Cherry Red Records’ él imprint is celebrating this Christmas in Nashville with the recent release of The Anita Kerr Singers and Chet Atkins at Christmas. This new two-for-one CD includes both Christmas with Chet Atkins (1961) and The Kerr Singers’ On This Holy Night (1959) plus a smattering of related bonus tracks.
It’s nearly impossible to sum up the career of Chet Atkins in a mere few words. The fourteen-time Grammy winner (1924-2001) was a mainstay of the RCA Victor label between 1947 and 1982 as a performer, producer and executive. Ranked the No. 12 Greatest Guitarist of All Time by Rolling Stone, he was also a key participant in the creation of the “Nashville Sound” which made country palatable to crossover audiences by applying pop touches such as string arrangements. Christmas with Chet Atkins arrived in 1961 from the prolific artist, featuring fourteen sublimely understated guitar renditions of holiday favorites and spirituals alike, from “Jingle Bell Rock” to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” His prior album, also released in 1961, was titled The Most Popular Guitar, and Atkins proved why as he applied both sparkling musicianship and a pop sheen to this selection of Christmas carols played on a variety of guitars. Atkins was joined by his frequent guests, The Anita Kerr Singers, who added both wordless harmonies and occasional lyrics to the set.
As a major component of The Nashville Sound, Anita Kerr led her Anita Kerr Singers on records by Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Brenda Lee, Eddy Arnold, Willie Nelson and Floyd Cramer. The group’s distinctive vocal harmonies were also heard behind Roy Orbison, Perry Como, Rosemary Clooney, Bobby Vinton, and too many others in the pop and rock arenas to mention. Like The Sweet Inspirations or The Jordanaires, The Anita Kerr Singers also struck out on their own even as they continued to support other artists. In 2013, the él label reissued two of the group’s earliest LPs on one CD, The Genius in Harmony and Nashville…The Hit Sound (both from 1962).
On This Holy Night predates both of those releases. The LP was recorded with producer Owen Bradley in 1959 for the transcription library of performance rights organization SESAC, originally The Society for European Stage Authors and Composers. Most of the LP’s twelve tracks were traditional Christmas songs including “Deck the Halls,” “The Coventry Carol” and “The Cherry Tree Carol,” all with Kerr’s warm and intricate vocal arrangements. (An a cappella “Where Will the Baby Lay” is particularly beautiful.) Soprano Kerr was joined on the album by alto Dorothy Dillard, tenor Gil Wright and bass Louis Nunley, as well as musicians Hank Garland (guitar), Harold Bradley (guitar), Bob Moore (bass), Douglas Kirkham (drums), Marvin Hughes (piano), Robert Bays (French horn), and James Hall, James LeCroy and Gene Mullin (trombones).
What bonuses will you find here? Hit the jump for that and more, including the full track listing and order links!
To these two classic Christmas albums, él has added seven bonus tracks all featuring The Anita Kerr Singers. The group recorded Dick Flood’s song “A Very Merry Christmas” under the name of The Holidays in 1960 for Monument Records; that’s here, along with four of their 1961 recordings with popular organist Lenny Dee (from his Happy Holi-Dee record) and two from 1957 with Bobby Helms including his original recording of “Jingle Bell Rock” and its flipside, the lesser-known “Captain Santa Claus.”
The Anita Kerr Singers and Chet Atkins at Christmas, made possible due to current U.K. public domain laws, includes a booklet with liner notes about both artists, plus credits. This joyous release is available now from Cherry Red’s él imprint. It can be ordered at the links below!
- Jingle Bell Rock
- Winter Wonderland
- Jolly Old St. Nicholas
- White Christmas
- Blue Christmas
- Jingle Bells
- Silver Bells
- The Little Drummer Boy
- The Coventry Carol/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
- The First Noel
- Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
- O Come, All Ye Faithful
- Deck the Halls
- Silent Night
- On This Holy Night
- Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
- The Coventry Carol
- Deck the Halls
- A Child is Born in Bethlehem
- Where Will the Baby Lay
- Go Tell It on the Mountain
- The Cherry Tree Carol
- Sleep, Sweet Jesus, Sleep
- The Twelve Days of Christmas
- Christmas is the Day
- Rise Up, Shepherd, and Foller
- Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms (Decca single 9-30513, 1957)
- Captain Santa Claus – Bobby Helms (Decca single 9-30513, 1957)
- Sleigh Ride – Lenny Dee (from Decca DL 4146, 1961)
- Mister Santa – Lenny Dee (from Decca DL 4146, 1961)
- Christmas Time is Here – Lenny Dee (from Decca DL 4146, 1961)
- Auld Lang Syne – Lenny Dee (from Decca DL 4146, 1961)
- A Very Merry Christmas – The Holidays (Monument single 431, 1960)
Tracks 1-14 from Christmas with Chet Atkins, RCA Victor LP LSP-2423, 1961
Tracks 15-26 from On This Holy Night: Christmas Greetings from the Anita Kerr Singers, SESAC AD-49, 1959