Tuesday, December 21, 2021

What You May Not Know About Rudolph

 


As the holiday season of 1938 came to Chicago, Bob May wasn’t feeling much comfort or joy. A 34-year-old ad writer for Montgomery Ward, May was exhausted and nearly broke. His wife, Evelyn, was bedridden, on the losing end of a two-year battle with cancer. This left Bob to look after their four-year old-daughter, Barbara.

 One night, Barbara asked her father, “Why isn’t my mommy like everybody else’s mommy?” As he struggled to answer his daughter’s question, Bob remembered the pain of his own childhood. A small, sickly boy, he was constantly picked on and called names. But he wanted to give his daughter hope and show her that being different was nothing to be ashamed of. More than that, he wanted her to know that he loved her and would always take care of her. So he began to spin a tale about a reindeer with a bright red nose who found a special place on Santa’s team. Barbara loved the story so much that she made her father tell it every night before bedtime. As he did, it grew more elaborate. Because he couldn’t afford to buy his daughter a gift for Christmas, Bob decided to turn the story into a homemade picture book.

In early December, Bob’s wife died. Though he was heartbroken, he kept working on the book for his daughter. A few days before Christmas, he reluctantly attended a company party at Montgomery Ward. His co-workers encouraged him to share the story he’d written. After he read it, there was a standing ovation. Everyone wanted copies of their own. Montgomery Ward bought the rights to the book from their debt-ridden employee. Over the next six years, at Christmas, they gave away six million copies of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to shoppers. Every major publishing house in the country was making offers to obtain the book. In an incredible display of good will, the head of the department store returned all rights to Bob May. Four years later, Rudolph had made him into a millionaire.

Now remarried with a growing family, May felt blessed by his good fortune. But there was more to come. His brother-in-law, a successful songwriter named Johnny Marks, set the uplifting story to music. The song was pitched to artists from Bing Crosby on down. They all passed. Finally, Marks approached Gene Autry. The cowboy star had scored a holiday hit with “Here Comes Santa Claus” a few years before. Like the others, Autry wasn’t impressed with the song about the misfit reindeer. Marks begged him to give it a second listen. Autry played it for his wife, Ina. She was so touched by the line “They wouldn’t let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games” that she insisted her husband record the tune.

 Within a few years, it had become the second best-selling Christmas song ever, right behind “White Christmas.” Since then, Rudolph has come to life in TV specials, cartoons, movies, toys, games, coloring books, greeting cards and even a Ringling Bros. circus act. The little red-nosed reindeer dreamed up by Bob May and immortalized in song by Johnny Marks has come to symbolize Christmas as much as Santa Claus, evergreen trees and presents. As the last line of the song says, “He’ll go down in history.”


Thank You Brig

28 comments:

  1. It even introduced a 10th reindeer.

    Don't you remember Olive, the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names?

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    1. Gosh, I'd never heard of Olive, but now I'll never forget her. I've misheard so many things in songs that I could write new lyrics to all of them.

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    2. edutcher, yeah now that you mention it.

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    3. Paul V, hang in there, we'll get ya learned real good.

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  2. Thanks for that - I never knew.

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    1. LL, that's why we're pals with Brig. She knows everything.

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  3. Americana at it's finest. Thanks for adding a little joy to this week.

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    1. Paul M, you're welcome, and you can't go wrong with a little American Greatness.

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  4. What a cool story. And the store owner gave up the rights.

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    1. Justin_O_Guy, that was a great move on his part alright.

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  5. Great. Now I got THAT fuckin' earworm stuck in my head all day. Nice job, pal...

    Oh, and Merry Christmas if I don't see ya.

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  6. "In an incredible display of good will, the head of the department store returned all rights to Bob May."

    This is one of the most incredible parts of the whole story.

    Joe Jackson: Shoeless or Steppin Out?

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  7. I didn't know this. Well done.

    I linked this post to Happy Tuesday.

    Have a fabulous day, Odie. ♥

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  8. wow- what a great story behind this Christmas song! Thanks for us about telling this! Have a wonderful and Happy Merry Christmas and New Year! xoxoxo

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  9. Frikkin feel good story of the century thanks for that Odie. Olive is a book, I read to my kids when they were little.

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    1. Bear Claw Chris Lapp, I'm so glad you enjoyed this. Keep reading to those kids, It's what keeps us great!

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  10. Awwww, I really liked that one. Merry Christmas Odie!

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    1. AmazingAZ, I'm so glad to know you're out there. Merry Christmas!

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  11. Outstanding!
    Thank you Sir.

    Merry Christmas to all.

    Take care, be safe.
    God bless.
    Griz - Alaska

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Put it here ... I can't wait to read it. I have the Captcha turned OFF but blogger insists it be there. You should be able to bypass it.