Little Drummer Boy

December 19th Celebrates The Song Called Little Drummer Boy

Today on “Days to Remember” I wanted to write about a Christmas tunes that we love and share during the holiday season called, “Little Drummer Boy,” but who wrote this infamous tune?

“The Little Drummer Boy” (originally known as “Carol of the Drum”) is a popular Christmas song written by the American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941.

Who was Katherine Kennicott Davis?

Davis was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, on June 25, 1892, the daughter of Jessie Foote (Barton) and Maxwell Gaddis Davis. Her father was descended from John and Mariah Jane Boylan Murphey, one of the early pioneer settlers of Morgan County.

She composed her first piece of music, “Shadow March,” at the age of 15. She graduated from St. Joseph High School in 1910, and studied music at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. In 1914 she won the Billings Prize.

Davis also studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. She taught music at the Concord Academy in Concord, Massachusetts and at the Shady Hill School for Girls in Philadelphia.

Many of her over 600 compositions was written for the choirs at her school. She was actively involved in The Concord Series, multiple-volume set of music and books for educational purposes.

Many of the musical volumes were compiled, arranged, and edited by Davis with Archibald T. Davison, and they were published by E.C. Schirmer in Boston.

Today’s YouTube presentation brought to you by user name, Ronald Clancy in this delightful video about the story behind the song called, “Little Drummer Boy.”

This was originally a Czech song which Katherine Davis translated to English in 1941. Dawn Halloran explained to us: “This song was originally published as ‘Carol of the Drum,’ a traditional Czech carol, by Katharine K. Davis.

One of the more interesting duets in musical history took place on September 11, 1977 during filming of Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas special, where he planned to sing “The Little Drummer Boy” with David Bowie.

The show was recorded in London, and had a “Christmas in England” theme. Bowie, who was 30 years old to Bing’s 73, was convinced to appear after producers agreed to air a performance of his new song “Heroes” on the show, which Crosby introduced.

In 1968 around Christmas time it was made into cartoon, stop-motion television special produced by Rankin/Bass.

The plot of the story was about a poor young boy is summoned by the Magi to the nativity where, without a gift for the infant Jesus, he plays his drum while remembering “I played my best for Him” and “He smiled at me”. The special expands on this limited story to include events before the birth of Jesus.

Originally sponsored by the American Gas Association, the film premiered on December 19, 1968 on NBC, where it aired annually for many Christmas seasons.

NBC halted it in 1984. CBS aired it annually from 1985 to 1988, until ABC began to air it. ABC cut it from its Christmas schedule in 2006.

It still continues to air in the U.S. on the ABC Family cable channel (heavily edited), and it has been airing annually on Canadian channel Treehouse TV since 2005.

If you happen to catch on television it’s always been a favorite of mine, every time I see around the Christmas holiday, and I pretty sure your kids would enjoy it too.

Written & Designed by JD Mitchell


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