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A Thought for Today

Christmas is more than a celebration it is a time of summing up.


DECEMBER 7th 1941

As America found itself in a state of war sixty years ago few of us who were alive at the time had any idea of the profound effect WWII would have on American and world history. Indeed, it was all that we could do to try and comprehend that on a sleepy Sunday morning our peaceful shores had been attacked and violated. In the first hours of the sketchy radio reports those of us living in California feared ‘today Hawaii, tomorrow San Diego, Santa Monica or San Francisco.’

Every war is supposed to be ‘The War to End All Wars’ and of course it never is. Because our enemies are being redefined every day it’s hard to believe the current conflict will end any time soon. We can only hope the wave of patriotism that has swept across our land will stay and help sustain us and our armed forces for however long it takes till some kind of peace is again prevalent.


Rod, Today's Flight Plan made me start thinking of the wonderful music of the 40's and worrying that the music (?) of our present war will be rap. Say it won't! Pat and Pups

Dear Pat, What a depressing thought. Still, our armies run on the cuisine and culture of their time. Alas the steady stream of junk that passes for music these days has become the ‘temporary’ culture of now. But, let me put it this way: At last count there were some 1100 recordings of “I’ll Be Seeing You.” I seriously doubt that Puff Daddy, Dr. Dre or even Mariah Carey have yet created a single “standard” that sixty years from now will stand the test of time. As Ever, Rod

Dear Rod: I’ve just purchased the latest additions to your ongoing series “Songs That Won the War.” These two new discs, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” & “Christmas Jump & Jive” have to rank at the very top of the series. I’m buying an extra set of both for my dad & my uncle, both of whom served in World War II. I hope this series continues. It is so valuable to all of us. What great songs and what a great job you’ve done in preserving them. Sincerely, Richard Emory, St. Louis.

Dear Richard. Thanks. With fifteen albums completed & released “Songs That Won the War” continues to be up front as far as my priorities in producing records go. Another half dozen albums are on the way.

We have a few copies of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Christmas Jump & Jive” & “Remember Pearl Harbor” at Stanyan By Mail at a special price of $10.00 for each CD. Alas the first two boxed sets are no longer available.


Here, adapted from the notes on the album is some information on the two holiday discs mentioned above.

302 066 293 Songs That Won The War: I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Santa Clause is Coming to Town • Tommy Dorsey -vocal by Fred Astaire & Lee Wiley / I’ll Walk Alone • Dinah Shore introduced by Bing Crosby / Jingle Bells • Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters / It Happened In Sun Valley • Glenn Miller -vocals by: Paula Kelly, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke and The Modernaires / Little Jack Frost Get Lost • Frankie Carle / The Little Boy That Santa Clause Forgot • Vera Lynn / Santa Clause Came In The Spring • Benny Goodman / The Day After Christmas • Corky Hale / Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas • Judy Garland / Every Day’s A Holiday • Al Bowley / The Night Before Christmas • Louis Armstrong / Christmas Child in Green • Liberace / I’ll Be Home for Christmas • Bing Crosby / It’s the Season for Kraft Mustard Commercial / Baby It’s Cold Outside • Dusty Springfield and Rod McKuen / Dashing Through The Snow • Duke Ellington / Winter Wonderland • Johnny Mercer / What Are You Doin’ New Year's Eve? • Lena Horne / Oh Come All Ye Faithful • Dick Haymes / White Christmas • Bing Crosby

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

In times of war or trouble there is no better morale builder or stress buster than music. WWII had the good fortune of being able to press the best songwriters and artists of the 1940’s into service. No better illustration of the songs that helped win the war can be found than those written and performed to help ease the strain of being away from home during the holidays. This disc contains a generous helping of 19 WWII holiday favorites.

