Culture Wikia
This article is about the song by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé. For other uses, see Christmas music and Christmas Song (disambiguation).

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"The Christmas Song"
Songwriter(s)Robert Wells,
Mel Tormé

"The Christmas Song" (commonly subtitled "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" or, as it was originally subtitled, "Merry Christmas to You") is a classic Christmas song written in 1945 by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé.

According to Tormé, the song was written during a blistering hot summer. In an effort to "stay cool by thinking cool", the most-performed (according to BMI) Christmas song was born.[1] "I saw a spiral pad on his (Wells') piano with four lines written in pencil", Tormé recalled. "They started, 'Chestnuts roasting..., Jack Frost nipping..., Yuletide carols..., Folks dressed up like Eskimos.' Bob didn't think he was writing a song lyric. He said he thought if he could immerse himself in winter he could cool off. Forty minutes later that song was written. I wrote all the music and some of the lyrics."

The Nat King Cole Trio first recorded the song early in 1946. At Cole's behest – and over the objections of his label, Capitol Records – a second recording was made later the same year utilizing a small string section, this version becoming a massive hit on both the pop and R&B charts. Cole again recorded the song in 1953, using the same arrangement with a full orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, and once more in 1961, in a stereophonic version with orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael. Cole's 1961 version is generally regarded as definitive, and in 2004 was the most-loved seasonal song with women aged 30–49,[2] while the original 1946 recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1974.[3]

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"The Christmas Song"
File:The Christmas Song King Cole Trio 1946 78RPM vinyl 12-inch.jpg
Side-A label of the US 78 RPM release (1946)
Song by Nat King Cole
B-side"In the Cool of Evening" (Capitol 311, 1945)
"Laguna Mood" (Capitol 15201, 1948)
"(All I Want for Christmas Is) My Two Front Teeth" (Capitol F90036, 1953; Capitol F2955, 1954)
"The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot" (Capitol 3561, 1956)
ReleasedNovember 1946 (1946-11)
November 1953 (1953-11)
RecordedAugust 19, 1946 (1946-08-19)
August 26, 1953 (1953-08-26)
GenreJazz, pop
Length3:10 (1946 recording)
3:12 (1953 recording)

Nat King Cole recordings[]

First recording: Recorded at WMCA Radio Studios, New York City, June 14, 1946. Label credit: The King Cole Trio (Nat King Cole, vocal-pianist; Oscar Moore, guitarist; Johnny Miller, bassist). Not issued until 1989, when it was (accidentally) included on the various-artists compilation Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits (1935–1954) Rhino R1 70637(LP) / R2 70637(CD).

Second recording: Recorded at WMCA Radio Studios, New York City, August 19, 1946. First record issue. Label credit: The King Cole Trio with String Choir (Nat King Cole, vocal-pianist, Oscar Moore, guitarist; Johnny Miller, bassist; Charlie Grean, conductor of 4 string players, a harpist and a drummer). Lacquer disc master #981. Issued November 1946 as Capitol 311 (78rpm). This recording is available on the 2000 Cole compilation CD Christmas for Kids: From One to Ninety-Two, as well as on a CD called The Holiday Album, which has 1940s Christmas songs recorded by Cole and Bing Crosby.

Third recording: Recorded at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, August 24, 1953. This was the song's first magnetic tape recording. Label credit: The King Cole Trio with String Choir (Actual artists: Nat King Cole, vocal; Buddy Cole, pianist; John Collins, guitarist; Charlie Harris, bassist; Nelson Riddle, orchestra conductor). Master #11726, take 11. Issued November 1953 as the "new" Capitol 90036(78rpm) / F90036(45rpm) (Capitol first issued 90036 in 1950 with the second recording). Correct label credit issued on October 18, 1954 as Capitol 2955(78rpm) / F2955(45rpm). Label credit: Nat "King" Cole with Orchestra Conducted by Nelson Riddle. This recording is available on the 1990 Cole compilation CD Cole, Christmas, & Kids, as well as on the various-artists CD Casey Kasem Presents All Time Christmas Favorites. It was also included, along with both 1946 recordings, on the 1991 Mosaic Records box set The Complete Capitol Recordings of the Nat King Cole Trio. This version is sometimes (though quite rarely) played on the radio during the Christmas season and is nearly identical to the popular 1961 recording. It is easy to tell apart from the 1961 version in that the final notes (the Jingle Bells guitar bit) sounds faster and more rushed.

