Old Time Blues and I extend our warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas to all of our valued readers!
I always try to put up a suitable selection for the holiday, though in some past years, I’ve let it fall by the wayside in the chaos of the season. But not this time. In celebration of this year’s yuletide, I present an Ernest Tubb bookend to an Ernest Tubb year—the third of his records posted in 2019, the first year during which any of his records have entered the Old Time Blues spotlight. This record holds a special significance to me, for it is one of several in my possession which originally belonged to my great-grandmother, who was in fact a first cousin to Ernest Tubb, though I’m not sure that she knew it. On it, the Texas Troubadour croons two colors of Christmas, in performances of the holiday classics “White Christmas” and “Blue Christmas”.
Decca 46186 was recorded on August 26, 1949, at the Castle Studio in the Tulane Hotel at 206 8th Avenue North in Nashville, Tennessee, and was produced by Paul Cohen; the two sides account for the entirety of Tubb’s session that day. Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours are Tommy “Butterball” Paige on lead electric guitar, Jack Shook and Tubb himself on guitars, Jack Drake on string bass, and Owen Bradley on the organ. There sounds to be a steel guitar present, but I’m not sure who’s playing it. Backup vocals are provided by the Three Troubadettes: Anita Kerr, Alcyone Bate Beasley, and Dottie Dillard.
On the first side, E.T. sings us a heartfelt rendition of Irving Berlin’s famous “White Christmas”, though, growing up in Texas, a white Christmas would surely not be “like the ones he used to know.” Tubb recorded an earlier take of “White Christmas” with his full band two years prior, but it was never released and is reported as “lost”. Move it on over, Bing Crosby!
While the Christmastime staple “Blue Christmas” is most commonly associated with Elvis Presley, who recorded it in 1957, and the first recording was made in 1948 by Doye O’Dell, I consider Ernest’s rendition to be the definitive.