The Real Story Behind The Christmas Hit “Blue Christmas”

The Real Story Behind The Christmas Hit “Blue Christmas” | I Love Classic Rock Videos

Elvis Presley performing Love Me Tender live, 1970 - Tania Vasileva / Youtube

“Blue Christmas” is not just a song; it’s a certified classic that tugs at the heartstrings during the holiday season. While Elvis Presley’s rendition in 1957 is the one etched in our memories, the story of this melancholic holiday tune goes back to its roots.

The song was penned by Jay Johnson, a talented writer known for his contributions to popular radio shows.

Inspired by the festive tune “White Christmas” during his commute, Johnson envisioned a holiday song that captured the essence of feeling “blue” during the season. He shared his lyrics with friend Billy Hayes, who added the melody we recognize today. Published by Choice Music Co., the song saw its first recording by Doye O’Dell in 1948.

Fast forward to 1950, country singer Ernest Tubb recorded his version of “Blue Christmas.” Elvis Presley, a massive fan of Tubb, had met him in 1954. Despite Presley’s initial reluctance to sing the song during the 1957 recording session, he had a change of heart. Millie Kirkham, a backing singer present during the session, recalled the moment:

 “He [Presley] didn’t wanna do it. He said, ‘I don’t wanna do this song.’ And they said, ‘Well, you’ve got to because it’s already been scheduled,’ and so he said, ‘Well okay,’ and he turned round to us, the musicians and the singers, and said, ‘Let’s just get this over with.'”

Elvis urged the musicians to have fun and do something silly. Kirkham, in response, added playful “woo” sounds throughout the song, creating a memorable touch.

Despite the initial skepticism, the record company released the version, and it became a hit.

Decades later, “Blue Christmas” continues to enchant listeners. In 2019, Presley’s rendition re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 40, reflecting its enduring popularity. This marked Presley’s return to the chart since 1977.

Presley had once said during his 1968 comeback concert:

“I’d like to do my favorite Christmas song of all the ones I’ve recorded.”

The legacy of “Blue Christmas” extends beyond the charts, becoming a timeless holiday favorite that resonates with listeners, reminding us that the magic of music knows no bounds, even during the bittersweet moments of the festive season.