JINGLE JAM7: Dave's 2020 Holiday Mix
Dave's 7th annual holiday mix, featuring rare and underappreciated Christmas records from around the world, including a slew from the Caribbean and, of course, many from right here in Detroit. Even if it's a long, long winter ahead of us this year, or if it doesn't feel like Christmas without the ones you love, hopefully this two-hour mix will give you all the Christmas Feelings.
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If you enjoy the mix, please let me know! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
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Wish that it was Christmas every day? Check out Dave's mixes of Christmas past, shuffle nearly 2000 hand-picked songs on Dave's "XMAS Radio" Spotify playlist, or listen to a 4-hour all-holiday vinyl set, recorded 2019 at the Rust Belt Market on Small Business Saturday.
Jingle Jam7: Dave's 2020 Holiday Mix!
1. Eddie and De-Havelons - Xmas Party
This 1962 record on the Peacock label is led by Eddie Silver, who was a prolific songwriter and producer in the Chicago area, writing songs for Little Willie John, Fontella Bass and the debut single by the Jackson Five.
2. T.G. Fury & the BRC - Christmas Time
This record out of Barbados in 1975 is joyous and funky, T.G. Fury’s only release, backed up by the Blue Rhythm Combo.
3. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles - Christmas Everyday (1968 version)
There are two Miracles Christmas albums, and this song is known as the hit from the first album, Christmas with the Miracles in 1963. Apparently, the group took a stab at re-recording the song in 1968, but it was shelved until 2018, when it was released as part of the Motown’s copyright-renewing online-only compilation Motown Unreleased 1968. I’d still pick the original version over this, but it’s great to hear a fresh take.
4. The Maytals - Christmas Feelings
Toots recorded several Christmas songs during his long career, but this is the first from 1964. It’s also been released under the name “Christmas Season.”
5. Kalyan – Christmas Groove
Here’s that old story about Mary riding that funky donkey, recorded in Port of Spain Trinidad by Kalyan in 1975.
6. The Hep Stars – Christmas on My Mind
The Hep Stars were one of the most successful English-language bands in Sweden in 1967 when this track came out, but most of the world now remembers them as the launching point for keyboard player and composer Benny Andersson of ABBA.
7. Lenny Dee – Sleigh Ride
Leonard George DeStoppelaire, aka Lenny Dee, delivers a space age pop organ take of the classic “Sleigh Ride” from 1961. Lenny Dee recorded with Owen Bradley in Nashville and played with some of the greats, including Les Paul and Chat Atkins.
8. Glen Adams – Xmas Rock Reggae
A 1973 reggae Christmas tune from Glen Adams, who was part of Lee Scratch Perry’s group the Upsetters and also recorded as part of the duo Derrick & Yvonne.
9. Hank Carbo & The GTOs – White Christmas
Self-produced 45 release by Hank Carbo in Los Angeles sometime in the early 70s on his own label, HCP (perhaps for Hank Carbo Productions?). The backing band the GTOs is not to be confused with the infamous groupies produced by Frank Zappa.
10. Ronald Berridge and His Orchestra – My Favorite Things
This instrumental out of Trinidad and Tobago was recorded around 1965, featuring influential steelpan virtuoso Ronald Berridge.
11. The Draytons Two – Things of Christmas
While “My Favorite Things” might have been originally written as a Christmas song, this song, the 1973 debut single from Barbados’ Draytons Two, aka Des Weekes and Lew Drayton, makes it clear what are the things of Christmas.
12. Junior Walker – Season’s Greetings
Here’s a message recorded by Junior Walker, originally distributed just to radio DJs and later included on the Motown Christmas Collection. Just a few notes and you know exactly who is playing that sax.
13. The C-Quents – All I Want for Christmas Is You
From the short-lived Captown Records label out of Washington DC comes this debut 45 (of only three) by the C-Quents. Early 60s Midwest soul goodness!
14. Lou Chaney – Yule-Tide Jerk
This is the B-side from 1940s horror movie star Lou Chaney’s only release, a cover of “Monster’s Holiday,” the “Monster Mash” Christmas monster song by Boris Picket. This instrumental is written by David Gates, who would become known as the lead singer of Bread.
15. The Ad Libs – Santa’s On His Way (acapella demo)
While the Ad Libs may be remembered as one-hit wonders for “The Boy from New York City,” they released more than a dozen singles, continuing through the 70s. This unreleased acapella demo was from their classic mid-60s period on Leiber & Stoller’s Blue Cat Records. Like most of their songs, including their big hit, this one is written by John Taylor.
