Christmas with the Cartwrights
Direct from 1963 we bring you one of the most bizarre Christmas albums ever recorded; Christmas on the Ponderosa. If you're reading this blog you probably don't need an introduction to Bonanza, the the television western which ran from 1959-1973. The series was a standout during a time when Westerns predominated the television landscape and was in the top 5 rated TV programs for 9 of the 14 seasons it aired (reaching number # 1 for 3 of those seasons). It was a merchandising powerhouse that spawned Ponderosa and Bonanza steakhouses, comic books, action figures, lunch boxes, assorted toys and even a Ponderosa theme park in Lake Tahoe, NV. After the original series ended, there were three TV movies and a short-lived "prequel" series.
With dialogue intermixed with songs, this album plays like a recording of a Bonanza Christmas Variety Show (which unfortunately does not exist). Original cast members, Lorne Greene (patriarch Ben Cartwright), Dan Blocker (middle son Hoss) and Michael Landon (youngest son Little Joe), lend their voices to song and dialogue. Pernell Roberts, who played eldest son Adam. did not take part in the recording session (Ben explains that "he's in St Joe and won't be home until after New Year's") fortunately, they flashback to last year's Christmas party where Adam sang The New Born King (and insert a previously recorded song). Assorted actors playing friends and neighbors join in the party along with The Ken Darby Singers to add some professional voices to the mix (FYI Ken Darby was an Oscar and Grammy Award winning composer, arranger and conductor who wrote the Elvis Presley hit Love Me Tender).
If you're a fan of Bonanza (such as yours truly; among the traits I inherited from my Dad is a love of this show), this album is a must-have. There are some Christmas standards (Hark! The Herald Angles Sing; Deck the Halls; Oh Come, All Ye Faithful and Jingle Bells) as well as some not-so traditional tunes (Lorne Greene performs Stuck In The Chimney with a Swedish accent and Michael Landon tells how Santa Got Lost in Texas). Fortunately, it's still in circulation and a CD can be ordered from Amazon for a mere $6.98. Go out and buy it immediately.
Now, as an added blog bonus, here's a mid-60's recording of the great Johnny Cash performing the theme from Bonanza.