ray - Just Walkin' In The Rain
"Just Walkin' in the Rain" was written in 1952 by Johnny Bragg and Robert Riley, two prisoners at Tennessee State Prison in Nashville, after a comment made by Bragg as the pair crossed the courtyard while it was raining. Bragg allegedly said, "Here we are just walking in the rain, and wondering what the girls are doing." Riley suggested that this would make a good basis for a song, and within a few minutes, Bragg had composed two verses. However, because Bragg was unable to read and write, he asked Riley to write the lyrics down in exchange for being credited as one of the song's writers.
Bragg and his band, the Prisonaires, later recorded the song for Sun Records and it became a hit on the US Billboard R&B chart in 1953. However, the best-known version of the song was recorded by Johnnie Ray in 1956; it reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart for seven weeks. Ray initially disliked the song, but sang it based on the recommendation of Mitch Miller. Ray's version featured the backup male vocals of the Ray Conniff Singers as well as a whistler.
Ray became deaf in his left ear aged 13,following a mishap that occurred during a Boy Scout "blanket toss." In later years, Ray performed wearing a hearing aid. Surgery performed in 1958 left him almost completely deaf in both ears, although hearing aids helped his condition.
I found this song on 7inch single in 1993 from a local record collectors shop for £1.
Harry Belafonte - Mary's Boy Child
"Mary's Boy Child" is a 1956 Christmas song, written by Jester Hairston. The song came about when Hairston was sharing a room with a friend. The friend asked him to write a song for a birthday party. Hairston wrote the song with a calypso rhythm because the people at the party would be mainly West Indians. The song's original title was "He Pone and Chocolate Tea", pone being a type of corn bread. It was never recorded in this form.
Some time later Walter Schumann, at the time conducting Schumann's Hollywood Choir, asked Hairston to write a new Christmas song for his choir. Hairston remembered the calypso rhythm from his old song and wrote new lyrics for it.
Harry Belafonte heard the song being performed by the choir and sought permission to record it. It was recorded in 1956 for his album 'An Evening with Belafonte'. An edited version was subsequently released as a single, reaching No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart in November 1957. It was the first single to sell over one million copies in the UK alone. In 1962. the full-length version was added to a re-issue of Belafonte's previously released album 'To Wish You a Merry Christmas'.
The Harry Belafonte 7 inch single in my collection had always been in our household. I grew up with it and it used to get played loads in the run up to Christmas.