|Charley Pride - Christmas In My Home Town (1970)|
Charley Pride was born in in Mississippi and enjoyed a successful career as a baseball player before moving on to one in singing, becoming huge in the 1970s, mainly with the nana crowd. A pioneer in the world of African-American country, he remains one of only three black artists (all men) to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
|1998 CD cover|
The album was reissued on CD in the US in 1998 with a different cover and the title "Happy Christmas Day". It was remastered in 2013 with three bonus tracks and the original cover image restored. Charley is still going strong today at the grand old age of 82.
Sadly no longer with us is the legend that was Johnny Cash, and I picked up his 1963 LP The Christmas Spirit at a boot sale in May of 2015 in a 3-for-a-fiver deal.
|Johnny Cash - The Christmas Spirit (1963)|
Mother in law Maybelle Carter plays autoharp
This was Cash's first Christmas album and four of the twelve songs are written by the man himself, including the spoken-word title track where over piano and choir Johnny dreams of travelling the world. His journey begins in London where he's greeted by a chestnut seller in Piccadilly, and here Johnny's cockney "Hello mate!" is priceless.
Poverty and Jesus always seem to have gone hand in hand in country music, and there's plenty of both here, the storytelling both sung and narrated in Cash' echoing boom. The Ballad of the Harp Weaver, a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, is probably the most depressing track amongst a rather downbeat collection. While this isn't exactly a party album, it's still full of Christmas spirit, just not the kind that comes decked in tinsel or slathered in sleigh bells.
I found a slightly battered copy of Gene Autry's Christmas Cracker at a car boot in August of last year, for the princely sum of 25p.
|Gene Autry's Christmas Cracker (1966)|
What a great cover!
Gene "The Singing Cowboy" Autry hailed from Texas and found fame singing on the radio after being refused a recording contract with RCA Victor in 1928. He eventually signed with Columbia and his career spanned movies and TV as well as the music industry. In all he made some 640 recordings, over 300 of which were self-penned or co-written.
Like many Christmas albums, one side of this consists of secular songs, with the other devoted to carols. His 1949 US no.1 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer gets Side 1 off to a gallop, followed by other child-friendly favourites such as Up On The House Top written in 1864 by Benjamin Hanby, and an adaptation of the American rhyme 'Ten Little Indians' called Nine Little Reindeer. Like Charley Pride, Autry's country style is better suited to these than the mostly solemn Side 2, at the end of which an uncredited male lead is joined by a choir for What Child Is This?, rounding things off quite nicely even though Autry's sudden disappearance is quite odd. There are short spoken sections between some songs, and it's here that my 25p record really shows its age, but I just close my eyes and pretend the crackles are coming from a nice log fire.
You can hear Gene and a whole host of other artists on this year's Car Boot Christmas cloudcast below. Join me again tomorrow, Sunday the 18th of December, for Day 4 of the Car Boot Christmas Countdown, where I'll be taking a look at two very different seasonal records.