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Friday, December 11, 2015

"Nuttin For Christmas" Bobby Stewart (1956)

"Nuttin' For Christmas" is clearly one of the most god-awful, Christmas spirit sucking squeal-fests ever written. It's funny when you're 5. When you get any older, it's unbearable to hear.  The only version I can stand is Stan Freberg's parody version.

This is why you don't hear it much (if at all) on your local all Christmas radio station. No matter who covers it, it's just annoying to hear the year long attacks of some psychopathic kid who then wonders why no one gives him anything for Christmas.

It's the spiritual forerunner to the gangsta rap songs where the artists list out their criminal rap sheets to prove how tough they are. Yeah, sure. They did some drive-bys and pimped some ho's. But did they do a dance on Mommy's plants? That is pure thug, right there.

But Bobby Stewart's version was not the original version of this song. This is one argument that seems to be perennial every year when I discuss vintage Christmas classics with novice collectors and this song pops up. Peter Pan (and corporate parent, Synthetic Plastics Company) never released anything that wasn't a knockoff of something else. No matter what their moms might have told them.

Yes, Bobby Stewart's version also came out on a 78 RPM record. But a lot of kids records still did in the 1950s as parents who upgraded to modern 16/33/45/78 RPM speed turntables often handed down their old 78 RPM players to their kids.

This was the original version. Released in 1955 by Art Mooney and His Orchestra with six year old Barry Gordon on vocals.

I picked Bobby Stewart's particularly horrific version of this song because it was one I used to be tormented with hearing over and over every year blaring from my mom's console stereo when I was a kid. It was on this 1965 Diplomat Caroleers LP.

There was also something very off about Bobby Stewart's version of this song. Namely in that if you listen closely, it sounds like it was actually performed by a young woman rather than a little boy, like in the original Art Mooney/Barry Gordon version. But then again, such trickery was not uncommon at all in the world of budget record labels.

So who was Bobby Stewart?

Obviously, the trail goes cold. There are literally thousands of performers named Bobby Stewart. And as mentioned, it's also doubtful it was even the actual name of the person singing on this recording. The boy who sang on the original 1955 MGM recording was named Barry Gordon.

Peter Pan Records' corporate parent, SPC was notorious for using fuzzy memories and market confusion to their advantage to fop off their cheap knockoff recordings, Peter Pan credited their recording to a random "Bobby Stewart" and shoved it out to unsuspecting buyers who thought they were getting the original Barry Gordon version (or whoever that kid's name was.)

Secondly, SPC's distribution channels (discount and drug stores), worked to their advantage as it gave their recordings greater exposure to a less music savvy clientele that MGM's original recording of this song (which could only be found in actual record stores and larger, pricier department stores serviced by the major labels at that time. The cheaper price of the Bobby Stewart record also helped.)

Which is why some people still think Bobby Stewart's was the original version of the song; Mostly because they had this version as a kid and clung religiously to that belief.

The Bobby Stewart version was available independently as a Peter Pan single for several years before being consolidated into SPC's Diplomat Records line under their generic house band The Caroleers. The Diplomat albums added an atrocious artificial echo chamber and electronic fake stereo to this track.

1 comment:

  1. I definitely remember "Nuttin' For Christmas" from the Diplomat "Frosty the Snowman" album (we had that, along with their "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" albums). My folks would especially play it if we were being naughty around the holiday season, and while it's amusing to look back at it now, it traumatized the hell out of me when I was 4 years old!!!


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