The Christmas Song, commonly subtitled "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire" or, as it was originally
subtitled, "Merry Christmas to You", is a classic Christmas song written in 1944 by Bob Wells and Mel Tormé.
Mel Torme and Bob Wells were songwriting partners, and used to take turns going over to each others homes to write songs.
One particularly hot July day, Mel drove over to Bob's house in Teluca Lake, California, and when he got there
he walked into the house, couldn't find Bob, but found a spiral note pad of paper with some words on it -
"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, Yuletide Carols being sung by a choir,
folks dressed up like Eskimos."
When Mel found Bob, he asked him "What's this?", and Bob said "it's so blistering hot
here,and thought it would be fun to see if I could write something about a totally different season, the winter season,
Christmas season, and see if I could mentally, virtually cool off." Mel said "not only have you also cooled me off,
but I think you've got a song here!" And the duo wrote the rest of the song in about 35 minutes.
The Nat King Cole Trio first recorded the song early in 1946. At Cole's behest - and over the objections of his label,
Capitol Records - a second recording was made the same year utilizing a small string section, this version becoming
a massive hit on both the pop and R&B charts. Cole again recorded the song in 1953, using the same arrangement with
a full orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, and once more in 1961, in a stereophonic version with
orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael. Nat King Cole's 1961 version is generally regarded as definitive.
The song became more popular than ever in the '00s, as radio stations in a variety of formats added it to
their holiday playlists every year. In 2006, ASCAP announced that it was the most-played holiday song of the previous
five years, and while many artists had recorded it, Cole's version was still by far the most popular.
"In the Cool of Evening"
"(All I Want for Christmas Is) My Two Front Teeth"
"The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot"
August 19, 1946
August 26, 1953
Christmas, jazz, pop
3:10 (1946 recording)
3:12 (1953 recording)