Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
EVERY DAY FROM NOVEMBER 30-DECEMBER 24, I AM HIGHLIGHTING A CHRISTMAS SONG AND THE STORY BEHIND IT. PLEASE ENJOY AND MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Ray Evans and Jay Livingston were talented songwriters. They wrote “Mona Lisa” for Nat King Cole. Also on their songwriting resumes: the themes to “Bonanza” and “Mr. Ed.” But their best and most popular composition is a Christmas standard.
Christopher Reed wrote for Guardian Unlimited that the two were commissioned to write a Christmas song for a movie:
“In 1951, under their contract for Paramount, they were assigned a Bob Hope movie from a Damon Runyon story called The Lemon Drop Kid, which needed a song. But Evans and Livingston wanted an Oscar hit. Their first had been in 1948 for Buttons and Bows, the novelty song Bob Hope sang to Jane Russell in the comedy western, The Paleface. They won another for Mona Lisa in the 1950 film Captain Carey, USA, but the haunting song had yet to become the international standard sung by Nat King Cole, who only released it months after the film's premiere, and then as a B-side to a now forgotten song.
What Evans and Livingston believed was that a Christmas song was not big-hit material. They grumbled, but in vain. The studio bosses insisted and the pair went back to their office. Then, inspired by a little bell on their desk, they cranked out the song in two days, with Livingston providing the melody, Evans the words.”
Ace Collins, author of, “The Stories Behind the Best-Loved Christmas Songs,” wrote that before Evans and Livingston shared their new Christmas song with Bob Hope, “they decided to sing it to Ray’s wife. The men were chagrined and confused when the woman giggled as they sang. As she doubled over in laughter, the team wondered what had gone wrong.
When Mrs. Evans composed herself, she informed the duo that the chorus was all wrong. It wouldn’t work, she assured them. She pointed out that when others heard it, they would laugh as hard as she had.
The song’s problem could be traced to the small bell that served as its inspiration. Livingston and Evans had named their song after that tiny instrument….”
As Christopher Reed pointed out in his Guardian Unlimited article:
They called it Tinkle Bell, but Livingston's wife reminded him that "tinkle" had another association. "It was something you did in the bathroom," Evans recalled years later, "but that's a woman's word and I'd never thought of it. But I was very unhappy again because I hate to rewrite." What he did was to change the first word to "silver", but still the song had problems.
The film's original director disliked it and had singers perform it so boringly that the writers thought it would be cut, but the producer loved the song and brought in another director, Sidney Lanfield. He filmed Hope and co-star Marilyn Maxwell singing it together as they pranced through New York. It made the film but not the Oscars. But before its release, Bing Crosby came by the songwriters' Paramount lunch table and asked if they had any songs for him. "He loved it and recorded it and that made it a definitive Christmas song," Evans recalled. It became one of the most popular, and in his later years, Evans calculated, it still brought him about $600,000 annually in royalties. He appreciated the irony that as a Jew and a non-believer he had never liked Christmas carols.
Ray Evans died in February of 2007. He was 92. His partner, Jay Livingston died in October of 2001.
Here are Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell in 1951's, "The Lemon Drop Kid."
It should come as no surprise that I enjoy Elvis' version of, "Silver Bells."
What's neat about it is that Elvis plays it straight. The result is a very pretty song.
1) The Music of Christmas: Jingle Bells
2) The Music of Christmas: "I am a fine musician"
3) The Music of Christmas: Mary's Boy Child
4) The Music of Christmas - Elvis Style
5) The Music of Christmas: Rudolph
6) The Music of Christmas: The Fat Man is watching
7) The Music of Christmas: "Haul out the holly....."
8) The Music of Christmas: Judy Garland
9) The Music of Christmas: A partridge in a pear tree
10) The Music of Christmas: Disney-style
11) The Music of Christmas: "Snowing and blowing up bushels of fun"
12) The Music of Christmas: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
13) The Music of Christmas: Santa Baby
14) The Music of Christmas: The Best Ever?
15) The Music of Christmas....that has nothing to do with Christmas
16) The Music of Christmas: You're a Mean One
17) The Music of Christmas: Southern Gospel's Contribution
18) The Music of Christmas: "Soon It Will Be Christmas Day"