The song that celebrates this “most famous” of ruminants was based on a character created for a department store.
And not just any department store: Montgomery Ward was a retail giant in the middle part of the last century. In 1939, a staff copywriter named Robert L. May was assigned to create a character for a line of holiday-themed coloring books the company wanted to peddle to kids. May came up with a story about a plucky reindeer who saves Christmas. After rejecting several names (like Rollo), he decided to call his creation Rudolph. The coloring book was a huge success, Montgomery Ward sold millions of copies.
Ten years later, May contacted a brother-in-law, a Jewish songwriter by the name of Johnny Marks—who we’ll hear about again—to write a song based on his original coloring-book story. Released in time for the holiday season, Gene Autry’s version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” was the top-charting song during Christmas of 1949.
Next “The Christmas Song”