In the Booker T. Christmas Spirit

Ecumenical: Blue AND White Christmas

In the Christmas SpiritIn 1966 – possibly my favorite pop music year ever – Booker T. and the M.G.’s put out a holiday album.

The group was an “American instrumental R and B/funk band that was influential in shaping the sound of Southern soul and Memphis soul.” True, that. The members in 1966 were Booker T. Jones (organ, piano), Steve Cropper (guitar), Al Jackson Jr. (drums), and Donald “Duck” Dunn (bass).

Stax Records was the great record label out of Memphis, TN. Motown may have been “The Sound of Young America,” But Stax was “Soulsville U.S.A.”, the title of a tremendous book by Rob Bowman.

“In the 1960s, as members of the house band of Stax Records, they played on hundreds of recordings by artists including Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Bill Withers, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, and Albert King. They also released instrumental records under their own name, including the 1962 hit single ‘Green Onions.'”

In the Christmas Spirit was their fourth album.

The songs

Jingle Bells (James Lord Pierpont). Periodically, Billboard had Christmas charts. This song, released as a single, got to #20 in 1966. This track also appeared on a 1968 compilation called Soul Christmas.
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town  (J. Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie)
Winter Wonderland (Felix Bernard, Dick Smith) B-side of Jingle Bells.
White Christmas  (Irving Berlin)
The Christmas Song (Mel Tormé, Robert Wells)
Silver Bells (Ray Evans, Jay Livingston). Released as a 1967 season single. Also on Soul Christmas.

Merry Christmas Baby (Lou Baxter, Johnny Moore)
Blue Christmas (Bill Hayes, Jay Johnson)
Sweet Little Jesus Boy (Bob MacGimsey)
Silent Night (Franz Xaver Gruber, Joseph Mohr)
We Three Kings We Three Kings (John Henry Hopkins, Jr.)
We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Traditional)

The B-side of the Silver Bells single was the non-album track, Winter Snow (Isaac Hayes), a song I love dearly.

Music Throwback Saturday: STAX Christmas

Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday was a minor success in 1967.

William Bell
William Bell

When I obtained two box sets of the Memphis-based soul label STAX several years back, I noticed that there were a few holiday-related singles in the collections. Here are just three.

Booker T. and the MG’s

The STAX house band, included Booker T. Jones (organ, piano), Steve Cropper (guitar), Lewie Steinberg, replaced in 1965 by Donald “Duck” Dunn (bass), and Al Jackson, Jr. (drums). They also had some hit singles.

The group released a holiday album, In The Christmas Spirit in 1966. It put out one seasonal single that year, Jingle Bells, b/w Winter Wonderland. “Jingle Bells peaked at #20 on Billboard’s list of Christmas-related singles in 1966. It did not make the standard pop charts.”

The next December, STAX released another single, Silver Bells b/w the non-album track, Winter Snow.
Booker is still playing music, often with Steve Cropper.

LISTEN to Silver Bells with the painfully lovely Winter Snow at 2:30
***

William Bell

The singer/songwriter/pianist had a number of soul hits. Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday was a minor success in 1967, getting to #33 on the r&b charts.
Bell was still performing at the beginning of 2015.

LISTEN to Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday
***

Isaac Hayes

The keyboard player/songwriter for STAX, the singer, who died in 2008), released a couple of albums in 1970, but also a holiday, non-album single, one that invokes Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jingle Bells, and We Three Kings, among other songs.

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