the Snowman, today’s
entry into our Holidays Music Festival, touches
several seasonal sub-genres—Winter songs not actually holiday
songs, and in this version by
the inimitable Ella Fitzgerald, jazz.
tune about a plucky snowman who
comes to life when crowned with an old
top hat was written by Walter “Jack”
Rollins and Steve Nelson on a
hot summer day in the Westchester
County suburbs of New York. The composers said that it was set in Armonk near White Plains which had the village
green mentioned in the song.
had already written Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail as an Easter specialty for Gene
Autry and knew that the country crooner was looking for a follow up
to his enormously popular 1949 hit Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Autry, ever a shrewd businessman, recognized that holiday
and children’s songs could produce a lucrative
perennial income as his movie career
was winding down. As anticipated Frosty became yet another huge hit in
1950. He would go on to record other
Christmas favorites including Santa Claus is Coming to Town and
his own composition Here Comes Santa Claus.
although released for Christmas sales, the song never mentioned the holiday.
Autry was not the only one to hit it big with the spritely tune in 1950. Jimmy
Durante, Nat King Cole, and Guy Lombardo all charted that
The Frosty the Snowman Little Golden Book.
song’s appeal and popularity immediately sparked adaptations in other media. Little Golden Books came out with their drug store rack book that ended up in
many Christmas stockings. Also in In 1950, the UPA studio brought Frosty to life in a three-minute animated short for Chicago’s WGN-TV with a bouncy, jazzy a cappella version of the
song and a limited animation style
reminiscent of UPA’s popular Gerald McBoing-Boing. The black
and white short became a perennial Christmas favorite on the station and is
broadcast annually along with their two other Christmas shorts Suzy
Snowflake and Hardrock, Coco and Joe every year
the 1969 Rankin/Bass color animated CBS special, blew all other interpretations out of the water and
became, like the studio’s Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer. This version for
the first time inserted Christmas and Santa into the story line and altered the original
lyrics reprised by Jimmy Durante from “he’ll come back
again someday” to “he’ll be back on Christmas Day.” Rankin/Bass used cell animation out-sourced to Japan’s
Mushi Production studio instead of the stop-action
animation used in Rudolph. It featured the voices of Durante as the narrator, Billy De Wolfe as Professor
Hinkle, Jackie Vernon, Paul Frees as Santa and June Foray as Karen.
popularity of the Rankin/Bass special and its three sequels means that the plethora
of Frosty merchandise in stores every holiday season is based on its imagery.
Fitzgerald—one of the few women to be included with the likes of Autry, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Andy
Williams, and Johnny Mathis in
the pantheon of Christmas music all-stars—recorded her version in 1960
for her album Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas for Verve Records featuring a studio
orchestra arranged and conducted by Frank DeVol. It was one of
several original Christmas albums released by her and her version of the song
has appeared in countless re-packages and