“Merry Christmas, Baby” is the kind of secular Christmas song to which Dave Marsh and Steve Propes devoted an entire book of the same title. (The subtitle of the book is Holiday Music From Bing to Sting.) “Merry Christmas, Baby” is a smoldering blues love song with a Christmas theme. Great line: “I haven’t had a drink this morning/But I’m all lit up like a Christmas tree.”
The song was written written by Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore and released in 1947 by Johnny Moore’s Three Trailblazers, with the late, great Charles Brown on the piano and the vocal. Brown returned to the song many, many times, perhaps most notably in a playful duet he recorded with Bonnie Raitt.
Neither Bing nor Sting covered the song, but a lot of artists in between have. Otis Redding, Chuck Berry, Lou Rawls, Aaron Neville, B.B. King, Sheryl Crow, and Bruce Springsteen have all recorded good versions. I’m not sure that’s much of a distinction; I don’t think there is a bad version of the song.
Elvis Presley recorded a memorable version of the song. I don’t know where or when it was originally released, but I first heard it on an obscure album compiling a selection of Elvis’s recordings of blues numbers. The album was pressed on blue vinyl and called Elvis Blue. The album provided an insight into a side of Elvis’s art that I had missed.
Elvis’s recording of the song is now included on the five-disc RCA compilation Walk a Mile in My Shoes: The Essential ’70s Masters. Like Elvis Blue, the ’70s compilation is something of a revelation.
In the video below, you can hear Elvis luxuriating in and goofing on the song, growling behind the backbeat and really getting into it, goaded on by the guitar work of James Burton. Elvis doesn’t even get around to the last verse, but he’s got the feeling.
Merry Christmas to all our readers celebrating Christmas today.
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