My Christmas Song of the Day for December 4 is so obscure that a friend of mine and former co-worker, who had heard the song when he was a kid but hadn’t heard it since, thought it had fallen into the public domain and wanted to revive it. It’s a really cool song that deserves further attention.
The Mills Brothers were originally a quartet from Piqua, Ohio, about 25 miles north of Dayton: John C. Jr., Herbert, Harry and Donald. John C. Jr. died in 1936, but the trio continued with their father (John C. Sr.) added to the group; they were the ones who sang on their three biggest hits, all #1 smashes and all still fondly remembered today: “Paper Doll,” “You Always Hurt the One You Love” and “The Glow-Worm.”
They were past their commercial prime in 1955 when they released today’s featured song. Written by Seger Ellis, a jazz pianist and vocalist who first recorded in 1925, “You Don’t Have to Be a Santa Claus (When Christmas Comes Around)” was quietly issued by Decca around the same time as the big Christmas hit of 1955, “Nuttin’ for Christmas.” As a result, it was swamped, and it’s rarely been heard since. Once in a while, it’ll show up on a compilation, but not very often. If you’re like me, you’ll wonder why not when you hear the Mills Brothers sing “You Don’t Have to Be a Santa Claus (When Christmas Comes Around).”