Friends are friends and before a recording session Tommy Dorsey had a very wet lunch with Fred Astaire and Lee Wiley. The two needed very little persuasion to tag along with Tommy to the Victor studios. One bottle of bubbly led to another and thus we have the first and only documented pairing of two of the most unique voices in pop music harmonizing together on a swinging arrangement of the holiday classic Santa Clause is Coming to Town. Dorsey close friends included all the movie stars and other swells and if you give a closer look to the Dorsey discography you’ll discover Eleanor Powell, Libby Holman, Dick Powell and other stars of the day sitting in on various sessions. Sometimes they get billing on the finished recording and sometimes not. To this day the vocals on the Tommy Dorsey recording of “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” are credited to two of the Dorsey Band’s staff singers of the time. No doubt the original label copy was designed to ward off lawsuits since Astaire & Wiley had recording contracts with other record labels at the time.

Fred Astaire needs no introduction, but the incomparable Lee Wiley, one of the most influential vocalists of the thirties and forties is much less known to the public at large. Her discography is small but impressive and she had everything necessary to become a major act – everything that is but the drive necessary to go with her formidable talent. Instead of becoming a star she’s had to settle for legendary cult status. As a ‘singer’s singer she has over the years been copied by nearly as many vocalists as Billie Holiday.

While Santa Clause is Coming to Town has been recorded by everyone from The Boston Pops to Bruce Springstein, the Dorsey/Astaire/Wiley combination on this great J. Fred Cootes, Haven Gillespie standard make this my favorite of all the versions of this often recorded tune.

This performance of I’ll Walk Alone by Dinah Shore is taken from a 1945 radio Command Performance MC’d by Bing Crosby and celebrating VE day. This was Dinah’s most requested World War II song and to this day remains a standard she put her own personal stamp on. The music and words are by the great songwriting team of Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. Lyricist Cahn working with both Styne and Jimmy McHugh provided Frank Sinatra with a steady stream of hits throughout his long career. I Fall in Love Too Easily, The Tender Trap, Time After Time, All The Way, Call Me Irresponsible, My Kind of Town, The September of My Years, Come Fly With Me, Love and Marriage, The Second Time Around, Pocketful of Miracles, Three Coins in the Fountain, High Hopes might as well be the soundtrack to Sinatra’s life – and ours.

Dinah Shore had a go at the movies but it was the color television camera that fell in love with her and from the fifties on kept her in the limelight. During the forties she was best known for a string of hit records and her many appearances on radio to entertain and sustain the troops. Her “Dinah Shore Open,” held annually in Palm Springs did more for women’s golf than all the pros put together.

Who isn’t familiar with Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters and their many recordings together, including J. Pierpoint’s Jingle Bells. Ten to one, though, this more than mildly hilarious AFRS rehearsal has escaped your attention. Listen closely as during the tongue twister arrangement Bing then Patty and finally Maxine and Laverne all break up. It starts when Crosby uncharacteristically misses a cue and ad libs “Holy Jesus Christ” for an intended lyric. What? Yes. They faired much better with the same arrangement later in the studio but nothing can replace this, until now, not readily available performance.

All the big bands were featured in movie musicals during the 1940’s and one of the most successful was 20th Century Fox’s “Sun Valley Serenade. This low budget black and white offering was mounted to showcase Fox’s ‘Queen of the Ice” Sonja Heine but for band buffs it was a chance to catch Glenn Miller, his orchestra and stable of vocalists Paula Kelly, Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke and The Modernaires perform half a dozen top flight tunes, among them Harry Warren and Mack Gordon’s It Happened In Sun Valley. This track is from the broadcast “The Glenn Miller Christmas Concert.”

Another Warren / Gordon collaboration Little Jack Frost Get Lost was introduced by Betty Grable and John Payne in “Springtime in the Rockies.” Here it gets the bandleader-pianist Frankie Carle treatment with an entertaining vocal by his daughter Marjorie Hughes. There’s aren’t too many versions of this much too neglected song available so it’s a pleasure to put it back in the music catalog where it belongs.

