Sleigh Ride

Album: Greatest Hits (1948)


  • Leroy Anderson wrote the music for this song during a heatwave in July of 1946, while staying at a cottage in Woodbury, Connecticut, with his wife and 18-month-old daughter. Anderson was an orchestral composer who lived in the Boston area and moved to Woodbury permanently in 1948, where he lived until his 1975 death at age 66. He had a big hit in 1952 with the song "Blue Tango."

    Arthur Fiedler premiered the song with the Boston Pops, who Leroy was an arranger for earlier in his career. Words for "Sleigh Ride" were added in 1950 by Mitchell Parish, and the song has since become a Christmas classic.
  • Like "Winter Wonderland," this song does not make any specific reference to Christmas, but the seasonal imagery has made it very much associated with the holiday. It's hard to think of a sleigh in winter without thinking of Santa.
  • The lyrics, "Like a picture print by Currier and Ives" refer to a printmaking firm that produced some of the most iconic and popular American artwork of the 19th century. The company specialized in publishing hand-colored lithographs that were sold inexpensively to the American middle class. A sample can be seen here. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Patrick - Bremen, GA
  • The Ventures did an instrumental version that is based on their hit "Walk - Don't Run." Another unusual take on the song comes courtesy of The Ronettes, who recorded it under the direction of producer Phil Spector. This version has the famous "Ring-a-ling-a-ling Ding-dong-ding" backup vocals, and has become one of the more popular recordings of the song. It was included on the 1963 album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, which had the misfortune of being released the same day US president John F. Kennedy was assassinated: November 22, 1963.
  • Other artists to record this song include Neil Diamond, Ella Fitzgerald, Amy Grant, Harry Connick, Jr., Herb Alpert, the Spice Girls, TLC, Kenny G, KT Tunstall, Air Supply, the Carpenters, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, The Hampton String Quartet, Hilary Duff, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Vera Lynn, Natalie Cole, and She & Him, and fun. A version by Bela Fleck got a Grammy nomination in 2009 for Best Country Instrumental Performance. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • According to ASCAP, this was the most-played holiday song on American radio from 2009-2012, beating out "Winter Wonderland," "The Christmas Song" and "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!."
  • Anderson wasn't the only composer to write a wintry tune in the midst of a heatwave. Mel Torme and Bob Wells penned the perennial favorite "The Christmas Song" to cool off during a stifling summer in 1945.

    For Anderson, the temperature wasn't even a consideration. "A composer seldom gets ideas for music from his environment," he explained in a letter to Icelandic Radio (as quoted by the Leroy Anderson Foundation). "Ideas come from inside his head and it makes little difference where his body happens to be. All a composer needs is solitude and quiet so that he can think without being interrupted or distracted. For this reason some of my ideas have come at very illogical times. Many people think that I wrote 'Sleigh Ride' in the Winter after seeing a sleigh go past my house. As a matter of fact 'Sleigh Ride' was written, not only in the summer, but in the midst of the biggest heatwave of the year."
  • The Ronettes recording has become the most popular. Since 2018, it has been a regular visitor to the UK and US singles charts during the festive period.

Comments: 6

  • Dave from Wheaton, IlWhy'd Phil have the girls record a very truncated version of 'Sleigh ride'? He left out many of the lyrics!
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaThe Ronettes is my favorite version, but the Karen Carpenter also sings a knockout version on the best Christmas album ever recorded, "A Christmas Portrait."
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, CaWonderfultune...forthe 50's bop instrumental version,try the Herb Geller Quartet on Emarcy records(outofprint,but may be on cd now.)
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumStefanie, if you like Phil Spector, if you like his "Wall of Sound" just buy his Christmas cd.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI mihgt have heard that version. I'm not sure.
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumOn the Christmas cd "A Christmas gift to you from Phil Spector" there's a version from the Ronettes; it's very good, very original, very Spector.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Joe Jackson

Joe JacksonSongwriter Interviews

Joe talks about the challenges of of making a Duke Ellington tribute album, and tells the stories behind some of his hits.

Jethro Tull

Jethro TullFact or Fiction

Stage urinals, flute devices, and the real Aqualung in this Fact or Fiction.

Gary Louris of The Jayhawks

Gary Louris of The JayhawksSongwriter Interviews

The Jayhawks' song "Big Star" has special meaning to Gary, who explains how longevity and inspiration have trumped adulation.

Rick Springfield

Rick SpringfieldSongwriter Interviews

Rick has a surprising dark side, a strong feminine side and, in a certain TV show, a naked backside. But he still hasn't found Jessie's Girl.

Taylor Dayne

Taylor DayneSongwriter Interviews

Taylor talks about "The Machine" - the hits, the videos and Clive Davis.

Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear: Teddy Bears and Teddy Boys in Songs

Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear: Teddy Bears and Teddy Boys in SongsSong Writing

Elvis, Little Richard and Cheryl Cole have all sung about Teddy Bears, but there is also a terrifying Teddy song from 1932 and a touching trucker Teddy tune from 1976.