"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 lots of times in the run up to Christmas.