Fourth recording: Recorded at Capitol Studios, New York City, March 30, 1961. This rendition, the first recorded in stereo, is widely played on radio stations during the Christmas season, and is the most popular/familiar version of this song. Label credit: Nat King Cole (Nat King Cole, vocal; Charles Grean and Pete Rugolo, orchestration; Ralph Carmichael, orchestra conductor). The instrumental arrangement is nearly identical to the 1953 version, but the vocals are much deeper and more focused. Originally done for The Nat King Cole Story (a 1961 LP devoted to stereo re-recordings of Cole's earlier hits), this recording was later included in a reissue of Cole's 1960 holiday album The Magic of Christmas replacing 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'. Retitled The Christmas Song, the album was issued in 1963 as Capitol W-1967(mono) / SW-1967(stereo) and today is in print on compact disc. This recording of "The Christmas Song" is also available on numerous compilation albums. Some are Capitol pop standards Christmas compilations while others are broader-based. For example, it is available on WCBS-FM's Ultimate Christmas Album Volume 3. An alternate take of the 1961 recording, featuring a different vocal and missing the solo piano on the instrumental bridge, appears on the Deluxe Edition of the 2014 compilation The Extraordinary Nat King Cole.

There were several covers of Nat Cole's original record in the 1940s. The first of these was said to be by Dick Haymes on the Decca label, but his was released first – not recorded first. The first cover of "The Christmas Song" was performed by pop tenor and bandleader Eddy Howard on Majestic. Howard was a big Cole fan, and also covered Nat's versions of "I Want to Thank Your Folks" and "(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons", among others.

Mel Tormé recordings[]

Mel Tormé himself made several recordings of the song, including versions released in 1954 (on his live Coral Records album At the Crescendo), 1961 (on his Verve Records album My Kind of Music), 1970 (on a Columbia Records Christmas single), 1990 (in a medley with "Autumn Leaves", on his live Concord Records album Mel Tormé Live at the Fujitsu–Concord Festival 1990), and 1992 (on his Telarc Records album Christmas Songs).

Tormé's 1970 version of the song adds an opening verse:


Additionally, his recordings typically include a coda adapted from "Here We Come A-wassailing":


Other notable renditions[]

Template:Refimprove section "The Christmas Song" has been covered by numerous artists from a wide variety of genres, including:

