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Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

by

Gene Autry



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

The story of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer was written in 1939 by Robert L. May, a copywriter for the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward department stores, as a promotional gift for the store's customers. The stores had bought and distributed coloring books every Christmas and saw writing their own story as a way to save money. Montgomery Ward distributed 2.4 million copies of the Rudolph booklet in 1939. A total of 6 million copies had been given out by the end of 1946, even though wartime paper shortages restricted printing.
The story reflects May's own childhood difficulties as the smallest boy in his class. He was taunted for being a frail, scrawny misfit.
The reindeer was almost named Rollo or Reginald. May considered both these named before settling on Rudolph.
Rudolph's story was made into a song when May's brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, developed the lyrics and melody for it. Marks' musical version was first recorded by Gene Autry in 1949, selling 2 million copies that year.
Autry didn't want anything to do with this song. It was his wife who talked him into recording it, and it went on to become the second biggest-selling Christmas song of all time, next to Bing Crosby's "White Christmas." (thanks, Jeff - Boston, MA)
Autry was known as "The Singing Cowboy." He teamed up with Roy Rogers in the 1930's and 40's to make movies in a new genré called "Musical Westerns." Autry had his own TV show in the 1950's and was the owner of the California Angels baseball team, now known as the Anaheim Angels. Autry, who died in 1998, is the only person with 5 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which he earned for motion pictures, radio, music recording, television, and live theater.
This song was the basis for a children's TV Special made in 1964. It was narrated by Burl Ives, and became a Christmas classic.
The Chipmunks did a version of this that was a hit in 1960.
Gene Autry
More Gene Autry songs
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Comments (17):

On December 3rd, 1964 the stop-motion animation special "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" debut on the CBS-TV network...
Actor/folk singer Burl Ives provided the voice for 'Sam the Snowman'...
R.I.P. Mr. Ives (1909 - 1995).
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
If you haven't heard The Crystals' 1963 version produced by genius-gone-mad Phil Spector, well you haven't heard nothin'! Another mighty treat on the same CD (The Phil Spector Christmas album) is The Ronettes' rendering of Rudolph the red-nosed-reindeer. I've heard it say that every year at Xmas time in The US and the UK, it's one of the top-selling Xmas albums. Just go get it if you haven't got it yet, your kids - or your baby-boom-born, ageing father will love it!
- Gerard, Toulouse, France
I think the Wiggles sang this song on the original 1997 release of their "Wiggly Wiggly Christmas" video and their "Wiggly Wiggly Christmas" album released in 1996.
- Daniel Celano, Philadelphia, PA
I thought a young boy by the name of Jimmy West also recorded Rudolph back in the early 50's. Maybe I'm wrong or old age is catching up with me!!
Lorraine, Dublin, CA
- Lorraine, Dublin,CA, CA
Love the song. It brings back my childhood days. May Rudolph live forever!
- Virginia, North Myrtle Beach, SC
On a Christmas Mix CD that I own, there's a recording of Dean Martin singing this; he sounds soused. Does anyone know if he was when he recorded it...or did he just always sound soused, whether he was or not?
- Terri, Phoenix, AZ
According to the urban legends site (www.snopes.com, Mays considered Rollo and Reginald for the reindeer's name. there is no mention of Rupert.
- frosty, seattle, WA
Flip side of Rudolph was "If it doesn't snow on Christmas.
- Chuck, Springfield, MO
what was on the flip side of the single rudolph the red nose raindeer? i have been told that playing rudolph was a fluke, the hit was supose to be the other side
- cheryl, hillsboro, OR
"Rudolph" was first offered to Bing Crosby who had scored so well with "White Christmas". He turned it down as being a little too 'juvenile' and not his style. This was one time in his career he made the wrong decision...and later he admitted it. BUT, in reality, Gene Autry REALLY put his own 'stamp' on "Rudolph"...and his version is still the BEST of all !!
- Jonnie King, St. Louis, MO
So does Montgomery Ward still own Rudolph?
- Mark, Lancaster, OH
There's also a version from The Crystals on the cd "A Christmas gift for you from Phil Spector", that can be considered as a very original Christmas cd, with a perfect "Wall of Sound"; if you don't have it just buy it.
- Teresa, Mechelen, Belgium
Rupert was the only name never considered for the reindeer.
- claire, Oak Ridge, TN
I love rudolph. I mean i love that little huy. i like how he jumps around in his little outfits.
- Peter Griffin, Quahog, RI
I believe Bill is right, that Gene Autry was one of the songwritets on "Here Comes Santa Claus". His is the best version of good old Rudolph, but I also love Justin Wilson's "Randolph th' Rouge Nosed Reindeer". (Same snng bur with a strong Cajun flavor.)
- Jude, Thomasville, GA
Johnny Rebel recorded an awesome version of this song. "Leroy the big-lipped..." :)
- Mr. Fugu, springfield, United States
Besides recording RTRNR, I believe Gene Autry wrote a Christmas song of his own.."Here Comes Santa Clause".
- rich, elkins, WV
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