GOGR Music History -
A Grand Ole Gospel Christmas
As Christmas approaches, my thoughts turn toward some of the great gospel music Christmas recordings. My loyal readers realize that most of my comments will focus upon gospel music recorded from the 1940s through the 1980s. This isnít to say that good Christmas recordings havenít been made since 1980 . . . but only that Iíll probably focus my thoughts upon some of the earlier times. Evie and Amy Grant are often in my CD player during the Christmas season, but my comments will be directed toward artists prior to their appearance on the religious music scene.
We all know that the focal point of Christmas is toward the Christ child. However, the joys of Christmas also focus on friends, family, and Santa Claus. While I would never diminish the importance of teaching the story of Jesus, I also recognize that there are also some secular considerations when the Christmas season is mentioned.
That being said, Iíd like to call your attention to some of my favorite gospel artists as they perform Christmas music. If I mention "Santa Claus" or "reindeer," please forgive me. Iím not attempting to be politically correct. Iím just calling your attention to some of the great Christmas songs as recorded by gospel music artists. Some were even secular, God forbid!
One of the earliest attempts at Christmas recordings by a gospel artist was by the Blackwood Brothers in the late 1940s. They recorded six Christmas songs for their private label. All were sacred recordings. They were released in a 78 rpm album of Christmas favorites.
During this time, few artists were willing to release Christmas material. For example, the LeFevres released "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem" on the Bibletone label, but the flip side was "Waiting for the Call." I wish many other artists had followed their lead and released Christmas recordings.
Some of my favorite Christmas recordings by gospel artists include:
Beautiful Star of Bethlehem / Silent Night
Although this was a very early recording by the Florida Boys, they werenít afraid to release a Christmas single. Nice Christmas music from this historical group.
Gospel Singing Caravan
Blackwood Brothers and
This Christmas collection by the Statesmen trio was Doy Ottís final recording. The recording has nice orchestral instrumentation. Most of the songs are presented as solos by Jake, Doy, Rosie, and Hovie. The arrangements of these sacred Christmas songs are rather straight forward, but itís nice to hear these gentlemen sing anything!
Santa Claus Song / White Christmas
Silent Night / White Christmas
One of the rarest and most collectable Christmas recordings is by the Statesmen Quartet. This Capitol record was never available on LP, and I would consider it to be the rarest commercially available Statesmen Quartet recording.
The "Santa Claus Song" was written by Lee Roy Abernathy and features Big Chief at his best. Irving Berlinís "White Christmas" has the classic Statesmen treatment as they do this song to perfection. These are my favorite two "gospel" Christmas classics. This recording is hard to find, but well worth the time and funds it will cost to acquire it. The Statesmen later recorded "White Christmas" on their private label with a nice Hovie Lister rendition of "Silent Night" on the flip side.
There are several other Christmas recordings that deserve mention here, but these are my ten favorites. "The Star Carol" by Tennessee Ernie Ford was one of the top selling albums from 1958. The Imperials released a Christmas collection in 1980, but by that time they were out of the gospel music mainstream. In recent years, my favorite gospel Christmas project is "Treasure These Moments" by the Booth Brothers. They feature a nice blend of sacred and secular Christmas classics.
Thank you all for your questions and comments. I welcome your response and comments. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I trust you will have a wonderful holiday season, and I hope to see you again in 2006. May God bless you all.
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