Today on, “Days to Remember,” we celebrate the holiday song called, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, but who wrote this infamous song and when?
It was written by John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie and was first sung on Eddie Cantor’s radio show in November 1934. It became an instant hit with orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music and more than 30,000 records sold within 24 hours. Just imagine if they had the internet source like we do today, that song would sky rocketed to the millions.
Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots, had trouble convincing anyone to produce it because it was seen as a kids’ song, which would have been very hard to sell.
Before the rock era, the most popular recordings of this song were those by Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters and by Perry Como – both versions sold millions of copies. In addition to The Four Seasons version, other popular takes on the song were recorded by The Jackson 5, Mariah Carey, Charlie Daniels, George Strait, Alice Cooper, the Carpenters, and Justin Bieber.
The most enduring version in the modern era is Bruce Springsteen’s, which is usually the most downloaded and most played on radio stations. Bruce also does a version called “Santa Claus Is Fooling Around,” which is about how Santa will steal your lady if you’re not careful.
A Rankin-Bass animated TV special was produced in 1970 and loosely based on this song. Narrated by Fred Astaire (who also sings the title song) and starring Mickey Rooney as the voice of Kris Kringle, it depicts the story of Santa Claus and how he came to be.
Todays’ YouTube presentation brought to you by user name, CBEntr’s channel is the song heard on the animated TV special starring Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney that shown yearly around Christmas time. I do hope you see this clip, to help understand how important Christmas is to all of us.
The two men who wrote the song, John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie were prolific American songwriter they’ve composed over 700 popular songs and over a dozen Broadway shows in the 1930’s.
John Frederick Coots was born in New York City, where he was taught to play the piano by his mother. After leaving high school, he got a job working in a bank on Wall Street, but, in 1914, he heard a professional music plugger in a music shop selling new songs, and decided to change careers.
His first job in music was as a pianist and stock boy in a music shop and by 1917 he had his first song published. He then went into vaudeville, playing the piano and writing songs tailored to specific performers, including Sophie Tucker. In 1922 he wrote the music for a Broadway show called Sally, Irene, and Mary with lyrics by Raymond Klages.
Under contract with producers Lee and J.J. Shubert, he composed music for many Broadway shows, including Artists and Models of 1924 and 1925. His last Broadway score was Sons o’ Guns, a hit in 1929 and Coots left New York for Hollywood.
“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” is one of the most popular Christmas songs ever written. But Gillespie was never enthusiastic about it. According to “Drifting and Dreaming: The Story of Songwriter Haven Gillespie,” written by Gillespie’s nephew William Frist, in 1934, Gillespie went to Manhattan to meet with his publisher immediately after attending his brother’s Irwin’s funeral.
He is said to have not been enthusiastic about writing a children’s Christmas song when his publisher approached him in 1934.
He left the office and 15 minutes later on the subway train, Gillespie wrote the lyrics to “Santa Claus is Comin to Town.”
With music by J. Fred Coots, the song debuted on the “Eddie Cantor Thanksgiving Show” and became an overnight hit, with sales reaching 25,000 copies a day.
Gillespie, though, was never thrilled about the song’s success because it always reminded him of his brother’s death.
Gillespie left high school at the age of 16 to work in the print trade, Gillespie worked as a typesetter at the Cincinnati Times Star newspaper. In his early 20’s, he moved to New York City and found work as a journalist at the New York Times and other newspapers, he started working as a song plugger on Tin Pan Alley while writing lyrics for vaudeville acts.
In the early 30s song plugger’s at that time were called song writers, my how times have changed.
Even though Gillespie was approached at the wrong time to write the song, I find it just interesting how most song writers can take their troubles and breathe new life into something so special as a Christmas song, which is played yearly giving other people joys in their life.
As Christmas is approaching us, have fun sharing this song with friends and family.
Written & Designed by JD Mitchell