Who could possibly listen to Vera Lynn’s version of the British favorite The Little Boy That Santa Clause Forgot and not be moved to something or other (the word I’m looking for is not tears). My favorite lyric in this Kennedy / Conner Leach collaboration comes when they rhyme ‘Daddy’ & ‘Laddie,’ not only was this a chart topper for Dame Vera, The Sweetheart of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, but she re-recorded in the 1960’s as part of a newer Christmas album. Vera Lynn was truly the vocalist of choice for the British troops with songs like “The White Cliffs of Dover” but it wasn’t till just after the war that she conquered the United States.

Johnny Mercer wrote Santa Clause Came In The Spring for the 1935 RKO film, in which he had a featured role, “To Beat the Band.” Benny Goodman was among the first artists to record it and this V Disc version has never been in the record catalog before. version Mercer himself sang the song in the movie.

Johnny Mercer, one of the co-founder’s of Capitol Records, had many hits during the 1940’s and they were by no means confined to songs he wrote himself. A good song was a good song as far as he was concerned and Bernard & Smith’s Winter Wonderland enjoyed a long stay at the top of The Hit Parade thanks to the Johnny Mercer, Pied Pipers, version heard here. The versatile Paul Weston (he and his wife Jo Stafford were alumni of Tommy Dorsey’s band) was hired as house arranger and A&R man for Capitol and did nearly all of Johnny’s arrangements including this one. His charts kept a steady supply of Stafford and Margaret Whiting records spinning on AM radio. Later he and Jo both moved to Columbia where in addition to producing Jo’s “You Belong To Me,” “Jambalaya” and all of her other hits he arranged for and produced a steady stream of Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Johnnie Ray and Frankie Laine chart toppers. He also brought Liberace and The Norman Luboff Choir to the Columbia label.

I included The Day After Christmas in this collection because it was used represent Christmas songs in The Unknown War, the 20-hour documentary about WWII on the Eastern Front. Though not featured on this recording the lyric goes in part “as you untie your packages and drink a toast of good cheer, think how it’s going to be for us this time again next year. We’ll pack the ornaments together after the tree comes down and on The Day After Christmas, whatever be the weather we’ll both go driving into town. And we’ll smile like tinsel on the tree and I’ll collect all the promises you put aside for me.” While the lyric anticipates ‘next year,’ the servicemen and sweethearts of World War II looked forward to for reunification; it was four years in coming. Corky Hale, so adept at so many instruments is featured here on a lilting piano solo. The track is from her album “Harp! The Herald Angels Swing.

This version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland was conducted by her new husband David Rose for a “Salute to the Service” radio show. Garland had performed it earlier in MGM’s family classic “Meet Me in St. Louis. Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine were under exclusive contract to Metro and this is only one of the classic songs they provided for the studio. From the same film came “The Trolley Song and “The Boy Next Door.” Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas has a wonderful verse that wasn’t used in the film and it has become somewhat of an orphan over the years. And Judy never once sang the lovely verse Yip Harburg wrote for Harold Arlen’s “Over the Rainbow.”

Al Bowley had the best-selling version of the Coslow / Trivers tune Every Day’s a Holiday. With his matinee idol looks and certainly a voice to match Bowley had the same kind of following in England that Sinatra enjoyed in the United States. A bit of a ladies man he was the target of more than one angry boyfriend and husband. Bowley, himself, was a victim of the war when he was killed in London in a 1941 air raid. Al Bowley had been a band singer since 1929 when he was featured with the Ray Fox Band. He also worked with Lew Stone and The New Cumberland Dance Orchestra but it was probably his four years with Ray Noble that made him a star and a much sought after soloist. He helped introduce many of Noble’s best-known songs including “Love is the Sweetest Thing,” “The Very Thought of You” and “Love Locked Out.”

