Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I remember hearing a song in the mid-'50s by Stan Freeburg called “I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas.”

They played it only a few weeks on the radio then was taken off, probably because of sponsor irritation.

Is my memory correct? If so, where can I get a copy?
—Jim Driskell (

DEAR JIM: Except for the title and the spelling of Freberg, your memory is excellent. (It is “White Christmas” that is “dreamed of” in songs.)

This recording, simply titled “Green Christmas” (Capitol 4097), became a Top 50 hit when issued for the 1958 Holiday season. As you no doubt know, it has since been played every year at this time and is considered a Christmas classic.

If you can locate “Stan Freberg — Capitol Collector's Series” (Capitol 7 91627 2), you will find one of its 20 tracks is the full-length “Green Christmas,” green referring to the color of money.

Now that you know both the original single number as well as a CD with this track, here is a quote from the liner notes of that CD, which address your other recollection:

“Green Christmas is an attack on the over-commercialization of Christmas, and while savagely funny it also reflects Freberg's roots as the son of a minister.

“Many radio stations were nervous about airing the record for fear of offending their advertisers. In fact, some sponsors gave notice that they wouldn't pay for their ad time if their commercial aired within 15 minutes of “Green Christmas.”

“Nevertheless, the record has endured as a classic of social commentary, and unfortunately seems as apt when played today as it did when “Freberg wrote and recorded it.”

DEAR JERRY: My brother and I have been arguing about “The Little Drummer Boy” since the 1980s.

He says the hit was by the Harry Simeone Chorale, and my reference books say Simeone's first hit with it in 1958.

But I first heard the song done by Johnny Cash, I believe, in 1956. I can find no reference to what must have been a Sun record for Cash, but that doesn't mean it didn't exist. Also, even though Simeone's version didn't hit the charts until 1958 is no reason it couldn't have been around in '56 as well.

What say you, Jerry? When were the Cash and Simeone versions of Little Drummer Boy first released?
—Mike Rice, Sparta, Wisconsin

DEAR MIKE: Harry Simeone's original recording (20th Fox 121) charted in December 1958, then near the end of the following year Johnny Cash's version came out (Columbia 41481).

DEAR JERRY: Ages ago, in Las Vegas or somewhere, I heard Wayne Newton sing a western style Christmas song. Of course I don't recall the title. One line that sticks out is about the cowboy ridin' into Christmas Day.

Since then, I have checked all of his albums and CDs, but have never found anything that even resembles the tune I seek.

If you could tell me more about this song, and where to find it, I would consider it a wonderful Christmas gift.
—Susana Millington, Paducah, Ky.

OH! SUSANA: From the fragment you provide, it is clear the song is “Cowboy's Christmas,” and I have found at least one CD that includes it.

Look for “Cowboy Christmas” (Scotti Bros. 755302), a 12-track disc with holiday tunes by Wayne Newton, Brenda Lee, Buck Owens, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Gene Autry, and others.

Whew! Now I no longer have to worry about what to get you this year.

IZ ZAT SO? Eight different artists have charted with versions of "The Little Drummer Boy," (Harry Simeone Chorale; Johnny Cash; Jack Halloran Singers; Johnny Mathis; Joan Baez; Kenny Burrell; Lou Rawls; Moonlion) making it the Christmas champ in the most charted versions category.

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