16. The Raindrops – Jingle Bell Stomp
This is recorded by a Brooklyn male vocal group, not to be confused with Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry’s Raindrops. This short-lived group delivers a rollicking take on this seasonal classic that references the recent hit “Bristol Stomp” by the Dovells and the stomp dance craze.
17. Del Woods – Here Comes Santa Claus
Del Woods, whose real name was Polly Adelaide Hendricks Hazelwood, lived in Nashville her entire life. She grew up playing piano in various styles and, despite her parents’ best efforts, gravitated towards the honky tonk sounds of Nashville in the 50s.
18. Thomas Sisters – Donde Esta Santa Claus
There isn’t much known about this mysterious peppy cover of this novelty hit, originally by the young Augie Rios. The Thomas Sisters never released another record, and the label, Chief Records, only released one other record - by soul powerhouse Ida Sands.
19. Fountains of Wayne – The Man in the Santa Suit
This is one of several tracks on this year’s mix that is sadly chosen to recognize the death of a luminary from COVID-19. Adam Schlesinger, co-founder and co-writer of Fountains of Wayne, was one of the pandemic’s early casualties. This B-side to their 1997 Christmas single, “I Want an Alien for Christmas” is a great example of how the band writes about ordinary struggles, peppered with sharp details and dark humor.
20. The Falcons – Ye Merry Gentlemen
Yet another band that is confusingly named. No, this is not the legendary Detroit 60s vocal group, instead it’s a Canadian instrumental surf group. This record came out in 2004 and, like a lot of surf music, has a timeless feel to it.
21. The Urbations – Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
1985 Flexi-disc Christmas release from Detroit’s own, The Urbations! Managed by Gary Grimshaw and John Sinclair, with members that would continue to be involved many Detroit rock’n’roll bands, including Tino and Johnny of the Howlin’ Diablos. This was the first release from the Urbations after Dan Mulholland left the band as lead singer (he went on to front the Stomp Rockets).
22. Christmas Jug Band – S.A.N.T.A.
The Christmas Jug Band is a still-active collective made up of northern California’s roots rock veterans that has been gathering to bring good cheer to audiences since 1977. The band on this recording features Tim Eschliman (of Commander Cody), Dan Hicks (of Hot Licks), Austin Delone (of Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds) and is sung by Paul Rogers of Those Darn Accordions.
23. The Joy Strings – We Three Kings of Orient Are
1965 recording from this Scottish Christian band, they were the first Salvation Army pop group to chart. Random fact is that band member and architect Wycliffe Noble went on to lead accessibility efforts in the UK, making many buildings more accessible to wheelchairs, including Royal Albert Hall.
24. Outrageous Cherry – Listen the Snow Is Falling
Recorded live at the 2011 annual Sounds and Spirits of Detroit charity show, organized for years by Dave Feeny at the Magic Stick. The band, which had been led since the early 90s by Matt Smith and the distintive guitar complementary playing of Larry Ray (RIP), at this point featured drummer Maria Nucilli and bassist Colleen Burke. This Yoko Ono song, the original B-side to “Happy Christmas (War Is Over),” is also notably covered by Galaxie 500, perhapst part inspiration for this version. This audio is taken from a live video that I shot, which you can watch here.
25. Desmond Dekker and the Aces – Christmas Day
From the classic early singles by Jamaican legend Desmond Dekker, here’s this original Christmas song from 1968. Shout out to the record label!
26. The Orchids – Christmas Is the Time To Be with Your Baby
This short-lived vocal group was at the center of the New York girl group boom, working with Carole King, Ellie Greenwich, Bobby Darin, Terry Melcher and Teddy Randazzo in their brief career. This was their third and penultimate release. Members of the group are unknown, but the lead singer sounds a lot like Brenda Reid of the Exciters.
27. Dusty Wilson – No Xmas For Me
If Christmas is about being with loved ones, this is a year many will feel like there is no Christmas. Detroit’s Dusty Wilson has got your bummer Christmas tune. Dusty was a bit of a connosoir of the bleak ballads, writing songs with titles like, “Life Not Worth Living,” “Can’t Do Without You,” and “It’s Going to Be a Tragedy.” He’s also rumored to have been a singer in legendary Detroit R&B group the Tomangoes.
28. The Impressions – Long Long Winter
Here’s Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions with a song from 1964 that speaks of the long, lonely pandemic winter ahead of us.
