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224 pages
Sep 2010

Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas

by Ace Collins

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What is so much fun about Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas by Ace Collins is that it is filled with wild and wacky tidbits of trivia. Did you know that a man in France with the Christmas name of Noel married a woman in America with the Christmas name of Gloria, even though he couldn't speak English and she couldn't speak French, and all they had in common was a love of music? It's true, and this duo later composed the blockbuster Christmas carol, "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Were you aware that every December when you hear Brenda Lee singing, "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" that she recorded that when she was only 13 years old? The song was a total bomb when released, selling only 5,000 copies. Yet, two years later, after Brenda Lee had become a superstar, the song was re-released as though it was a brand new record and it became a smash hit. Were you aware that an advertising exec with Montgomery Ward's came up with the story of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and sold all rights to the story to Montgomery Ward's stores for only $300. The company subsequently printed six million small storybooks about Rudolph and gave them away for years to their customers. Finally, when an offer came through for the story to become an actual children's picture book, the company graciously returned ownership rights to the original author. However, that man's brother-in-law turned it into the hit song that was recorded by Gene Autry, and gave only 5% of the song royalties to the original author.

So it is with every chapter in this book. And the greatest surprise of all is that the majority of these Christmas standards were one-hit-wonders by their lyricists and composers. In fact, many times it was a total fluke or some fool luck that even led to the songs being discovered and recorded.

Some of the stories are ironic, even startling. Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane were the top songwriters in Hollywood and Broadway in the 1940s, writing hits for Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, and Ethel Merman. Yet, when they sent their song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to an upstart teenager named Judy Garland, she sent it back and demanded that they change part of the lyrics. The original version said, "Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last. Next year we'll be living in the past." Garland thought that servicemen hearing this song would become greatly depressed, so she refused to sing those lyrics. The songwriters bowed to her demands and rewrote the lines to say, "Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light. From now on our sorrows will be out of sight." Garland loved the change, used the song in her next movie, "Meet Me in St. Louis," and the song became an instant holiday classic.

If you want to know how "The Chipmunk Song" was created, how Elvis turned "Blue Christmas" into a rock and roll phenomenal hit, how "The Christmas Song" had to be sneaked into the recording studio by Nat King Cole so that the white singers wouldn't discover it first, or how "Silver Bells" created a howling response from one composer's wife when she heard the original version called "Tinkle Bells," then get this book and start having fun. My wife and I read the whole book aloud to each other because it was so much fun to hear the stories with someone else. In fact, we've already made up our minds that we're going to read it again next Christmas. Dr. Dennis E. Hensley,

Book Jacket:

You know these songs by heart. They're the 'greatest hits' of Christmas. But do you know the fascinating, inspirational stories behind them---who wrote them and how they came to be? In his latest book, Ace Collins reveals the stories behind the greatest hits of Christmas---all the songs you have enjoyed for generations. For example, as the story goes, jazz great Mel Torme wrote 'The Christmas Song' after visiting a friend in California, who, longing to escape California's heat for the cold winters of his New England, doodled these now-famous phrases on his spiral pad: 'Chestnuts roasting ... Jack Frost nipping ... Yuletide carols ...' Torme saw those words and one of the most famous Christmas songs of all time, first recorded by Nat King Cole, was born. Within these pages, you'll discover the origins of such famous Christmas songs as 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,' 'Winter Wonderland,' 'White Christmas,' 'Little Drummer Boy,' 'Feliz Navidad,' 'O Holy Night,' and two dozen others. Although not yet as famous as the Christmas songs of which he writes (he's working on that), Collins's many books have sold tens of thousands of copies and have become treasured family classics, read and enjoyed by young and old alike. His new book is a treasure-trove of the kind of magic that makes Christmas the beloved holiday it is. This is Ace Collins at his storytelling best ... which means it's sure to become a 'greatest hit' with your family, too.