American kids have their own category of secular Christmas songs, most centering on or around that Jolly Old Elf a/k/a Santa Clause, St. Nick, Kris Kringle, etc. You have to forgive the greedy little buggers for not focusing on the birth of a baby and the whole savior and Messiah thing. A fat guy with a bag full of toys and flying reindeer trump all the Holy stuff. The songs include ditties like Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. And the most successful singer of such songs was cowboy crooner Gene Autry who became the children’s Bing Crosby in the post-World War II era and 1950s.The original sheet music for Here Comes Santa Claus from 1947.
Autry returned to Hollywood from service as an Army Air Corps C-47 pilot who flew supplies over the hump from India to China and Burma to find himself eclipsed as the singing cowboy king at Republic Pictures by the younger and handsomer Roy Rogers. In 1947 Autry left Republic for Columbia Pictures, which offered him his own production unit. He chose a new sidekick, Pat Buttram, recently returned from his World War II service. Buttram would co-star with him in more than 40 films and in more than 100 episodes of Autry’s television show.
But his real bread and butter was Melody Ranch, his weekly show on CBS Radio and his recording career. In 1946 inspired by the Hollywood Santa Clause Parade, Autry Here Comes Santa Claus which charted at #5 in 1947, #4 the next year, and #8 in ’49. It has continued to place in the annual Christmas charts regularly in the decades since and is a staple of holiday radio station playlists.
In 1949 Autry followed up with the even more successful Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty The Snowman in 1950. He filled out the Christmas LPs he put out in the 50’s and which have been re-issued since with both traditional carols and popular songs.
In 1960 Autry was Grand Marshal of the Hollywood Christmas Parade which was broadcast nationally on ABC TV,
Autry, a pious Christian tried to sneak in, a bit clumsily, a religious sentiment in the third verse and final refrain.
Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus right down Santa Claus Lane
He'll come around when chimes ring out that it’s Christmastime again
Peace on earth will come to all if we just follow the light
So let’s give thanks to the Lord above, ‘cause Santa Claus comes tonight.
Other artists to record the song include Doris Day (1949), Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters (1949), Elvis Presley (1957), the Ray Conniff Singers (1959), Keely Smith (1960), David Seville and His Chipmunks (1961), Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans (1963), Hank Thompson (1964), in excerpt by The Beach Boys as part of their song Child of Winter (1974), Willie Nelson (1979), Glen Campbell (1997), Billy Idol (2006), Bob Dylan (2009), Mariah Carey (2010), Chicago (2011), the Glee cast (2013), Anna Kendrick (2015), and Pentatonix (2018). The song was also featured prominently in the popular 1989 Christmas movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation during the climax towards the end of the film.
That’s a song with real staying power.