When my mother was trying to get her three boys to go to sleep she would often start to sing “Little boy, don’t you think it’s time you were in bed?” The lyric comes from a song called “Old Toy Trains” by Glen Campbell. It’s a Christmas song but because of this habit it had a year-round presence in our house.
Now Glen Campbell is a favorite of both me and my mother. Roger Miller wrote and recorded the original version but Campbell wisely changed the lyrics from “old toy trains, little toy tracks” to “little toy trains, little toy tracks.” This might be the most songwriting Glen Campbell ever did in his life.
While pop singers tend to just cover old Christmas Classics or half-ass a lifeless original, country music has a rich history of original Christmas songs. This might be due to the genre’s association with Christianity, which brings me to another of my favorites: “Happy Birthday Jesus” by Webb and Debbie Pierce.
I’m not a religious person but I’m obsessed with this song. There’s something so weird about it. The Pierces treat Jesus like he’s a kid with a December 25th birthday and it keeps getting overshadowed by the holiday. Christmas is already all about him we don’t need to also get him a cake with candles. Tragically I think Webb also might have been sucking up to Jesus to try and pray the gay away.
If you’re not a big fan of classic country you may be surprised to find out that Country legend and Texas Ranger minority-owner Charley Pride is a black man. The fact that he made a career for himself as a country star in the 1960s is nothing short of stunning. The guy who said we were better off when there was slavery almost got elected to the senate YESTERDAY.
At first listen “I’m Gonna Lasso Santa Claus” sounds like just a fun novelty country christmas song from a precocious child. The lyrics reveal something a bit darker. A 12 year-old Brenda Lee gets lots of presents from Santa but sees other kids in the neighborhood who don’t get any. Not realizing that this is because those families are poorer than her she just thinks Santa is a dick.
Marty Robbins is best known for the song “El Paso,” but he had a hugely prolific career and a lot of great albums, including Christmas With Marty Robbins. I won’t pick the most disconcerting song on that record, “One of You in Every Size,” instead I’ll recommend the less creepy but almost as odd “Christmas Kisses.” For the rest of my Country Christmas playlist see the links below.