Wayne King was a Chicago band leader in the 1930’s, with an eponymous orchestra playing nightly at the Aragon Ballroom. Never getting as famous as Benny Goodman or Artie Shaw, Mr. King was still hugely popular, especially in his hometown of Savanna, Illinois, which gave him parades, toured his “golden saxophone,” and treated him like a hometown hero. He was a professional football player in the early days of the sport, got his start in Paul Whiteman’s orchestra (the same Paul Whiteman who commissioned George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”), and even did a concert with his orchestra at Disneyland’s Carnation Gardens in 1970.
I don’t know much about Mr. King other than what I’ve read online–the internet is such a wonderful place for looking up information about even the most obscure things–but I am a huge fan of his 1963 Christmas album, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Released by Decca, it’s never been released on CD and is known only to lovers of obscure holiday treasures. People like me.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Wayne King and His Orchestra and Chorus
Released in 1963 on Decca (OUT OF PRINT)
The liner notes on the original LP are wonderful:
‘Tis the season to be jolly, and rightly so. Here is a holiday album gift-wrapped with that very special Wayne King touch to enhance the pleasures of this heart-warming season. Mind you . . . this is the Maestro making music in his own inimitable style–with all the color and lilting tempos that have kept him America’s favorite over the years. And credit Wayne Robinson for his brilliant arrangements that blend the sounds of Christmas joy with the music of Wayne King. There’s an appropriate choral note, too, with the chorus raising its voice in the gleeful and familiar lyrics.
The songs Wayne King has sentimentally selected for this recording express the many moods of the Yuletide days. All are musical treats designed to make this an album that you’ll play again and again. The title song is the surest clue to your guaranteed listening enjoyment. HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS is more than a good wish; it comes from the king–so it’s a command.
Wayne and his entire gang extend a sincere season’s greeting you’ll treasure for many a year.
You don’t have a choice. You HAVE to have yourself a merry little Christmas. And you may. Some of the arrangements are great, bright, and fun. It’s perfect background music. Since Wayne was known as a saxophonist, you’ll get to hear his golden sax on a few songs. Namely, the title tune. He plays the sax more like a clarinet in style, so it sounds a bit more like Benny Goodman than Boots Randolph, but it’s nicely arranged. There are two standout tracks that make the album worthwhile.
The first is a song called “Snowbound,” which is a new (circa 1963) song in the style of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” Cheerful, with jingling bells, whip cracks, and a bouncy lilt, it’s a nice little tune. It’s also available for purchase from Amazon.com as an mp3 single. Listen to the song and purchase it here.
My favorite song, wonderful in its kitschy way, is a song that should be used in Gap or Target commercials at Christmas. There are few songs that celebrate the focus of American Christmases better than this one. “Jing-A-Ling-A-Ling” is a great little song about how wonderful it is to go Christmas shopping.
Take a listen to the wonderfulness that is this song, and ask yourself the question I have asked myself: why hasn’t this shown up in a Target commercial yet?
Sadly, the whole album is out of print. But you may still be able to find it at one of my favorite Christmas music haunts on the world wide web. Some of the greatest albums that are out of print are lovingly found in their record form and restored digitally and shared by people who want other people to love Christmas music as much as they do.
I don’t have that kind of time on my hands. But I am very grateful for FaLaLaLaLa.com for the joy they bring me and my Christmas music collection every year.
So have fun with Wayne and the gang. It’s so good, your eyes will pop. In a good way.