The Christmas Song
From Mel Torme’s autobiography, It Wasn’t All Velvet:
One excessively hot afternoon, I drove out to Bob’s house [Robert Wells] in Toluca Lake for a work session. The San Fernando Valley, always at least ten degrees warmer than the rest of the town, blistered in the July sun…. I opened the front door and walked in…. I called for Bob. No answer. I walked over to the piano. A writing pad rested on the music board. Written in pencil on the open page were four lines of verse:
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sun by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos
When Bob finally appeared, I asked him about the little poem. He was dressed sensibly in tennis shorts and a white T-shirt, but he still looked uncomfortably warm.
“It was so damn hot today,” he said, “I thought I’d write something to cool myself off. All I could think of was Christmas and cold weather.”
I took another look at his handiwork. “You know,” I said, “this just might make a song.”
We sat down together at the piano, and, improbable though it may sound, “The Christmas Song” was completed about forty-five minutes later. Excitedly, we called Carlos Gastel, sped into Hollywood, played it for him, then for Johnny Burke, and then for Nat Cole, who fell in love with the tune. It took a full year for Nat to get into a studio to record it, but his record finally came out in the last fall of 1946; and the rest could be called our financial pleasure.