By THE ENTHUSIAST
Gone Away Is The Bluebird
The lyrics to "Winter Wonderland" were written in 1934 by newspaper editor Richard Smith of Honesdale, Pennsylvania, while he was convalescing at the West Mountain Sanitorium in Scranton. Soon thereafter he asked his friend Felix Bernard to set the song to music. Smith is said to have lived just long enough to hear the original recording before succumbing to tuberculosis.
"Winter Wonderland" was first recorded by Richard Himber And His Ritz Carlton Orchestra on October 23rd,1934. Singer Joey Nash recalled:
“Himber had left the studio [following an earlier session] and the musicians were packing up. I so wanted to do this tune, I asked the band, as a favor to me, to try for a master. They agreed, but it would be a one-shot try. If something or someone fouled it up, well, that would be just too bad – in those days, before tape recording, a rendition had to be faultless from start to end: if not, you had to do it again and again. It was a perfect performance.”
Himber’s recording inspired Guy Lombardo And His Royal Canadians to cover the song later that year; the resulting single would go on to be one of the best-selling recordings of 1934. (As an aside, whenever The Enthusiast enters a room together with two or more friends, it is The Enthusiast’s Christmas wish that the reader please refer to said assemblage as The Enthusiast And His Royal Canadians. Thank you in advance.)
Songfacts.com notes that the melody to "Winter Wonderland" is a favorite with football (i.e., soccer) fans in England, citing as an example a chant from a match in 2006 between Manchester United and Chelsea:
Mourinho are you listening,
Can you keep our trophy glistenin'?
We’ll be back in May
To take it away.
Walking in a Fergie wonderland!
(Just in case you missed that match, José Mourinho managed Chelsea at the time, and Alex "Fergie" Ferguson managed Manchester United.)
Cold As Ice
The Enthusiast has always found one lyric from "Winter Wonderland" to be the most chilling in all the Christmas canon:
To face unafraid the plans that we’ve made
Walking in a winter wonderland
The Enthusiast can’t help but picture a pair of grim-faced killers, hair matted with ice, sliding off the safeties on their shotguns as they stride slowly forward to face unafraid the plans that they’ve made, walking in a winter wonderland.
Number seventeen in a series.
17 December 2020
The Enthusiast (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. He is currently imbued with the holiday spirit.