The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Published 11:45 am Sunday, December 3, 2023
Thanksgiving is over and I hope you had a good one. We did! And speaking of thanksgiving, I’d like to add one more before we move on to the most wonderful time of the year.
Most everyone has access to a computer or smart televisions where there is this channel by the name of YouTube. It’s a collection of all sorts of videos from “soup to nuts,” as we might say. That means from beginning to end. In other words, one can find just about any memory from old-time television shows to sporting events to musical offerings.
As I was thinking of the song title, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” I remembered where I first heard it. It was a song written by Edward Pola and George Wyle in 1963, specifically, for the Andy Williams Christmas Special. Since its debut, it has become what is known in music as a standard, meaning that Christmas hasn’t arrived until you hear that song.
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I typed in “The Andy Williams Christmas Special” in the YouTube search box and was transported back to 1963 as Williams and a whole slew of kids drove an old jalopy onto a set of fake snow and Christmas decorations. As a child of 14, the Andy Williams Christmas Special would have been a most entertaining experience for the most wonderful time of the year.
There are songs and movies and other events that tell me Christmas is near. Just a few weeks ago, I found myself, just out of nowhere, beginning to sing “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose.” It is usually par for my course that “The Christmas Song,” as that song is known, are the first words that come to mind as the season begins.
Mel Torme is the primary songwriter of the song, although the idea was hatched by a few phrases on the piano of Robert Wells. Interestingly, this most-performed Christmas song was written in the heat of a California summer in 1946. Torme said it was written as an effort to “stay cool by thinking cool.”
Before World War II, Torme had worked in music, but served his country in the US Army. He was discharged in 1946 and returned to his career of jazz singer, drummer, and composer. On that hot day in July, he glanced at Robert Wells’ piano shelf and saw a few phrases.
Wells claims he was not writing a song, but was trying to think of “cool” things on a hot day. Torme saw these phrases. “Chestnuts roasting,” “Jack Frost nipping,” “Yuletide carols,” and “Folks dressed up like Eskimos.” Then, after he saw those few phrases, The Christmas Song was written within 45 minutes.
It’s ironic that Mel Torme, known in the music business for his smooth tenor singing, didn’t record the song himself.
Nat King Cole had a trio at the time and he wanted to record the song, but his label Capitol Records didn’t agree that he should sing it. He sang it anyway and the rest is history.
It was recorded by Cole in 1946, but it was the 1961 stereo re-recording that is the one we will hear on our radios these days. It is the definitive version of the song and was chosen by the Library of Congress, in 2022, to be included in the United States National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Not bad for a song that was written in 45 minutes to “keep cool” on a hot summer day.
And it’s the one song that begins my celebration of this most wonderful time of the year!