Friday, December 12, 2008

Have a Ding Dong Dandy Christmas Redux

I originally posted this two years ago, along with a downloadable file of one of the tunes (no longer available here). I'm reposting it for this holiday season with a link to the Psychotic Leisure Music blog, which has the full album available for download. Just make sure you read the instructions carefully.

As a result of my original post I was contacted by a woman who found this because her husband is also related to the Nevins brothers, and she had been doing genealogical research on the family. Through her I found out all sorts of things about my father and his family that she had dug up in public records. So now I know that my father's birth name was Aaron, not Harry. My father died when I was two years old, so I never really knew him. My mother apparently didn't know everything either, as the revelation about his name came as a total surprise to her.

When I was a kid this was the only Christmas album we had in our secular Jewish household. The only reason we had a copy was because two of The Three Suns, Al and Morty Nevins, were my father's cousins. We were on a comp list, and RCA Victor sent us every new Three Suns release. I never actually met the Nevins brothers, and both are long gone. Perhaps it's just family pride, but I consider "A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas" the greatest Christmas album of all time.

The Three Suns got together in the early forties. The trio consisted of Al on guitar, Morty on accordion, and their cousin Artie Dunn on Hammond organ. They had a number of hits, beginning with "Twilight Time," an original instrumental eventually better known for the Platters' vocal version. Among the Suns' many fans was Mamie Eisenhower, who once said they were her favorite musical group. The original trio toured and recorded for about a decade, but by the mid-fifties there were, in essence, two parallel Three Suns. Artie Dunn kept a touring trio together, and Al Nevins produced of a number of studio albums featuring augmented instrumentation and arrangements that often went over the top. These Suns albums are coveted by contemporary fans of "lounge" or "space-age bachelor pad" music.

Al Nevins himself didn't play on most of these later recordings. He had made a very successful move to the business side, both as an A&R man for RCA Victor and as the young Don Kirshner's partner in the Brill Building's hit factory Aldon Music. Among the songwriters in the Aldon stable were Neil Sedaka, Gerry Goffin & Carole King, and Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil.

The RCA Three Suns albums utilized several different arrangers, but the wildest charts were penned by a true genius of instrumental wackiness, Charles Albertine. Albertine is responsible for the arrangements on the Christmas album.

Here are the original liner notes:

Is there one person you like? Not just like, but really like? Is he a pretty swingin' guy? A pal who gets a kick out of things? A kid who spends a lot of time learning that life, after all, is for fun? This album is for those people. It's a gone album, gang, with the kind of melodic surprises we've come to expect from The Three Suns.

The Suns have remained the same over the years. But, as on other of their recent hits, they've added instruments. They've got some novel ones here: chimes, bells, an oboe and two tubas.

The result of this lineup is a collection of melodic Christmas songs with a real crazy rhythm. The beat is Cha-Cha, Merengue and Rock 'n' Roll, all wrapped up in one. These are not carols, mind you, just songs. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer hangs out here, and so does Alvin, star of The Chipmunk Song. Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town in this album, going through a Winter Wonderland to the tune of Jingle Bells as he takes his Sleigh Ride—all to the fun arrangements of Charles Albertine.

If, after listening to these, you think you've heard everything, hold still a minute as the Suns and their helpers bring a weird, exotic sound to White Christmas and such other lovely tunes as Skaters Waltz and The Christmas Song.

Santa Claus has been pushing his staff at the North Pole hard all year with only one thing in mind: fun. If you want to lend him a helping hand, give this album to someone you really like this Christmas. If he's spirited, if he's swingin', if he's a ding-dong dandy guy, he'll love it.


Check out Michael Toth's wonderful Three Suns tribute site.


Blogger Sean Carter said...

Hey cool blog. Will surely check out the links. Peep into My Blog for some unique and interesting Christmas related info and ideas.

4:19 AM  
Anonymous Al said...

This explains a lot...

4:10 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

How do I download the album? I would love to give it to my family for Christmas. What memories it brings back! We used to play the album through a speaker that we wrapped to lool like a Christmas gift that we set out on the front lawn for everyone to hear. Thanks for sharing.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Peter Cherches said...

Leslie, I hope you find your way to this updated version with a link to a download of the full album.

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morty Nevins was my father and Al Nevins my uncle. I had an interesting childhood visiting N.Y.C. While Artie Dunn took to the road with another guitarists and accordionists, Morty and Albert basically had recording rights. Morty played with other musicians. I remember percussion as well as several guitars in these sessions. Albert didn't play anymore after his heart attacks but instead was in the engineering room of the recording studio. Then Albert teamed with Don Kirshner. I remember having lunch with him, Neil Sedaka and his mother just before he began working at Nevins Kirshner. Also remember Morty at his piano in his New York apartment practicing phrasing with Tony Orlando very early in his career. I spent time as a child at Nevins Kirshner during N.Y. visits and have lots of memories of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil in tiny offices with a small window, a desk, and an upright piano in each writing songs. Little did I know they would become so successful. Carole King's baby sitter came there and became Little Eva of "Locomotion " fame! Charlie Albertine wrote there as well. They were all so very nice to me--the niece of Al Nevins. It's pretty neat they all began there and have had such amazing careers.
I went to Las Vegas several years ago and saw Neil Sedaka perform at the Orleans. I sent a note backstage and even tried to speak to him after the show, but he's become so enamored with himself that he didn't even acknowledge me and went off with his bodyguards--too bad, he used to be a nice guy.

5:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Daughter of Morty Nevins,
I am the woman to whom Peter refers in his post. My late FIL, Samuel Nevens, was a cousin to Celia Tepper, your paternal grandmother. (Per the 1930 U.S. Census, my FIL and two of his siblings were living with your grandparents in that year.) I have long been trying to establish the exact connection between Celia Tepper and my FIL as well as with others who have contacted me. If you read my comment and would be willing to share some family history with me, would you please leave another anonymous comment to that effect? If you do, I will post my e-mail address in reply. Thank you.

1:53 PM  
Blogger David said...

Does anyone know who the tuba player is on a DDD Christmas?


6:15 PM  
Blogger Peter Cherches said...

According to a comment on the blog I linked to, the tuba player is Ed Livingston.

11:04 PM  
Blogger David said...

Thanks Peter! Really appreciate it - Dave

7:20 AM  
Blogger jeffm12012 said...

Thanks for sharing your memories of this fun Xmas LP. I have a copy in monaural, though knew it had to have been recorded in stereo by the album notes mentioning two tubas! (Those early days of "ping-pong" stereo...)

I am a goofy fan of David Seville/Ross Bagdasarian Sr. (his son, not so much) and collect any "cover" versions of "The Chipmunk Song" I can find; from a doo-wop version in 4/4 time to one played by a Porter music box, but the Sons' version is one of my favorites.

9:25 AM  
Blogger 3-Pin said...

@jeffm12012 - check out Canned Heat's version of the Christmas Song on their 2007 "Christmas Album."

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Leslie said...

I found it on Spotify and am listening to it now. Good memories. Thanks so much😊

11:02 AM  

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