If this column needs a subtitle, let it be “Where The Rubber Meets The Vinyl.”
When my father began working for the Ritter family at Easy Pay Tire Store (Lewisburg, Tennessee) in 1971, I found myself with easy access to a musical treasure trove: the annual Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company 33 rpm. Christmas albums issued through the manufacturer’s affiliates from 1961-1977.
It’s a wonder I didn’t wear out the stereo needle as I listened to the yuletide magic of Diahann Carroll, Steve Lawrence, John Davidson, the Harry Simeone Chorale, Pat Boone, Doris Day and others.
I discovered Maurice Chevalier’s “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” in a 1965 leftover just days before the crooner passed away. Teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman’s obscure “Love’s What You’re Gettin’ For Christmas” still always brings a smile to my face.
Various websites and YouTube videos demonstrate that many other people of more than one generation have fond memories of these collections, as well as those offered by Firestone and B.F. Goodrich.
What’s with the copycat albums in the tire industry in particular? I guess in those kinder, gentler times, cutthroat competition meant dueling versions of “Here We Come A-Caroling.”
Of COURSE the albums were a perfect fit for the industry. Nothing says “white sidewalls” and “steel-belted radials” like kings riding camels, couples sleighing and three ships sailing in on Christmas Day in the morning.
After a slow start, the albums sold by the millions. That’s an amazing achievement, because you’d think that after suffering a blow-out and ruining their alignment in a snow bank, the last thing anyone would want to hear is Lena Horne imploring “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”
There were probably a lot of reasons the tire companies phased out the albums as the 70s wore on. CEOs wanted to focus on their core products. The arrival of audiocassettes made the offerings seem clunky. Perhaps the collections seemed corny in an era of Steve Martin, “Saturday Night Live” and Richard Pryor.
But 70s researchers cite two main reasons: White guys could shoplift them like crazy in their faux Afro hairdos, and the companies feared liability lawsuits when purchasers busted their tailbones dancing around the Christmas tree in those outrageous platform shoes.
I understand that Starbucks for one offers Christmas CDs, but it’s best that the annual tire LPs be left to family heirloom boxes and yard sales. I hope this column hasn’t inspired someone to make the albums a government-subsidized ENTITLEMENT.
As Thomas Wolfe observed, you can’t go home again, but someone is probably plotting brand-new original-cast tire-manufacturer Christmas albums. (“I guess you didn’t see the Bing Crosby Zombie provision buried in the Affordable Care Act.”)
Of course we have our 2010s restrictions and agendas to deal with. There wouldn’t be anything about Noel or Christmas or maybe even holiday in the titles. (“Generic Tire Company Proudly Presents ‘Have A Good’un.’”)
And the songs? “God Rest Ye Unarmed, Gentlemen.” “Oh, Come Out of the Closet, All Ye Faithful.” “Go Tell It On The Mountain-Where You’ve Gone To Escape Rising Sea Levels, You Denier!”
*Sigh* Perhaps we can stop it before someone mandates wind-turbine-powered turntables.
“Oops! Sliced up another reindeer! Ha ha! At least there’s no coal to put in my stocking!”
Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”.