What was the first song broadcast from Outer Space?

Published 5:31 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2015

In the spirit of this season and as a tremendous trivia question, answer me, “What was the first song broadcast from outer space? Need a hint? It occurred during Gemini 6 on December 16, 1965, soon to be fifty years ago.

The astronauts were Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra and on that date, they conveyed a message to Mission Control that they were picking up some sort of strange satellite going north to south in a supposed “polar orbit.” The trajectory of the satellite seemed to be strangely irregular and it would fly low at times, almost landing, then it would climb high again.

The astronauts sought permission from Mission Control to intercept the satellite if they could and, at that point one of the astronauts took a smuggled-aboard harmonica and the other astronaut just happened to have a few sleigh bells and sent back to earth their version of a song by the name of (drum roll, please!!) Jingle Bells.

Email newsletter signup

There are many-a good time Christmas songs. There’s one about a reindeer named Rudolph, many about a Santa Claus up on the roof, even one about a Grandma who got run over by a reindeer. But, is there any song that captures the fancy of the season and brings about more smiles and singing-a-long than Jingle Bells?

Young and old seem to know it and are ready to assist anyone in the singing of it. Just a few days ago I was at a nursing home in Pelham and the 10:00 “happy hour” gathering in the Activities Room were willing and able to sing along with me and my guitarJingle Bells.

Here’s another little bit of trivia about the song. It wasn’t written for Christmas. According to an online site, the song was written with our Thanksgiving holiday in mind.

The way we have merged Thanksgiving with Christmas, these days, I’d say that’s close enough for “gub’ment work.”

Although a town in Massachusetts, Medford, claims to be the birthplace of Jingle Bells, it’s not a slam dunk that Medford is the city of origin. The author, though, is known. His name, forever remembered because of Jingle Bells, is James Lord Pierpont.

Medford claims the song was written in one of its taverns in 1850, but the song was published in 1857 after Pierpont had moved to Savannah and married the mayor’s daughter. He also was the organist for his brother’s church there.

Jingle Bells’ name at its inception was not Jingle Bells, but The One Horse Open Sleigh. Jingle Bells became its title in a re-release. By either title it was not so popular at the beginning, but has since become what may be the most recognizable Christmas song this side of Silent Night, Holy Night.

I am sure all of you, now, know more than you ever thought or wanted to know about Jingle Bells, but here are one, two, or three more little trivia “thing-a-ma-jigs” about the song.

The author, James Lord Pierpont had a very rich uncle in New York City by the name of J.P. Morgan. He was not buried in the town in which he wrote Jingle Bells, but in Georgia! Savannah, where he played organ for the Unitarian Church, is his final resting place. And finally for the ‘Noles, the organ on which he taught music in Savannah, is in the possession of FSU.

Well, did I go on and on about Jingle Bells or not? Perhaps, but you have to admit.

Knowing the first song to be broadcast from Outer Space is seasonally noteworthy.