A Stocking Full of Music | October 3, 2016By Todd NebelThe golden age of radio usually is understood as encompassing the years 1930 - 1950. For myself as well as others, the period is extended until 1955 under the informal heading, "radio's courageous but losing battle against television." It is unfair to call these extra five years "ungolden" because it was still entertaining radio entertainment, but with fewer listeners.The music of that 25 year period and radio programming were interchangeably interconnected and woven into an entertaining fabric. Some of this music was Christmas music. And so it also happens that Christmas and the golden age of radio at that time had combined to produce by far, the most American "popular" Christmas music than at any other time in our country's history. Many times during the golden age of radio, "popular" (not liturgical) Christmas music was introduced by "popular" recording artists and radio personalities. The music would be written for the artist to be introduced in a radio show, on a record, in a film and sometimes all at once. In the case of radio, millions of listeners would be exposed to a new song, creating an ideal place for immediate exposure and hopefully, later commercial success.Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Gene Autry, the Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra, Dennis Day and Eddie Cantor are a few of the artists who had great success exposing new Christmas compositions on radio. Radio was, and still is, an ideal medium for music. The music of the golden age of radio was a perfect complement to the swinging and joyous melodies written for Christmas at that time. Hence, a wealth of popular Christmas songs were produced during the period. Composers since the mid-fifties have had some limited successes (notably with songs like "Jingle Bell Rock" and "The Chipmunk Song") but mostly the changed musical styles have produced dismal attempts at writing Christmas music. The whining electrified guitars and flabby basses of the sixties and seventies and the computerized synthesized music of today, lacks the warmth and heart-felt tones so closely associated with the holiday. The "golden age" of popular Christmas songs began in 1932 when the song "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" was written by Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots. They tried for two years to get someone to take a chance on their song, but even Eddie Cantor (who employed Coots as a staff writer) was not interested. It was not until Ida Cantor, Eddie's wife, persuaded Eddie to give the song a chance. Cantor used the song on his radio show one week before Thanksgiving in 1934. The song was an instant success and has since become the third best selling Christmas song of all time (mostly due to the Bing Crosby — Andrews Sisters recording). "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" was created in 1939, the invention of Robert L. May, an advertising copywriter for Montgomery Ward Stores and a brother-in-law to composer Johnny Marks. May had thought up Rudolph as an advertising promotion gimmick for Wards. In 1949, Johnny Marks put words and music to the already successful published story book of "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." Marks then had the song published and went on a search to find the right singer for his song. After Perry Como rejected it, Gene Autry was approached, but he thought the song too childish for his image. Marks had a demonstration record made up and sent to Autry, who liked what he heard. With strong approval and an added push by Autry's wife, Autry agreed to record it. The song has since outdistanced all of Autry's hits by far and only one song has surpassed Rudolph's popularity and that is "White Christmas.""White Christmas" is by far the best-selling of the "popular" Christmas songs. It has sold well over 100 million records. Bing Crosby's recording of the song is the single best selling record in history. When Irving Berlin composed the score for the film, "Holiday Inn", (of which "White Christmas" was just one of the tunes), everyone on the set of the picture agreed, "Be Careful, It's My Heart," the Valentine song, was the real hit. Everyone except Bing Crosby, who realized that his favorite "White Christmas" was the real winner. The Oscar for the best song of 1942 went to "White Christmas" and today polls indicate its Christmas popularity is exceeded only by "Silent Night" among all Christmas music. Here are some other holiday songs that were popularized during the "golden age of Christmas radio":"Winter Wonderland" — written in 1934 by Felix Bernard and Dick Smith. The best selling version was recorded in 1950 by The Andrews Sisters."I'll Be Home For Christmas" — written in 1943 by Walter Kent, Kim Cannon and Buck Ram. First recording was by Bing Crosby."Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" — introduced in 1944 by Judy Garland in the film "Meet Me in St. Louis." Written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine."Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" - written by Sammy Cahn & Julie Styne in 1945. "Here Comes Santa Claus Right Down Santa Claus Lane" — written in 1946 by Gene Autry and Oakey Haldeman. Autry made the first successful recording."The Christmas Song" — written in 1946 by Mel Torme and Robert Wells. The best known version is done by Nat King Cole."All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" — written in 1946 by Don Gardner. The song found true fame in 1948 when recorded by Spike Jones and his City Slickers."Christmas Dreaming" — written by Lester Lee and Irving Gordon in 1947. Sung by Frank Sinatra."You're All I Want For Christmas" —written for Bing Crosby in 1948 by Glen Moore and Seger Ellis. "Sleigh Ride" — music written by Leroy Anderson in 1948. Mitchell Parish added words in 1950 and it became a success."Christmas in Killarney" — an Irish song by John Redmond, James Cavanaugh and Frank Weldon. Versions recorded by both Dennis Day and Bing Crosby."Mele Kalikamaka" — recorded in 1950 by The Andrews Sisters and Bing Crosby. Written by R. Alex Anderson; Hawaiian expression for "Merry Christmas.""Frosty the Snowman" — written by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins in 1950. Best selling Christmas record of 1951, sung by Gene Autry."It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas" —written by Meredith Wilson in 1951. Song about Christmas decorations, recorded by Bing Crosby."Silver Bells" — introduced in 1951 in the movie "The Lemon Drop Kid" which starred Bob Hope. Written by Jay Livingston with music by Ray Evans."That Christmas Feeling" — written by Jimmy van Heusen-Johnny Burke in 1951. Recorded by Bing Crosby."Sing A Song of Santa Claus" — written by Mann Curtis in 1952. Recorded by Ames Brothers."I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" — written by Tommie Connor and recorded by Jimmy Boyd in 1952. "Santa Baby" — recorded in 1953 by Eartha Kitt. Written by Joan Javits, Phi Springer and Tony Springer.