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This was written in 1932 by Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots. They had trouble convincing anyone to produce it because it was seen as a kids' song, which would have been very hard to sell. The big break came when Eddie Cantor sang it on his radio show in 1934, and the song became an instant hit. Coots was a writer for Cantor's show and pushed for the host to perform it. Cantor was going to pass on the song but was convinced by his wife, Ida, to give it a try.
The only US Top-40 entry for this song is the 1962 version by The Four Seasons, which hit #23 and featured Frankie Valli's famous falsetto letting children know they better not cry-y-y-y. It was just the third single for the group, and it set the stage for their success even after the British invaded and The Beatles took over the charts. Many artists put out Christmas songs every year, and scoring a hit so early in their career with a 1934 song about Santa meant that they were truly loved. The next single by The Four Seasons was "Walk Like A Man
," which went to #1.
Before the Rock era, the most popular recordings of this song were those by Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters and by Perry Como - both versions sold millions of copies. In addition to The Four Seasons version, other popular takes on the song were recorded by The Jackson 5, Mariah Carey, Charlie Daniels, George Strait, Alice Cooper, the Carpenters, and Justin Bieber. The most enduring version in the modern era is Bruce Springsteen's, which is usually the most downloaded and most played on radio stations. Bruce also does a version called "Santa Claus Is Fooling Around," which is about how Santa will steal your lady if you're not careful.
A Rankin-Bass animated TV special was produced in 1970 and loosely based on this song. Narrated by Fred Astaire (who also sings the title song) and starring Mickey Rooney as the voice of Kris Kringle, it depicts the story of Santa Claus and how he came to be.
The Crystals sang this on the 1963 album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector
(although La La Brooks
was the only Crystal to sing on it). The legendary producer put about six weeks and $56,000 into making the album, which was released on the same day President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed - November 22, 1963. The album was never a hit, but was reissued a few times and some of the songs made their way to perennial Christmas playlists.
Dan cracked the Top 40 with "Ritual," then went to India and spent 2 hours with the Dalai Lama.
Don Brewer of Grand Funk
The drummer and one of the primary songwriters in Grand Funk talks rock stardom and Todd Rundgren.