Archive for the ‘bluegrass christmas’ Category

The History of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”

December 29, 2017

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Darlene Love said “it took three Jews [Phil Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich] to write the greatest Christmas song of all-time.” The song of which she speaks is Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).

The song was written by the songwriting team of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry (with partial credit to Phil Spector). Greenwich and Barry were part of the many soon to be well-known songwriters, music publishers and producers working at the Brill Building in Manhattan in the 50’s and 60’s. Among them were Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (Kansas City, Hound Dog, Stand By Me), Burt Bacharach and Hal David (Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, This Guys In Love With You, What The World Needs Now Is Love) and Carole King and Gerry Goffin (Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Up On The Roof, Loco-Motion).

Among the dozens of hit songs Greenwich and Barry wrote were

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) was included on the 1963 Phil Spector compilation album, A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records (later changed to A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector). Other than Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), the album listed twelve traditional songs by the stable of artists on Philles Records all getting the famous Phil Spector Wall of Sound treatment.

Some interesting facts about Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

  • The album was released on November 22nd of 1963 – the same day President Kennedy was assassinated, and consequently flopped. Spector blamed the events of the day for the record’s failure.
  • The Beatles’ first US album, With The Beatles, was released the same day.
  • Leon Russell as part of The Wrecking Crew played piano on the song and according to Love, Spector was so thrilled by how Leon played that he “leaped out of the control room and handed the stunned Russell a check for $100 on the spot.”
  • Cher is a background vocalist on the original. Her then husband Sonny played percussion.
  • The song was intended to be sung by Ronnie Spector but her husband and producer Phil decided she did not have the pipes and picked Darlene Love instead.
  • Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) was released as a single in both 1963 and 1964 — it did not chart either year.
  • In 1968, the four members of the Beatles started their own record label, Apple Records. In 1972, Apple Records reissued the record titled, Phil Spector’s Christmas Album. This time around, it charted.
  • A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector is listed at #142 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the top 500 greatest albums of all time.
  • In 2010, Rolling Stone magazine listed Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) the #1 all-time greatest Rock and Roll Christmas songs. “It’s been covered by everybody from U2 to Leighton Meester, but nobody can match Love’s emotion and sheer vocal power.”
  • Phil Spector thought the song had so much power and potential, he recorded a different, non-seasonal version titled, Johnny (Baby Please Come Home).
  • David Letterman first had Darlene Love sing the song in his program in 1986 and had her back every year through 2014, the final Christmas program Letterman aired. The one exception was 2007 when there was a writer’s strike. They replayed the 2006 rendition instead.

Tonight’s post all started when I found a very good rendition of Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by a Nashville bluegrass band called The Barefoot Movement. It’s an outstanding version of the song (and it’ll be featured tonight). And since I featured Jars of Clay covering it back on December 17th, I figured I’d write a post about the song’s history.

In addition to The Barefoot Movement, I’ll feature the original, the alternate, Johnny (Baby Please Come Home) version and three from the David Letterman Show, the first time Love appeared singing the song in 1986, the finale in 2014 and a version form 2000 featuring the US Air Force Singing Sergeants

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – The Original

 

Johnny (Baby Please Come Home)

The Barefoot Movement – Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

First Letterman Appearance 1986

Final Letterman Appearance 2014

Letterman Show w/ Us Air Force Singing Sergeants (2000 – Broadcast live to US troops in Bosnia)

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Infamous Stringdusters and JJ Grey

December 8, 2017

I found a HuffPo list featuring their top performers of 2015 — The list included Humming House (see Dec 2), The Wailin Jenny’s (see Dec 12 2016) and Jorma Kaukonen (from Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna) and then 12 other I had never heard of, including the bluegrass band, The Infamous Stringdusters.

A little secret: when I find lists like these, I google the band or artist and the word Christmas (or holiday) and check results. Sometimes you find stuff. Sometimes you don’t. When I googled The Infamous Stringdusters the #1 result was a cover of jingle bells featuring this odd, stiff dude standing in the middle of the band singing the song.

That odd, stiff dude just happened to be JJ Grey – a singer who is truly an amazing talent (discovering people like Grey is a huge benefit of researching this blog).

The Infamous Stringdusters are a bluegrass band from Boston (seriously). They formed in 2006, have released eight records.

John Higginbotham, aka JJ Grey is from Jacksonville, FL. He and his band Mofro formed in 2001 and have released nine records. Their music is described as “southern swamp” but I think it’s really so much more than that. Grey is an outstanding vocalist and songwriter.

I’ll feature the two bands singing/performing Jingle Bells then follow it with some cuts from JJ Grey and Mofro. Not much info on the Jingle Bells collaboration. It was recorded to promote a concert featuring both bands at Red Rocks in Colorado in May of 2016. The song isn’t available anywhere except youtube (and you can probably figure out how to download it from there).
Fun version of the old Christmas classic.

Stringdusters – Facebook
Stringdusters Official Website
Stringdusters – Spotify

JJ Grey & Mofro – Facebook
JJ Grey & Mofro Official Site
JJ Grey & Mofro – Spotify

The Infamous Stringdusters with JJ Grey & Mofro – Jingle Bells (You need to click this one twice — embed code seems to be off. The link works despite the grayed out icon)

JJ Grey – Brighter Days (solo)

JJ Grey & Mofro – Tic Tac Toe

JJ Grey & Mofro – The Sun Is Shining Down

 

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