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Hillbilly HolidayRhino Record's Hillbilly Holiday (1988, now sadly out-of-print) mines the rich vein of Christmas gold running though the golden age of country music - from the post-war 40s through the early 70's, when the smooth countrypolitan sound removed the "hillbilly" from country music. Subsequently, the outlaw country of Waylon and Willie began to seriously challenge Nashville's supremacy, but the dynamic had been irrevocably altered. The eighteen songs herein barely begin to tell the story (no Gene Autry, for instance), but they serve as an excellent introduction for neophytes and function as an adequate summary for casual fans. To my ears, fully 16 of these 18 songs qualify as absolutely essential - perfect examples of the best these artists had to offer. The other two cuts (by hillbilly heroes Bill Monroe and Willie Nelson) are just fine - they're simply less-than-definitive performances of songs later defined by other artists (Mac Wiseman and Roy Orbison, to be precise).

The earliest cut on Hillbilly Holiday is Tex Ritter's "Christmas Carols By The Old Corral" (1945), characterized by the old-timey, western-movie feel typical of much country music of the day. Just a few years later, we witness the Davis Sisters (featuring Skeeter Davis) shoving the Nashville sound into the space age with "Christmas Boogie," and things rarely slow down thereafter. We barrel through the 50's and 60's like a runaway eighteen-wheeler carrying cargo by some of the the brightest lights in country music - Ernest Tubb, Faron Young, Hank Snow, Loretta Lynn. Not to be believed, however, is George Jones' goofy twistin' novelty, "My Mom And Santa Claus."

As Nashville lost its grip on power and reality in the 70's, good country Christmas records became few and far between, indeed (see entries for Emmylou Harris and Dwight Yoakam). Hillbilly Holiday closes, then, in 1972 with Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, an outlaw band whose "Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas" bears all the hallmarks of a classic country weeper. It serves as a reminder of the glories of country Christmas past, and it gives hope that there may be a Hillbilly Holiday on the calendar someday once again. [top of page]

Albums Albums


  • Christmas Boogie (Davis Sisters, 1953)
  • Christmas By The Old Corral (Tex Ritter, 1945)
  • Christmas Time's A-Comin' (Bill Monroe, 1951)
  • Christmas Time's A-Comin' (Buck Owens, 1965)
  • Daddy's Drinking Up Our Christmas (Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, 1972)
  • Gonna Wrap My Heart In Ribbons (Hank Thompson, 1964)
  • I'll Be Walking The Floor This Christmas (Ernest Tubb, 1954)
  • I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus (Brenda Lee, 1956)
  • I'm Gonna Tell Santa On You (Faron Young, 1953)
  • It Came Upon A Midnight Clear (Louvin Brothers, 1961)
  • My Mom & Santa Claus (George Jones & The Jones Boys, 1962)
  • One Of You (In Every Size) (Marty Robbins, 1967)
  • Po' Folks Christmas (Bill Anderson, 1968)
  • Pretty Paper (Willie Nelson, 1964)
  • Reindeer Boogie (Hank Snow, 1953)
  • Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy (Buck Owens, 1965)
  • They Shined Up Rudolph's Nose (Johnny Horton, 1959)
  • To Heck With Ole Santa Claus (Loretta Lynn, 1966)

Further ListeningFurther Listening

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