It’s the most intriguing Whodunnit in all of Christmas music for a song blanketed by a long list of musicians including “Cover Me” composer and singer Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band.
The Boss receives ginormous air time for his version of “Merry Christmas, Baby” although long before he and other artists like Otis Redding, Elvis, Chuck Berry and allegedly almost 80 others got in on the act, one, two or three other performers accepted accolades for writing this holiday treat.
William Browning sleuthed then penned an informative article about “Merry Christmas, Baby”. The November 2017 Smithsonian Magazine offers an insightful exploration.
"A new song by a Los Angeles-based trio called Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers began showing up in record bins 70 years ago this month, just in time for the holidays....and it promised something new for the holidays: romance,” Browning noted.
“This particular holiday gift has always been wrapped in doubt. It was, and remains, credited to Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore. But it was the performance of Charles Brown, the Three Blazers’ pianist and vocalist, that defined the song—and he insisted that he wrote it, too. In the postwar music industry, such intellectual-property disputes were as common as mediocre B sides, but I’ve uncovered evidence that Brown’s claim was legitimate.”
“In several interviews over the decades, Brown maintained that an ailing songwriter named Lou Baxter had asked him to record one of his songs as a favor, so he could pay for a throat operation. Brown, who had already written a hit song in “Driftin’ Blues,” said he reworked one of Baxter’s compositions into “Merry Christmas, Baby” and recorded it with the Three Blazers. When the record came out, he said, he was surprised to see it credited to Baxter and Moore.”
And now, without historical knowledge, Springsteen receives credit and applause for his rendition.
“Really, somebody else did the song,” a friend said.
“Merry Christmas, Baby” by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers rose to No. 3 on Billboard’s Jukebox R&B chart and now ranks as one of the holidays’ most popular songs.
Thanks to The Boss. Etta James, Christina Aguilera, The Beach Boys, etc.
Another Charles Brown recording escapes controversy although music lovers confuse his original “Please, Come Home For Christmas” with a production by The Eagles.
Sorry, Charlie — you’ve been ripped off again.
Brown released his song in 1960 on the popular King label which featured a small crown on the familiar blue 45 records.
Brown’s recording reached #76 on the charts, hardly a hit by any standard. Eagles covered the tune in 1978, then enjoyed major success.
The group’s version topped out at #18 and many credit the California-based band with this holiday musical treat.
Find the Brown version on an internet search and giive a listen to his soulful, blues immersed rendition for a wonderful contrast.