The well-loved holiday tune “Blue Christmas” has been an established part of American culture since the late 1940s, and has been covered by literally hundreds of artists over the years ranging from Johnny Mathis to Porky Pig. But without a doubt, Elvis Presley’s version of the song is by far the one that is most recognized, most played, and best loved.
Written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson, “Blue Christmas” was first recorded in 1948 by Doye O’Dell, and in the early 1950s, versions by two orchestra bandleaders and a country-western singer caused the song to chart three times. But when then-controversial hip-gyrating Elvis got hold of the song in 1957 and put his own slow-rock spin on it, “Blue Christmas” took on an entirely different flavor. Although ironically his version never actually saw the charting success of the earlier recordings—even after appearing on an LP and an EP, and again as a single in 1964—today Elvis’ rendition of “Blue Christmas” is both a Platinum-seller and a holiday classic.
Below, I’ve included two versions of the song: the original 1957 recording (the one with the fireplace) and a remastered live version from Elvis’ 1968 comeback show, featuring a guest vocal by Martina McBride (thanks to some audio/video wizardry). Enjoy both, and Happy Holidays.