Elvis Presley’s Version of ‘White Christmas’ Almost Got Banned

Elvis Presley might’ve been the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll but he was also a powerhouse when it came to Christmas music. One of his most popular Christmas songs, his cover of “White Christmas,” almost got banned. 

Elvis Presley released a Christmas album in 1957

Elvis Presley performing during a TV special
Elvis Presley performing during a TV special | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Elvis’ Christmas Album debuted in October 1957. It came on the heels of his first studio album, which was released a year earlier in 1956. At the time Presley had been known for singing the title track in the feature film, Love Me Tender

Elvis’ Christmas Album featured a mix of popular holiday songs, gospel songs, and classic Christmas carols. 12 tracks and approximately 30 minutes long, Presley sang his own renditions of “Silent Night,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “White Christmas,” among others. 

Irving Berlin tried to ban Elvis Presley’s ‘White Christmas’

Today, Presley’s Christmas songs and his 1957 are considered classics. They’re played every holiday season across the world and are some of the musician’s most well-known songs. But back when Presley released his Christmas album, it was at the center of a controversy. 

Irving Berlin, the songwriter behind many classic songs including “White Christmas,” didn’t like Presley. So when Berlin discovered Presley came out with a rendition of his holiday song, first popularized by Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn (1942), he wasn’t happy.

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Jody Rosen, the author of White Christmas: The Story of an American Song, told NPR the Academy Award-winning composer went so far as to try to get Presley’s “White Christmas” banned from 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,” Rosen said. “He really thought it was degrading to his song.”

Rosen continued, saying Berlin even enlisted the help of others. 

“He and members of his staff launched a furious campaign to try and get radio stations to ban the Presley record,” he said. 

They called radio stations across the country, urging them to steer clear of Presley’s “White Christmas” song and his entire holiday album. Of course, Berlin’s attempt to ban the rock ‘n’ roll musician’s track didn’t work. Radio stations ignored his request and played the song as well as others from Elvis’ Christmas Album

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Elvis Presley loved Christmas

If Berlin would’ve succeeded at getting Presley’s “White Christmas” banned from the radio, chances are the actor and musician would’ve still enjoyed the holiday season. He spent Christmas at Graceland where his daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, still goes on December 25. 

According to Presley’s former wife, Priscilla Presley, Christmas was her ex-husband’s favorite time of the year.

“It was his favorite time of year,” Priscilla told Express. “He was like a kid. He loved to pick out gifts. He would tell the jeweler to bring over pieces. He loved giving.”