Nuttin' for Christmas - A Christmas Music Countdown
I made Tommy eat a bug
Bought some gum with a penny slug
Somebody snitched on me
Ohhhhh – I’m gettin’ nuttin fer Christmas
Mommy and Daddy are mad.
I’m gettin’ nuttin fer Chritmas
‘Cause I ain’t been nuttin’ but bad!”
By Roy Bennett and Sid Tepper - © 1955
Nov. 27th may be a little early for Christmas music for some folks; it’s never too early for the little folks. But you can never play this song too soon: “I’m Getting’ Nuttin’ for Christmas.” Parents need all the help they can to keep the little ones in line and when they start acting up, a little sarcasm never hurts.
By Dec. 31st, the song was No. 20 on the Billboard Charts for 1955. Not at all “bad” for what was considered a one-hit wonder. The song was performed by a singer named Joe Ward. Search engine research doesn’t bring up any information on any popular singer named “Joe Ward” although there was an opera singer named Joe Ward.
If he did record the song, it was the most amazing imitation of a kid’s voice ever recorded. It really sounds like a kid, about ten years old, not an adult imitating one, with an excellent voice.
But wait. Although Roy Bennett and Sid Tepper own the copyright, according to Wikipedia, a songwriter named Art Mooney, who had a number of hits, including “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Cover” and “Baby Face,” is credited with writing the song.
Child star Barry Gordon did the kid stuff on this record – and he really was a kid. He was six years old when he made the recording. His version of “Nuttin’ for Christmas” sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. He was the youngest performer ever to hit the Billboard Hot 100, when that song hit #6 in 1955. Adult back-up singers (Mommy and Daddy) helped little Barry along, making it sound like the classic 1950’s song it was.
Ward and Gordon were not the only singers to record “Nuttin’ for Christmas” in 1955. While they made chart-topping records, it was comedian vocal actor and singer Stan Freberg who stole the show and Christmas with his hilarious rendition of the song. There are no lilting 1950s orchestrations here; it’s all xylophones and slapstick sound effects. Freberg’s vocals are over-the-top. The cartoonish Freberg (he did cartoon vocals for animated features in the 1930s and 1940s) let out all the stops imitating a brat, lisp and all. You kinda know the singer isn’t a kid, but he does sound “bad” and that’s what makes it so goofy. And of course, it has an unusual ending with an unusual, and very funny, duet.
The song was also recorded by the Fontane Sisters, a 1950s girl group who made a rock’n roll version of “Nuttin for Christmas.” The Fontane Sisters (actually sisters-Marge, Bea and Geri Rosse) came from New Milford, N.J. By the late 40s, they were singing with Perry Como on his radio show and followed him to TV. They sang on many of his records from 1949 through 1953, many of which were monster hits. The Fontane’s were also signed to an artist’s contract with RCA which was Perry’s label. At least of their four of their recordings landed on the Billboard Top 30 charts. * Source: Wikipedia
Finally, there was the Spike Jones version, with a kids’ chorus making all the trouble. The kids sing well in harmony and it’s a great number if you have a tribe of brats, rather than just a solitary ram among the sheep. Jones threw in his classic musical gags, though he let the kids carry most of the humor in this song. Just to make sure you know these are real kids singing, a couple of them take a ride on the solos. They definitely sound like real kids, the way Gordon did.
For a one-hit wonder, that was a lot of recordings of one song in one month in one year – five, that we know of. Today’s one-hit wonders don’t even contain a melody anymore, they all sound alike – and the kids are really bad, too. They’ve gone way beyond puttin’ ants in the sugar bowl.
So Mommy and Daddy, if you’re making a Christmas video, the Spike Jones number is a good bet. If you want to know how kids who could sing really sang before they went pro, listen to Barry Gordon. If you want to hear some beautiful music and your kids haven’t been too awfully bad, try out Joe Ward. If you’re more into Fifties rock, if you watched Grease about a million times with your little monsters, you’ll love the Fontane Sisters version.
But for sheer laughs and sarcastic effect, if you really want to get your brat’s attention, go with Stan Freberg. Just hope they don’t get any ideas for Christmas.