Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
December 25, 2011 by staff
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, I’ve just learned that the name Rudolph means a famous wolf. This name has played a double role in my life, ever since my birth in late 1939, when the original story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was written for Montgomery Ward, by Robert L. May.
My father, you see, was a Rudolph, and, having lived from 1902 to 1989, he was perpetually teased, for the last 50 years of his life, about his name. He was accused of having a red nose, and when the weather was particularly bad at Christmas time, he was regularly called upon to use his nose to direct the other eight deer, sled riders or even traffic in general.
Of course I don’t remember May’s original story about Rudolph, but apparently he first thought of calling his red-nosed reindeer Rollo or Reginald before he settled on Rudolph. I’m not sure whether my father knew about those other name choices, but he wasn’t known for his sense of humor, and I can certainly imagine he’d have preferred either one of those other names starting with R.
Interestingly enough the song about Rudolph, which I can still remember from 1949, was composed by May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks. It was first sung by Harry Brannon on the radio in New York City in late 1949, but then, just a few weeks later, Gene Autry recorded it for what’s called his all-time biggest hit. Gene’s version not only became the No. 1 hit of the ’50s but it cemented the fact that along with “Jingle Bells,” Rudolph” is still one of the best-known Christmas songs ever written.
By 1950 Bing Crosby and Spike Jones both sang and recorded it, too, and in 1964, Burl Ives contributed the song for the soundtrack of the holiday TV special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Over the years it’s been recorded by many other famous singers, including Dean Martin, the Chipmunks, the Supremes, the Jackson Five, Spike Jones and his City Slickers, Ray Charles, Dolly Parton, Barry Manilow, and even Peach Hips, a vocal group of five Japanese girls.
In fact, you can now hear over a dozen surprisingly different renditions on YouTube, but be sure to listen to Bing, who, for my money, is the top popular singer of all time. Take note of the way he modifies the rhythm slightly and adds a little scat-singing to embellish and distinguish his recording.
There was even a 1999 television special called “Olive, the Other Reindeer” which grew out of the fact that the line “All of” from the line “All of the other reindeer” can be mistaken for “Olive.”
Also, Richard Scarry created wonderful illustrations for a 1958 adapted version of the story, and then in 1998 there was a feature film based on the story.
Now I’m definitely more of a classical music lover and would far rather play or sing or hear “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” or “O Holy Night” or “Silent Night,” but nevertheless “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” carries for me a special nostalgia for the Rudolph from whose loins I spouted forth.
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