One of my better ideas was getting Louis Armstrong to recite Clement Moore’s enchanting The Night Before Christmas. Although he later performed it on several holiday programs for both radio and television there is something about this first performance that is as warm and endearing as anything the great Sachmo ever did. Louis went into Radio Recorders and polished the poem off in only one take. I never got around to composing the musical background I promised to add to it, but I still love this unadorned version. This year the track is being animated with paintings by Grandma Moses as part of an HBO holiday feature entitled “Twas the Night.”
Liberace was one of the English-speaking world’s favorite entertainers. The flamboyant showman could sell out Las Vegas Casino’s and The Royal Albert Hall with just a brief announcement. Lee loved Christmas and started decorating his Vegas mansion both inside and out a full month ahead of the holidays. Christmas Child in Green is a lilting performance of the Alex Drey perennial with The Liberace Combo and in addition to the pianist’s bejeweled finger work it features Anna Gabriel on harp.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas and the Kraft Mustard Commercial are both from Bing Crosby’s long running Kraft Music Hall radio series. This version is the only time he performed two successive verses of the song, without frills or even an introduction. White Christmas is from the same series and was recorded the same year. Unlike his American Decca recordings that featured The Jud Conlin Singers, he’s backed here by The Jordanaires. As always his arranger conductor is the versatile John Scott Trotter. When I worked with Trotter in the 1960’s on the score for “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” he told me that after all these years Bing was still his favorite singer and an all around “champ” to work with. I’ll Be Home for Christmas was written by Walter Kent, Kim Gannon and Buck Ram. Of course it was Crosby who introduced Irving Berlin’s White Christmas in Paramount’s “Holiday Inn.” This arrangement of it differs quite a bit from his commercial recording.

I’ve always loved Frank Loessor’s Baby It’s Cold Outside and sing it every chance I get. I’ve recorded it with Petula Clark and Lisbeth List and the Dusty Springfield/Rod McKuen version is taken from my TV special “Christmas in New England.” I’ve known Dusty since she and her brother singer-songwriter Tom were a duo and later founded the great British folk trio, “The Springfields.” It was Dusty who had the hit in Great Britain on “If You Go Away” and she and I did a lot of performing together during the 1960’s. She was the featured guest on one of my BBC TV shows and later we were both on The Johnny Cash show together. Dusty was a sweetheart and the consummate professional. And, THAT VOICE. I miss her a lot. Baby It’s Cold Outside was introduced by Esther Williams & Red Skelton in MGM’s “Bathing Beauty” and the hit recording of it paired Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting.

David Ellman’s arrangement of Dashing Through The Snow was the perfect vehicle to demonstrate the versatility of Duke Ellington’s 1940’s Orchestra. It was officially billed and Duke Ellington & His Famous Orchestra. The sidemen on this V-Disc session are a who’s who of the best players in the business and arguably comprise the best of Ellington’s many bands,

And now here to ask the musical question What Are You Doin’ New Year's Eve? is the way Big Bang announcers of the period would probably introduce Frank Loessor’s song. Here to give the very musical answer is the lovely Lena Horne. In addition to her many stellar records, guided by Phil Moore, Lena rose to fame in the All Black, black and white MGM musicals “Cabin in the Sky and “Stormy Weather.” But the gorgeous Lena was made for Technicolor as she proved in “Words & Music,” “Till The Clouds Roll By” and “Ziegfeld Follies” among other Metro extravaganzas. Each of her appearances was carefully slipped into the films so that it could just as easily be slipped out of the prints when they played theatres in the still segregated South.

During her years at MGM and a very successful nightclub career that followed she was under the big wings of arranger, conductor and finally husband Lennie Hayton. If the hands on (where everything involving his stars was concerned) Louis B. Mayor ever disapproved of this famous mixed union he never openly said so. Whatever difficulties the two may have had in 1950’s America, and there were plenty of them, Lena & Lenny were a musical marriage truly made in heaven.

Dick Haymes’ baritone fits nicely on this radio transcription of Oh Come All Ye Faithful. Vic Damone, Dick Todd and Haymes each had their share of hits but all three singers were forced by the critics and the public to compete with Frank Sinatra. A shame since they all had styles of their own. Haymes most enduring hit of the war years was “You’ll Never Know.” Subject to James C. Petrillo’s phonograph record ban that prohibited musicians from playing on records, Haymes like Sinatra, Como, Dinah Shore and others were forced to record their singles with only vocal groups as back up. One act, The Song Spinners cornered most of the back-up action.