  • 1954: Rosemary Clooney on the album Irving Berlin's White Christmas
  • 1956: Joni James on the album Merry Christmas from Joni
  • 1957: Frank Sinatra on the album A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra
  • 1957: Polly Bergen on the December 14 airing of her variety show, The Polly Bergen Show[4]
  • 1958: Bing Crosby on the album That Christmas Feeling
  • 1958: Johnny Mathis on his album Merry Christmas (also a duet with Billy Joel on Mathis' 2013 album Sending You a Little Christmas)
  • 1959: Connie Francis on the album Christmas in My Heart
  • 1960: Peggy Lee on the album Christmas Carousel
  • 1963: Andy Williams on the album The Andy Williams Christmas Album
  • 1963: Judy Garland in a duet with Mel Torme on an episode of The Judy Garland Show
  • 1963: Robert Goulet on the album This Christmas I Spend with You
  • 1963: The Miracles on the album Christmas with The Miracles
  • 1964: Doris Day on the album The Doris Day Christmas Album
  • 1964: John Gary on the album The John Gary Christmas Album
  • 1964: Ricky Nelson on the episode of TV's The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet titled "A Busy Christmas"
  • 1964: Sammy Davis, Jr. on the album California Suite
  • 1965: Hollyridge Strings on the album Christmas Favorites
  • 1965: The Supremes on the album Merry Christmas
  • 1965: Vince Guaraldi Trio on the album A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • 1966: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons on the album The 4 Seasons' Christmas Album
  • 1966: Kenny Burrell on the album Have Yourself a Soulful Little Christmas
  • 1966: The Lettermen on the album For Christmas This Year
  • 1967: Barbra Streisand on her album A Christmas Album
  • 1967: Stevie Wonder on the album Someday at Christmas
  • 1968: Glen Campbell on the album That Christmas Feeling
  • 1968: Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass on the album Chrismas Album
  • 1968: Tony Bennett on the album Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album
  • 1970: Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass on the album Christmas with Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass
  • 1970: The Jackson 5 on the album Jackson 5 Christmas Album
  • 1970: The Temptations on the album 'The Temptations Christmas Card
  • 1971: The Partridge Family on the album A Partridge Family Christmas Card
  • 1972: Nora Aunor on the album Christmas Songs
  • 1975: John Denver on the album Rocky Mountain Christmas
  • 1978: The Carpenters on the album Christmas Portrait
  • 1983: Amy Grant on the album A Christmas Album
  • 1985: The Canadian Brass on the album A Canadian Brass Christmas
  • 1987: Big Bird and The Swedish Chef on the TV special A Muppet Family Christmas
  • 1987: Reba McEntire on the album Merry Christmas to You
  • 1987: Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 on the album Wonderland: Yulesville
  • 1988: Alexander O'Neal on the album My Gift to You
  • 1988: James Brown on the album Santa's Got a Brand New Bag
  • 1988: Ramon "RJ" Jacinto on his Christmas album Pasko Na Naman
  • 1989: New Kids on the Block on the album Merry, Merry Christmas
  • 1989: Randy Travis on the album An Old Time Christmas
  • 1990: Barry Manilow on the album Because It's Christmas
  • 1992: Luther Vandross on the album A Very Special Christmas, Vol. 2
  • 1992: The Manhattan Transfer on the album The Christmas Album
  • 1993: Aaron Neville on the album Aaron Neville's Soulful Christmas
  • 1993: Gloria Estefan on the album Christmas Through Your Eyes
  • 1993: Toni Braxton on the album A LaFace Family Christmas
  • 1994: Natalie Cole on the album Holly & Ivy (also a duet with Nat King Cole on The Magic of Christmas [1999])
  • 1994: Tony Mottola on the album Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas'
  • 1995: Les Paul on the album Reindeer Rock
  • 1996: CeCe Peniston on the album Merry Arizona II: Desert Stars Shine at Christmas
  • 1996: Michael Bolton on the album This Is the Time: The Christmas Album
  • 1997: Dwight Yoakam on the album Come on Christmas
  • 1997: Hootie and the Blowfish on the album A Very Special Christmas, Vol. 3
  • 1997: Roomful of Blues on the album Roomful of Christmas
  • 1997: SWV on the album A Special Christmas
  • 1998: Babyface on the album Christmas with Babyface
  • 1998: Celine Dion on the album These Are Special Times
  • 1998: Chicago on the album Chicago 25: The Christmas Album
  • 1998: Des O'Connor on the album Christmas with Des O'Connor
