By Ken Foote

(CBS 11) – Whenever I hear “The Christmas Song” sung by Nat King Cole, I get sentimental, but in a good way.

Cole (March 17, 1919-February 15, 1965) made his mark as a jazz/R&B singer going back to the 1930’s when he formed the King Cole Trio. During that time they released songs such as “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” “Straighten Up & Fly Right” and “Route 66.”

When Billboard started tracking songs in the mid-1950’s, Cole was hitting the charts. All told, he charted 29 songs from 1954-1964 and one song posthumously in 1991 that used his version of “Unforgettable” dubbed in along with the voice of his daughter, Natalie Cole. Six of his songs were in the Top 10. Two songs hit #2: “A Blossom Fell” in 1955 and “Ramblin’ Rose” in 1962. In the mid 50’s, he also had his own show on NBC, with the first season being only a 15 minute show until it expanded to a half hour in July 1957.

Every Christmas, many radio stations that flip to an all-Christmas format add “The Christmas Song” to their playlist. As I can determine, there were four recordings made of this song from 1946-1961. The final one was recorded at Capitol Records studios in New York on March 30, 1961, and the first rendition recorded in stereo. Performing credits were Cole (vocal), orchestration by Charles Green and Pete Rugolo, and conducted by Ralph Carmichael. Written by Robert Wells and Mel Torme’, and running approximately 3:10, the lyrics go like this:

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yule-tide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight

They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you

Enjoy the sounds of Nat King Cole this holiday season!