Reporting Fran Lane
It seems everyone grew up listening to the popular Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. What most people don’t know is the fascinating story of how this song was born…
The story Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer began in 1939 when Robert L. May, a copywriter for the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward department stores, wrote it as a promotional Christmas gift packaged in the form of a coloring book for the store’s customers. The story reflects May’s own difficult childhood as the smallest boy in his class; he was taunted for being a frail, scrawny misfit. The reindeer was almost named Rollo or Reginald. May considered both of these names before finally settling on Rudolph.
Rudolph’s story was made into a song when May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, developed the lyrics and melody for it. Marks’ musical version was first recorded by Gene Autry in 1949, selling 2 million copies that year. Autry didn’t want anything to do with this song. It was his wife who talked him into recording it, and it went on to become the second biggest-selling Christmas song of all time, next to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”
This song was the basis for a children’s TV Special made in 1964. It was narrated by Burl Ives, and became a Christmas classic. The Chipmunks’ version of the song was a hit in 1960.