  • 1998: Etta James on her album 12 Songs of Christmas
  • 1998: Kenny Rogers on the album Christmas from the Heart
  • 1998: Martina McBride on the album White Christmas
  • 1998: *NSYNC on the album Home for Christmas
  • 1999: Garth Brooks on the album Garth Brooks & the Magic of Christmas
  • 1999: George Strait on the album Merry Christmas Wherever You Are
  • 1999: Take 6 on the album We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • 2000: Charlotte Church on the album Dream a Dream
  • 2000: Christina Aguilera on the album My Kind of Christmas (No. 18 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart; No. 22 on the Canadian RPM Top 100 Singles chart)
  • 2000: June Christy with the Johnny Guarnieri Quintet on the album A Friendly Session, Vol. 1
  • 2000: Linda Ronstadt on the album A Merry Little Christmas
  • 2002: India.Arie and Stevie Wonder on the album Voyage to India (winner of the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals)
  • 2003: Christy Darlington on the album All the wrong moves
  • 2003: Michael Bublé (#6 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart) on the album Chris Isaak Christmas
  • 2003: Royce Campbell on the album Jazz Guitar Christmas
  • 2003: Whitney Houston on the album One Wish: The Holiday Album
  • 2004: Clay Aiken on the album Merry Christmas with Love
  • 2004: Eddie Higgins on the album Christmas Night
  • 2004: James Taylor on the album A Christmas Album
  • 2004: Jessica Simpson on the album Rejoyce: The Christmas Album
  • 2004: LeAnn Rimes on her album What a Wonderful World
  • 2006: Aimee Mann on the album One More Drifter in the Snow
  • 2006: Aretha Franklin on the album Joy to the World
  • 2006: Celtic Woman on the album A Christmas Celebration
  • 2006: Twisted Sister on the album A Twisted Christmas
  • 2006: Wynonna Judd on the album A Classic Christmas
  • 2007: Alan Jackson on the album Let It Be Christmas
  • 2007: Damien Leith on a limited Christmas edition of his album Where We Land
  • 2007: Jed Madela on the album The Voice of Christmas
  • 2007: Josh Groban on the album Noël
  • 2007: Toby Keith on the album A Classic Christmas
  • 2008: Al Jarreau on the album Christmas
  • 2008: Brian McKnight on the album I'll Be Home for Christmas
  • 2008: Gavin DeGraw on the album Four Christmases: Music from the Motion Picture
  • 2008: Howard Hewett with Stevie Wonder on the album Howard Hewett Christmas
  • 2008: Neil Sedaka on the album The Miracle of Christmas
  • 2008: Sheryl Crow on the album Home for Christmas
  • 2009: Andrea Bocelli and Natalie Cole on Bocelli's album My Christmas
  • 2009: Bob Dylan on the album Christmas in the Heart
  • 2009: Hayley Westenra on the album Winter Magic
  • 2010: Christian Bautista on the album A Wonderful Christmas
  • 2010: Joe on the album Home Is the Essence of Christmas
  • 2010: Olivia Olson on the album Phineas and Ferb: Holiday Favourites
  • 2011: Deana Martin on her album White Christmas
  • 2011: Justin Bieber and Usher on Bieber's album Under the Mistletoe
  • 2011: She & Him on the album A Very She & Him Christmas
  • 2011: Smith and Burrows (Tom Smith and Agnes Obel) on the album Funny Looking Angels
  • 2012: Cascada on the album It's Christmas Time
  • 2012: Cee Lo Green on his Christmas album Cee Lo's Magic Moment
  • 2012: Colbie Caillat on the album Christmas In The Sand
  • 2012: Francesca Battistelli on the album Christmas
  • 2012: Kris Allen on his EP Waiting for Christmas
  • 2012: Lisa Matassa on her EP Somebody's Baby
  • 2012: Paul McCartney on the album Kisses on the Bottom – Complete Kisses
  • 2012: Richard Marx on the album Christmas Spirit
  • 2012: Rod Stewart on the deluxe edition of his album Merry Christmas, Baby
  • 2012: Thomas Anders on the album Christmas for You
  • 2014: Idina Menzel on her album Holiday Wishes
  • 2014: Seth MacFarlane on his album Holiday for Swing
  • 2016: Sarah McLachlan on her album Wonderland


  • 1958: Stan Freberg's "Green Chri$tma$" includes several snippets of holiday songs, with a segment that begins with a sincere-sounding "Chestnuts roasting..." and quickly segués into a mock 1950s radio or TV ad, for a brand of chestnuts
  • 1989: The Simpsons' first Christmas episode is titled "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire"
  • 2000: Bob Rivers with his album's title track, "Chipmunks Roasting On an Open Fire"
  • 2004: Christy Darlington with a "punk rock" style arrangement on his album All the Wrong Moves


External links[]

Template:Nat King Cole