The Great Class of 1965

More About Rudolph


Run, Rudolph, Run
Roomful Of Blues
From their album "Roomful of Christmas" on Bullseye Blues Records

 2003 Calkins Media Inc.  Clicking through the links below for more info on other Holiday tunes will bring you to a commerical site,  Rather than remove these interesting links, it was felt that keeping them was fair exchange for the non-commerical purpose of this Dartmouth related information.  If one does click through, one will have to hit your "back" key to return to the site as you will leave it.


Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer
Johnny Marks 1949

In a way, one could consider "Rudolph" as one of the pioneers of the "Modern American Christmas" songs. Not surprisingly, it all started as an advertising campaign for a department store.

In 1939, Montgomery Ward  asked one of their copywriters, 34-year-old Robert L. May, to come up with a Christmas story coloring book they could give away to shoppers as a promotional gimmick.

May, rather sickly, shy and introverted as a child, based the story on his childhood feelings of alienation from children of his own age.  As to the name, May considered and rejected Rollo (too cheerful) and Reginald (too British) before deciding on Rudolph. 

May's boss was worried that a story featuring a red nose -- an image associated with drinking and drunkards -- wasn't exactly suitable for a Christmas tale. May responded by taking Denver Gillen, a friend from Montgomery Ward's art department, to the Lincoln Park Zoo to sketch some deer. Gillen's illustrations of a red-nosed reindeer overcame the hesitancy of May's bosses, and the Rudolph story was approved. As an interesting side-note, you might notice that Rudolph has a similar rhyme pattern to another Christmas classic - "'Twas the Night Before Christmas". May's story continues below the lyrics.

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donder and Blitzen.,
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose,
And if you ever saw it,
You could even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names;
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games.
Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa came to say:
Rudolph with your nose so bright,
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"
Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,
You'll go down in history."

Montgomery Ward distributed 2.4 million copies of the Rudolph booklet in 1939, and although wartime paper shortages curtailed printing for the next several years, a total of 6 million copies had been given by the end of 1946.

. The post-war demand for licensing the Rudolph character was tremendous, but since May had created the story as an employee of Montgomery Ward, they held the copyright and he received no royalties.

Deeply in debt from the medical bills resulting from his wife's terminal illness (she died about the time May created Rudolph), May persuaded Montgomery Ward's corporate president, Sewell Avery, to turn the copyright over to him in January 1947. With the rights  in hand, May's financial security was assured.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was printed commercially in 1947 and shown in theaters as a nine-minute cartoon the following year. The Rudolph phenomenon really took off, however, when May's brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, developed the lyrics and melody for a Rudolph song. Marks' musical version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," recorded by Gene Autry in 1949, sold two million copies that year and went on to become one of the best-selling songs of all time, second only to "White Christmas."

Rocking around the Christmas Tree
Johnny Marks 1942

Yes - it's him again. The fella who wrote "Rudolph,the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and the rest of the songs from the Rankin-Bass animated feature shot yet another seasonal hit onto the airwaves with this sock-hop favorite recorded by Brenda Lee ("I'm Sorry," "The Crying Game") , who was just inaugurated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March of 2002. Marks himself is a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, based mainly on the strength of his Christmas offerings.

Oh - By the way...

Johnny Marks is Jewish, as are the writers of 8 out of the ten most popular Christmas songs of all time.

Rocking around the Christmas tree
At the Christmas party hop
Mistletoe hung where you can see
Ev'ry couple tries to stop

Rocking around the Christmas tree,
Let the Christmas spirit ring
Later we'll have some pumpkin pie
And we'll do some caroling.

You will get a sentimental
Feeling when you hear
Voices singing let's be jolly,
Deck the halls with boughs of holly

Rocking around the Christmas tree,
Have a happy holiday
Everyone dancing merrily
In the new old-fashioned way.

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