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Liner notes to
The American Song-Poem Christmas:
Daddy, Is Santa Really Six Foot Four?

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by Michael Hill

Reprinted from the liner notes to the song-poem compilation CD, The American Song-Poem Christmas: Daddy, Is Santa Really Six Foot Four? (Bar/None)

cover design by David Richman

Anyone remotely famous, whether or not singing was previously on their resume, has made a Christmas album -- from Bing Crosby to RuPaul. (She called hers Ho Ho Ho.) In the giving tradition of the holidays, Bar/None offers yet another: The American Song-Poem Christmas: Daddy, Is Santa Really Six-Foot Four? We're certain you haven't heard these tunes on anyone's holiday TV special or sung them yourself while caroling with friends and neighbors. But you might, next season, once you've gotten to know these oddly enchanting numbers. As you'll discover, they embody the wishful spirit of Christmas. Each one is an improbable bid to be the next great holiday classic, a new "Jingle Bells" or "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town."

You're about to enter the strange but beguiling world of song-poems, filled with starry-eyed folks who believed their words and sentiments had the makings of a hit song. They were enticed by advertisements they spotted in tabloids, placed by predatory music production companies that claimed to be looking for "song-poems" -- lyrics is the more prosaic term. As would-be writers soon learned, every submission was a smash-in-waiting; all they had to do was pay up front for the privilege of having their words set to music and recorded. The customer could select a tempo, style and the gender of the vocalist, but beyond that, they were at the mercy of studio musicians and singers, often moonlighting under pseudonyms from their real gigs. They created on-the-spot arrangements for these one-take wonders. The results were pressed onto a single or a song-poem compilation album, and a handful would be sent to the customer. That usually ended their brush with fame and fortune.

It would all seem like a sad, sucker-born-every-minute scam, if it weren't for the fact that song-poems have taken on a remarkable second life among hardcore record collectors, indie rockers and fans of outsider art. Yo La Tengo, for example, recently cut a version of "Santa Claus Goes Modern" -- to distribute at its annual Hanukkah shows, of course. Bonafide fans hunt for these 30- or 40-year-old vinyl sides and trade their finds via tapes or MP3 files. A few song-poem vocalists who performed under a variety of assumed names have become cult figures: Rodd Keith (using the nom-de-chanson Rod Rogers here), Gene Marshall (a/k/a Gene Merlino), Dick Kent and Teri Summers. They all appear on this disc, making the song-poem industry seem for a moment like one big happy family, as if they'd come together a la Phil Spector's roster of mid-sixties stars or Lawrence Welk's veteran crew to celebrate the holidays in song.

The American Song-Poem Anthology: Do You Know the Difference Between Big Wood and Brush, Bar/None's first foray into this musical twilight zone, featured song-poem writers saluting their favorite politicians, commemorating the first moon landing and rhapsodizing about the color yellow. Our holiday collection includes tunes about candy canes, toys, reindeer and, especially, Santa Claus. In one, Santa trades in his sleigh for a flying saucer; in another, he comes to town atop a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Elsewhere, a randy Santa two-times with Mom while Dad is out of the room. When Santa isn't gleefully disco dancing (on "The Rockin' Disco Santa Claus"), he's one scary dude -- at least in the cracked snow-globe world of song-poems. Everyone knows that the holidays can seem like a surreal psychodrama. Song-poem writers are just a little more upfront about it.

But they also know that the holidays can be magical, and they're able to freely express a child-like wonder at the sparkle of the season. That's their gift to us at Christmas time. Offering a glimpse into their pure hearts, they encourage us to find a little leftover innocence in our own.

Track list for The American Song-Poem Christmas: Daddy, Is Santa Really Six Foot Four?

  1. Heather Noel: Santa Came On A Nuclear Missile
  2. Bobbie Boyle with The Singers: Santa Claus Goes Modern
  3. Norris The Troubador, Seaboard Coastliners: Christmas Time Philosophy
  4. Dick Kent with The Lancelots: A New Year's Dawning
  5. The Sisterhood: The Rocking Disco Santa Claus 2.1mb
  6. Stan Beard & The Swinging Strings: Snobows
  7. Bobbie Boyle with The MSR Singers: Randy, The Lil Elf
  8. Rodd Rogers: Maury, The Christmas Mouse
  9. Randall Reed with The Forerunners: The Peppermint Stick Man
  10. The Sisterhood: Christmas Treat, Peppermint
  11. Kay Brown: Daddy, Is Santa Really Six Foot Four?
  12. Rodd & The Librettos: How Do They Spend Christmas in Heaven
  13. The Sisterhood: Ole Year Christmas
  14. Gene Marshall: Evelyn Christmas
  15. Rodd & Nita: Jolly, Jolly Santa Claus
  16. Sonny Cash: Merry Christmas Polka
  17. Rodd & Judy: Santa Fix My Toys For Christmas
  18. The Sisterhood: Baby, It's A Cold Night In December
  19. Rod Rogers & The Librettos: Santa Claus Goes Modern
  20. Cara Stewart with Lee Hudson Orchestra: The New Year Song 3.1mb
  21. Teri Summers & The Librettos: Season's Greetings

Daddy, Is Santa Really Six Foot Four? is available online from

Other song-poem compilations you may enjoy:

Carnage Press
I'm Just The Other Woman || The Human Breakdown Of Absurdity || The Makers Of Smooth Music || The Beat Of The Traps

Do You Know The Difference Between Big Wood And Brush

I Died Today

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