♫ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had a very shiny nose… ♫ It’s a classic jingle that can often trigger intense nostalgic memories. As a child, nothing was more unbearable than the anticipation on Christmas Eve. The anticipation that Santa Claus, with his team of reindeer, would be coming to place presents under the Christmas tree. Leading his team of reindeer was the ostracized Rudolph, who nose was bright enough to shine through a snowstorm.
Origin Of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created by the department store chain Montgomery Ward as one way to save money on some of their annual Christmas promotions.
Robert L. May created Rudolph in 1939 as an assignment for the department store. The retailer had been buying, then giving away coloring books for Christmas every year. Instead, in order to save money, they decided to create their own. In its first year of publication, 2.4 million copies of Rudolph’s story were distributed by Montgomery Ward.
May was picked on as a child due to his small size, so he decided to go with an ‘ugly duckling’ theme since he related. While he was writing, he tested different versions of the story out on his four year old daughter until he and she were both happy with the results. May’s boss did not like it at first, due to the fact that he felt a red nose implies the reindeer had been drinking. But once it was illustrated by Denver Gillen, who worked in Montgomery Ward’s art department and was a friend of Mays, his boss decided to approve the story.
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was first printed commercially in 1947. Due to the initial success, it spawned a nine-minute cartoon which was shown in theaters the very next year.
Origins Of The Music
The Rudolph phenomenon really took off. However, when May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, developed the lyrics and melody for a Rudolph song, they had trouble finding someone to provide their voice to the song. It was turned down by artist after artist because very few wanted to mess with the established Santa mythology.
Marks’ musical version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was eventually recorded by Gene Autry in 1949. It went on to become a commercial success, selling two million copies that year.
It also went on to become one of the best-selling songs of all time (second only to “White Christmas”). A TV special about Rudolph narrated by Burl Ives was produced in 1964 and remains a popular perennial holiday favorite today.