So here they are, some of the great Christmas Songs and not a few of the artists that helped buoy those on The Front and The Home Front for four holiday seasons during WWII. The songs endure and so do their performances.

302 066 294 Songs That Won The War: Christmas Jump & Jive

Sun Valley Jump • Glenn Miller / Ring Dem Bells • Duke Ellington / White Christmas • Charlie Spivak / G. I. Jive • Johnny Mercer / Rose Room • Benny Goodman Quartet / The March of The Toys / Christmas Night in Knightsbridge • The Arthur Greenslade Big Band / Hey Now, Let’s Live • Louis Jordon / Mrs. Santa Clause • Nat King Cole / Little Brown Jug • Glenn Miller / Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer • Ella Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby / Christmas Western Swing • Big Jim’s Banjo Band / Ain’t Misbehavin’ • Kay Starr / When The Quail Come B. To San Quentin • Artie Shaw / Quiet Christmas Riot • Buddy Rich / Santa Clause Express • Jay Wilbur) vocal The Three Ginx) / Jingle Bell Jive • Benny Goodman / Hark The Herald Angels Swing • Corky Hale / Jolly Old Christmas • Billy Cotton Band Vocal: Fred Douglas (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) White Cliffs of Dover • Louis Prima


Much of the music of the 1940’s went into World War II as segregated as the troops but the combination of swing, jazz, country, traditional blues and just as many different kinds of music from Great Britain contributed to a rich puree that to this day makes up the rich foundation of American Popular song.

By whatever name, Swing was king during WWII and the Christmas Jump and Jive that forms the basis of this CD permeated the airwaves, juke boxes and live performances that brought us from the dark years of the forties into the peace and prosperity of the nearly war free 1950’s.

Imagine a Christmas party with the big bands of Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Charlie Spivak, Tommy Dorsey, Arthur Greenslade, Buddy Rich, Artie Shaw and the Billy Cotton Band? Add a generous helping of the legendary small ensembles of Benny Goodman, Louis Prima, Big Jim’s Banjo Band and top it off with vocals by Johnny Mercer, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat “King” Cole, Kay Starr, Louis Jordan and presto; the swingin’ist Christmas ever.

The songs collected here aren’t bad either; White Christmas, March of the Toys and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer are flushed out with everybody’s Big Band favorites; Sun Valley Jump, Ring Dem Bells, When the Quail Come Back to San Quinton and Ain’t Misbehavin’. This latest compilation of “Songs That Won the War” concentrates on what the Allies of WWII were dancing and romancing to during the four holiday season’s most of the world was at war. Most of these 20 tracks are taken from V-Discs and rare 1940’s radio transcriptions.

Sun Valley Jump was introduced by Glenn Miller in the 20th Century Fox’ film “Sun Valley Serenade.” It’s part of a great Mack Gordon, Harry Warren score. This version and Little Brown Jug are both from “The Glenn Miller Christmas Concert” broadcast. While we’re on the subject of Movie’s The Bing Crosby / Fred Astaire flick “Holiday Inn” produced what is undoubtedly the most successful pop Christmas song ever, “White Christmas.”

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas must be second only to his “God Bless America” as a WWII morale booster. This is a V-Disc performance by Charlie Spivak who recorded two completely different arrangements of the song for commercial release.

The personnel on Duke Ellington’s Ring Dem Bells is Cootie Williams, Wallace Jones and Rex Stewart, trumpets; Joe Nanton, Juan Tizol & Lawrence Brown – trombones; Barney Bigard, Otto Hardwick, Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster & Harry Carney, saxophones; Fred Guy, guitar; Jimmy Blanton, Bass; Sonny Greer, drums and, of course The Duke on piano. The tune is by Ellington and Irving Mills.

This version of Johnny Mercer’s anthem for ‘Grunts’ G. I. Jive
Was recorded as part of an all star radio show celebrating VE Day. Meredith Wilson conducts the familiar Paul Weston arrangement here.

