XMAS BONUS: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
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As we’re in the period between Christmas and New Year, the gap between episodes is going to be longer than normal, and the podcast proper is going to be back on January the ninth. So nobody has to wait around for another fortnight for a new episode, I thought I’d upload some old Patreon bonus episodes to fill the gap. Every year around Christmas the bonus episodes I do tend to be on Christmas songs and so this week I’m uploading three of those. These are older episodes, so don’t have the same production values as more recent episodes, and are also shorter than more recent bonuses, but I hope they’re still worth listening to. Transcript It's the middle of December, as you have probably noticed, and that means it's a time when the airwaves in both the UK and the US are dominated by Christmas music. The music that's most prominent in the UK will have to wait until we get to the seventies for a discussion, but this week and next week in these bonus episodes I'll be looking at a few American Christmas classics: [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "Here Comes Santa Claus"] If I'd been doing these Patreon bonus episodes from the beginning of the podcast, rather than waiting for the first six months or so to do them on a regular basis, I'd have covered Gene Autry in one by about the fourth episode. He's someone whose name you'll have heard a lot in the podcast -- he was an influence on all sorts of musicians we've looked at, in all areas of music. Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke, Hank Ballard, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley, Fats Domino, and Les Paul all acknowledged him as someone they were trying to imitate in one way or another, and that's just the ones where I've been able to find clear confirmation. Autry was not, in any direct sense, a precursor to rock and roll. He didn't make records that included any of the elements that later became prominent in the new music, and he didn't have a rebellious image at all. But from the early 1930s to the early 1950s, he was the single biggest star in country music. He starred in many films, had his own radio show, had a line of comics about him, and he was so popular that even his *horse* had his own radio and TV show. British people from my generation may well remember Champion, The Wonder Horse still being repeated as kids' TV in the eighties. THAT's how big Gene Autry was, and so it's unsurprising that he influenced pretty much every singer of note in the rock and roll field. But he was also, along with Bing Crosby, one of the people who pioneered American secular Christmas music: [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer"] I specify "American" secular Christmas music here, because one thing that differs between the US and the UK when it comes to Christmas is the music that's ubiquitous. In the UK, Christmas music mostly means glam rock -- you hear Slade and Wizzard incessantly, and other 70s artists like Mud. In the US, though, it means primarily the music of the forties and fifties -- the music of people like Gene Autry. Autry started his career as just another country singer, who performed as "Oklahoma's Yodelling Cowboy". His early recordings were very much in the style of Jimmie Rodgers, and were very different from his later clean-cut image: [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "Black Bottom Blues"] But in 1932 he had a hit with a song he wrote, which would soon become a standard of country music, a rather maudlin ballad called "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine": [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine"] As a result of that hit, Autry started appearing in films. The first film he appeared in was a serial -- The Phantom Empire -- in which he starred as a singing cowboy who is kidnapped by people from the underground super-science kingdom Murania, descendants of the lost tribe of Mu, and has to help them defend themselves from an evil scientist who wants to steal their radium. It may not surprise you that the writer of the film came up with the plot for it while on nitro
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