Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas [Ace Records ACE LP1027, 12″ LP, 198? Reissue, originally released 1962.]
I have a deep affection for the music and culture of New Orleans. That passion goes back to the early 1980s when I moved to the Monterey Peninsula in California and first heard a lot of New Orleans music being played during various blues, rock and jazz programs on radio station KAZU 90.3 FM. My first post on this blog appeared by design on Mardi Gras Day, 2010. When I came across this album sometime in the late 1980s, I was one happy camper. New Orleans music and Christmas music all in one record – how could it get any better?! ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Huey “Piano” Smith is another one of these albums that’s perfect for setting a rockin’ mood at any Christmas celebration. (This will likely be the last of the more rowdy Christmas records I’ll feature during this project; the winter solstice is fast upon us tomorrow on Day 21 and I’ll focus on the mellower side of things as we lead up to Christmas Day.)
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas was first issued by Ace Records in 1962. Somewhat atypical for a Christmas album is that six of the ten tracks on here are originals written by Smith himself. They all feature his trademark rollicking, boogie-woogie piano style with Christmas-themed lyrics. One other track was written by Earl King and only three tracks are traditional Christmas tunes. I like the whole album, but my favorite song on here is probably “Almost Time for Santa” with its really snappy groove. As the cover of my 1980s reissue album states, Dr. John appears on the recording as well, although the original cover did not include this information. At the time the album was made, he had not yet adopted that moniker and would have gone under his real name, Mac Rebennack, but I assume the record company wanted to add his name on there to help push sales of the reissue.
Upon its initial release in 1962, the album received some very negative publicity due to people thinking it was rather sacrilegious. New Orleans music and culture writer Alex Rawls gives more background on this in a story entitled “Huey ‘Piano’ Smith Deemed ‘Naughty’ in 1962,” which was posted at his website, My Spilt Milk, earlier this December. Definitely give that a read. Whether you think it’s naughty or nice, I think there’s no argument that this is one merry Christmas album!
You can listen to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas in its entirety on YouTube. Once again, there’s a playlist with the whole album on it, and it appears to have been uploaded by whomever holds the license to these recordings at this time. (As with other playlists like this, be aware that ads may play between tracks; you can usually skip them after a few seconds.)
Do the Santa Claus!