Hurricane Sandy brought lots of rain and wind to our area, but for some she brought snow. Throughout the Appalachians and north to the Great Lakes there has been lots and lots of snow. Seeing some of the photos made me think of this week’s song, Walking in a Winter Wonderland. This song, considered a pop Christmas standard, was written in 1934 by Felix Bernard and Richard Smith. Smith wrote the lyrics inspired by the Central Park in his hometown in Pennsylvania. He actually did the writing from a sanitarium in Scranton, PA. Smith was there being treated for consumption (Tuberculosis). The song has become a must play for the Christmas season but there is actually no mention of the holiday in the song in any way. Despite that fact, it has been recorded by more than 150 artists as part of Christmas albums or performances.
The first recording came from Richard Himber and the Hotel Ritz-Carlton Orchestra. The session featured many well know musicians of the time, including Artie Shaw. Gaining notice by many, Guy Lombardo and his orchestra quickly found success in the 30s with a recording, Johnny Mercer in the 40s and on to Perry Como in the 50s. The 50s brought the first controversy with the song. The lyrics include a verse the describes building a snowman, Parson Brown, to perform a marriage for the revelers. This was a little risky and considered inappropriate for the kids to hear, so it was changed. This is where we get the lyric about building a snowman and pretending he’s a circus clown. Today when recording the song many artists include both lyrics. I can remember singing this with my classmates in elementary and singing, incorrectly, the line “later on we’ll perspire, as we sit by the fire”. I guess we were hot! Listen to these recordings- they got the lyrics right:Richard Himber– The original recording- lots of orchestration over lyrics. Andrew Sisters– A very 40s sounding recording from these classic artists. Harry Connick, Jr.– While hosting the Today show he performs the hit with his daughter. Ozzy & Jessica– Really strange duet between Osbourne and Simpson. Herb Albert– With the Tijuana Brass, this is a groovin’ version. Eurythmics– This recording is another great one from the album A Very Special Christmas.