29. The Blackwells – The Christmas Holiday
Another song that felt relevant this year, about how the Christmas holiday won’t be the same without togetherness. This song, from 1960, is by the real life Blackwell siblings from Laytonville, CA. Eldest sibling, DeWayne Blackwell, wrote the hit “Mr. Blue” for the Fleetwoods. Any relation to the Detroit Blackwell family is unknown!
30. Art Walunas and His Orchestra – Silver Bells
Sometimes you need a classic Christmas tune, and when you do, call on a Detroit polka band to give you the accordian-driven version of “Silver Bells” that you never knew you needed. Released on Dearborn Records in 1965!
31. Nibbs – Spending Christmas Day with You
Another rare Detroit gem about Christmas togetherness, this one arranged by Mike Terry and written/produced by Herman Weems. Weems is perhaps best remembered today as the artist behind the classic Funkadelic logo [he supposedly turned George Clinton on to LSD] and the painter of the People’s Records wall of soul 45 boxes. (Doug Coombe, legendary Detroit photog who took the Jingle Jams cover photo, wrote a great feature on him about a decade ago for the Metro Times – read it here.)
32. Louis Armstrong and Philippe Renaux – Twas the Night Before Vive Le Vent
Satchmo recorded this reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” five months before his death in 1971. It was released without musical accompaniment, but I’ve paired it here with a track from producer Philippe Renaux’s Noëls Cosmiques 1977 album. In France, the “Jingle Bells’ melody is sung to lyrics about the winter wind, hence the “Vive Le Vent” title.
33. Doctor Octoroc – Let It Snoki Doki Panic
This is a 2008 novelty that will sound familiar to anyone who played Super Mario 2 on the original Nintendo. Levi Buffum (aka Doctor Octoroc) masterfully blends the melody from the video game with the 1945 classic, “Let It Snow.”
34. Monyaka Presents Hollywood and Tango – Got the Beat for Christmas
Brooklyn reggae group, Monyaka, backs up early MC pioneers Hollywood and Tango on this 1985 track. Hollywood supposedly coined the term “hip hop” and was the first person to MC with two turntables and a microphone at the Apollo. That's where it's at!
35. The Moog Machine – Patapan
When the moog first hit the market, countless albums were made interpreting popular hits with this novel sound. In 1969, the Moog Machine put out three albums, including this Christmas album. Patapan is an often overlooked Christmas melody, and its haunting tone fits the moog well.
36. Mighty Pelay – Christmas Virus
Okay, any other year and this song from St. Lucian Mighty Pelay would not have made the mix, but it was just way too on the nose to avoid it. No cure for it can be found! Hands reaching out! The infectious horroric joy of Christmas.
37. Smilestreet People – Winter Wonderland
Bardados group self-released this record in 1975. Guitarist Freddie Harris recorded with many other groups, including Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band.
38. Jackson Southernaires – Say a Prayer for Christmas
This 1976 gospel disco tune was recorded in Jackson, Mississippi’s Malaco Studios, the same studio that produced the hits “Groove Me” and “Mr. Big Stuff” (fun fact: both of those songs were recorded by the same musicians on the same day for different singers).
39. The Gems – Happy New Love
This second holiday-themed single from this group, featuring lead singer Minnie Riperton. Recorded in 1965 for Chess, this song was co-written by Detroit’s Billy Davis, who started as a songwriter partner with Berry Gordy and co-owner of Detroit’s Anna Records before moving to Chicago to write countless soul classics for Chess and later the jingle “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.”
40. Roy Tan – Happy New Year
This rhythm and blues new years tune from 1955 was the flip to “Elvis for Xmas” by Mad Milo, a song that capitalized on two trends: (1) songs about Elvis in the wake of his meteroic rise to fame and (2) songs that had “break-ins,” an early form of sampling that used clips from popular songs. That song is a novelty through and through, but this tune from Roy Tan is a solid R&B jaunt about leaving the old year behind and looking ahead to something better, something we can all get behind in 2020!
41. Hank Carbo & The GTOs – The Resolution
This is the flip side to Hank’s version of “White Christmas,” which appeared earlier in the mix.
42. Philippe Renaux – Ce N’est Qu’un Au Revoir Mes Frerer (Auld Lang Syne)
One more serene track from Philippe Renaux’s album as we near the end of this mix and another year’s holiday music digging. The French lyrics of the “Auld Lang Syne’ melody translates to “It’s Just a Goodbye My Brothers,” a fitting farewell.
43. Brook Benton – Merry Christmas, Happy New Year
The flip-side to the 1960 hit “This Time of the Year,” this song has the syrupy sheen of a would-be classic. Maybe 60 years late to the party it can be?