Elvis Presley Still Holds the Record for the Best-Selling Christmas Album of All Time
Elvis’ Christmas Album came out more than 60 years ago, but it’s still one of the most popular holiday records of all time. In fact, the album — which was Elvis Presley’s third studio effort — is the best-selling Christmas album of all time.
‘Elvis’ Christmas Album’ has sold 10 million copies
Elvis’ Christmas Album was released in 1957. It features The King’s take on classics such as “Silent Night,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “White Christmas.” It also includes the original song “Santa Claus is Back in Town” as well as Presley’s now-iconic version of “Blue Christmas.”
The album was a hit when it was released and several of the songs have gone on to become holiday soundtrack staples, especially “Blue Christmas.” In 2016, Billboard declared it the best-selling Christmas album of all time. It has sold 10 million since its release, according to figures from the Recording Industry Association of America. Saxophonist Kenny G’s Miracles: The Christmas Album was in the no. 2 spot, with more than 7 million copies sold. Nat King Cole’s The Christmas Song and two albums by Mannheim Steamroller were tied for no. 3 with 6 million copies sold.
Irving Berlin reportedly hated Elvis Presley’s version of ‘White Christmas’
While Presley’s first Christmas album became immensely popular, it wasn’t without controversy. “White Christmas” composer Irving Berlin reportedly disliked Elvis’ take on his song. He even went so far as to try to prevent the song from being played on the radio.
“Berlin couldn’t stand Presley, and Presley recorded a cover version of ‘White Christmas‘ for his Christmas album, which Berlin took as kind of sacrilege,” Jody Rosen, the author of White Christmas: The Story of a Song, told NPR in a 2000 interview. “He really thought it was degrading to his song. So he and members of his staff launched a furious campaign to try and get radio stations to ban the Presley record.”
Clearly, Berlin’s anti-Elvis campaign was unsuccessful.
Elvis didn’t want to record ‘Blue Christmas’
Presley himself wasn’t a fan of what would turn out to be one of the most popular songs from Elvis’ Christmas Album: “Blue Christmas.”
Presley’s backup singer Millie Kirkham reflected on what it was like to record the song during an interview with Bill Lloyd at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (via MPR News).
“[Elvis] said, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ And they said, ‘Well, you’ve got to because it’s already been scheduled,’” Kirkham — who died 2014 at age 91 — recalled. “So he said, ‘Well, OK.’ And so he turned around to us, the musicians and the singers, and he said, ‘OK, let’s just get this over with. Just do anything. Have fun … Do something silly.’”
Kirkham said when Presley and the rest of the musicians finished the song, they definitely didn’t think the results were chart-topping material.
“When we got through, we all laughed and said, ‘Well, that’s one record that the record company will never release,” Kirkham recalled.
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