'Rockin' Puts Brenda Lee Back at No. 1
Posted December 15, 2007, courtesy
SC (Shakin_All_Over Discussion Group)
It's not your imagination - you are hearing it everywhere.
Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," which was recorded
49 years ago in Nashville, hit No. 1 this week on Billboard's Hot
Holiday Songs chart. It climbed from No. 4, displacing Bobby Helms'
"Jingle Bell Rock," also recorded in Nashville.
Right now, Lee's peppy Christmas tune is beating Nat King Cole's "The
Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)," Burl Ives' "A Holly Jolly
Christmas" and Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas." And it's not the
first time: "Rockin' " has spent the most total weeks at No. 1-13
overall - since the chart started in December 2001.
"I'm thrilled, to say the least," said Lee, a member of the Rock and
Roll and Country Music halls of fame. "Next year, that song will
celebrate its 50th birthday. I don't know the new statistics, but
forever it's been the No. 4 of the top 10 Christmas songs of all time.
"I can't believe it's number one. I can believe it because the song is
so great, but to have it endure and still be a viable piece of music.
(Producer) Owen Bradley always said great songs withstand the test
Lee said she realized "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" was special
the first time Bradley played it for her in his 16th Avenue office.
The song was written by Johnny Marks, who also penned "Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer," "A Holly Jolly Christmas" and "I Heard the Bells
on Christmas Day."
"I knew I wanted to record it, but I hadn't had a whole lot of success
at that point, so I had no idea that I would have the success with it.
It's so hard to get a Christmas standard because you have such little
time to promote it and for it to sell. I knew the song was wonderful,
but I just thought, 'There's no way I'm going to have a Christmas
standard because it's unheard of this day and time.' "
When the song was released in 1958, nothing happened. The next year,
when Lee's "Sweet Nothin's" hit the top 10, the song was re-released
and did well. In 1960, she hit No. 1 with "I'm Sorry," and "Rockin' "
Lee credits Bradley team
Lee attributed the song's success to the magic of those who made the
record in Bradley's Quonset hut studio, including Bradley, engineer
Selby Coffeen, the Anita Kerr Singers and Nashville's famed A-Team -
Floyd Cramer, Boots Randolph, Buddy Harman, Bob Moore, Ray Edenton,
Grady Martin, Harold Bradley and Hank Garland. The A-Team was recently
among inaugural inductees into the Musicians Hall of Fame.
"It was just that whole array of people that just got together and
said, 'Hey, I'm going to do this lick here.' We didn't have an
arrangement; we just all sat down and listened to the demo. Hank
Garland said, 'I'm going to do this riff on the front,' and Floyd
said, 'I'm going to do this and you answer me.' It was a magical time
in the studio."
Lee's fans have told her "they just love the whole spirit of it. It's
a happy song," Lee said.
Most of the songs on the Hot Holiday Songs list that "Rockin' " now
tops were recorded decades ago, by artists such as Bing Crosby, Johnny
Mathis, Andy Williams, Gene Autry and the Eagles.
Christmas hits are older
The newest song on the chart's top 10 is Mariah Carey's "All I Want
For Christmas Is You," which was recorded in 1994, according to Silvio
Pietroluongo, Billboard's associate director of charts. The chart is
compiled based on airplay at adult contemporary radio stations across
"The classic records are handed down from generation to generation,
and there was a period in the late seventies to the early eighties
where there were not an abundance of new Christmas music,"
Pietroluongo said. "Anything you heard on the radio or your home
turntables were older records. So they have sort of kept that appeal
as the younger generation has gotten older, and now we're handing it
down to our kids."
Lee is in the midst of her busiest time of the year, so she will be
out on tour until Dec. 23.
"I sing it all year long," she said. "I do it in any show that I do,
no matter what time it is."
Lee explained the song's lyrics that say, "Everyone's dancing merrily/
In a new old fashioned way." 'The new old-fashioned way' means we're
still rocking in a new way but we're paying tribute to the
old-fashioned way. We've brought it up to the time. I think that is
what Johnny meant."
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