Harry Williams-Art Hickman’s Rose Room by Benny Goodman and his Quartet from his nightly New York broadcast provides a nice bridge to the Tommy Dorsey transcription of Victor Herbert’s March of The Toys.

The big band I provided for Arthur Greenslade to record Christmas Night in Knightsbridge included not only England’s best studio sidemen but Chet Baker who sat in on trumpet.

Mrs. Santa Clause by Nat King Cole is taken from a British air-check and features the oh so mellow Cole at his mellowest.
That’s Alan Ainsworth conducting the orchestra with The Mike Samms Singers featured.

Bing Crosby’s holiday radio shows are legendary and this pairing with Ella Fitzgerald on one of them offers a classic rendition of Johnny Marks’ Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. It’s followed by a patriotic Save the Fat Commercial.

Lest we forget, the good old boys of country swing did plenty of music making for the war effort and here’s Big Jim’s Banjo Band performing Christmas Mountain Swing.

Thomas “Fats” Waller wrote Ain’t Misbehavin’ with Harry Brooks & Andy Razoff. This lilting version is provided by Kay Starr and her V-Disc Boys (the term used for small pick up groups that provided backing for the many singers who trooped into the Armed Forces Radio studios for V-Disc sessions.

When The Quail Come Back To San Quentin starts off with the chord structure employed by “When the Swallows Return to Capistrano” then takes off on it’s own under the expert guidance of Artie Shaw

Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa were the most in demand drummers of the Big Band Era and off and on each had his own band. Here’s the Rich aggregation on the V-Disc Quiet Christmas Riot.

And let’s not forget our allies, the songwriters and the singers, who contributed so much in the way of solid songs during WWII. British Big Bands are represented here by Santa Clause Express as played by Jay Wilbur and The Three Ginx and a sunny, silly, something entitled Jolly Old Christmas by the Billy Cotton Band the DUH (on purpose vocals are by Fred Douglas & The Brothers Sisters

On Jingle Bell Jive Benny Goodman forgoes his chamber group for the full band. The results are everything you could expect from the apt named King of Swing.

When I suggested to the classy harpist Corky Hale that she try this revered hymn as a jazz waltz she was somewhat dubious but the end result speaks for itself, and thus we have Hark The Herald Angels Swing.

This is a somewhat unorthodox version of Nat Burton & Walter Kent’s (There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover, but then what can you expect from Louis Prima, who whatever guise he took over the years was always a musical innovator.

And there you have it. Nice to know that while fighting the good fight GI Joe & Jill and the brave allied troops paused long enough to occasionally Jump and Jive.

All source material comes from original V-Disc radio transcription recordings, The Armed Forces Radio Network Archives, period radio broadcasts and the Stanyan Archives.

 - RM 12/08/01

notable birthdays Gregg Allman o Morgan Ames o Kim Basinger o David Carradine o Lee J. Cobb o Sammy Davis, Jr. o Richard Fleischer o James Galway o Teri Hatcher o Horace o Sam Kinison o Jim Morrison o Sinead O’Connor o Jean Ritchie o Diego Rivera o John Rubinstein o Maximillan Schell o Jean Sibelius o James Thurber o Eli Whitney o Flip Wilson
Rod's random thoughts There are no wise men. Only men and women who go on gaining wisdom.

A wall is a poor substitute for compassion.

Buy love by giving it away.


Happy Christmas
and I love your ears.
Tomorrow we’ll untie the package
                of another year,
Twelve more months of summer
                     if you stay.
           winter if you go.

Who said that Christmas crackers
hold surprises just for children?
I seldom let the daylight
come into the bedroom first
whatever time of year,
because I want to be
           the first to gaze upon you
as you begin your day.
I want you always as that first surprise.

If I’m selfish
it’s only that I love you
as I’ve loved this year just past
and as I love that still uncertain year ahead.

- from "The 1970 Rod McKuen Calendar & Datebook"

© 1966. 1970, 1984, 1988, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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