Christmas Song Trivia

This Contest is Closed
The winner is Andy Bing


While there aren’t a lot of Christmas songs written and recorded by bluegrass artists, there are “some”. I don’t mean bluegrass artists singing standard Christmas carols. I mean Christmas songs written by (or for) bluegrass artists to record first.

So here’s your trivia question. Which of these “founding bands” of bluegrass never recorded a Christmas song?

A. Bill Monroe & the Blue Grass Boys

B. The Stanley Brothers & the Clinch Mt. Boys

C. Flatt & Scruggs and the Foggy Mt Boys

D. Reno & Smiley and the Tennessee Cut-Ups

E. Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mt Boys

F. None of the above


Additional Bowden Comments

Good job Andy. For all the records Flatt & Scruggs made, good and bad, they never made one for Christmas.

Monroe’s big Christmas song leads the entire pack, “Christmas Time’s a’ Coming”. Fiddler Tex Logan rewrote an old fiddle novelty piece called “Christmas Time Will Soon Be Over” into a new song for Monroe. Tex was invited to play on Monroe’s Decca recording session, but he got a premonition about the trip and declined to go. He phoned Nashville and played the fiddler parts over the phone for Bill’s Blue Grass Boy fiddler at the time, Gordon Terry. Monroe didn’t even share “author” credit with Tex on the release.

The Stanley Brothers’ best known Christmas record is “Christmas Time is Near”. On the 45 rpm release, it was backed with an old banjo instrumental known as “Wild Horse” which the record company retitled “Holiday Picking”. An “almost-was” Christmas number was a composition by the dying Carter Stanley, dedicated to his wife, titled “Mary, Merry Christmas”. He didn’t live to record it for her. But a few others have cut it.

Reno & Smiley had a good Christmas single in the late 1950s “Christmas Reunion” backed with “Christmas Doll” which was an old Jim Eanes composition. In the early 1960s their record label had them make an entire LP for Christmas — the first bluegrass Christmas LP. Don Reno was a prolific songwriter as well as banjo player. He could really crank out songs.

Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys’ first well known Christmas record was “An Old Fashioned Christmas”. It included a heartfelt recitation by Jimmy reminiscing about his boyhood Christmas experiences with his family in East Tennessee. In later years of his career Jimmy churned out a fair number of Christmas songs.

Although many, many younger bluegrass artists have put out bluegrass records (even the heart-rending “Call Collect at Christmas” by a young Del McCoury, which his record company decided not to release in the early 70s, although it escaped later), there’s always room in bluegrass for more Christmas songs written for our genre.

l should have added, you can listen to all these songs (and more) on YouTube.

Dick Bowden

Dick Bowden recently retired after a 45 year career in the paper industry, and moved from Connecticut to Big Indian NY (Ulster County) where he ekes out a precarious existence as a groundskeeper. Dick has been performing bluegrass music on banjo and guitar since 1966 in his home state of Maine, throughout New England, and internationally with The Case Brothers - Martin & Gibson. He has performed for HVBA with the Old Time Bluegrass Singers, and also sent in a squadron of Dick Bowden's Flying Circus. Most recently Dick has played Dobro (tm) with the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Dick has written many articles for Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Today, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass magazine) and HVBA.

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