The albums you see in the photo at left, are some of the most recognizable long plays ever released, especially as far as Christmas music is concerned. These are the legendary series of albums that were sold through Firestone tire outlets between 1962 and 1968. These albums could be found in thousands, if not millions of homes throughout the United States, and many times, became just as much of a tradition to a family, as tree decorating or Christmas baking; tasks often performed with one or more of these albums spinning in the background.
These are some of the more interesting Christmas albums that have been released, over the years. Though not so common, today, during the 1960’s and 1970’s, special Christmas albums designed to entice potential customers to their stores were a common site in many retail outlets. Some of the places you’d find these collections included Firestone’s chief rivals, Goodyear and B. F. Goodrich; Singer Sewing Machines; Zenith TV and stereo dealers; as well as department stores like the now-defunct W. T. Grants. And it wasn’t only at Christmastime, either. In my collection, I have an album of 1960’s-era popular Easy Listening artists that was sold through Krogers; a Bicentennial collection by Danny Davis and The Nashville Brass that was exclusive to dealers of Amana appliances; and a Loretta Lynn collection that was found only at your local Allis-Chalmers farm equipment dealer.
And these albums, usually priced in the $1 to $1.99 range, often sold well, and even today, particularly in the case of Firestone and Goodyear’s, are still common sites in antique stores and thrift shops.
Arguably, the best known of these various collections was Firestone’s Your Christmas Favorites, thanks in large part, no doubt, to the album covers that were made to look like the top of a Christmas gift, with a big bow in the middle. The colors would change, yearly, but the overall design was the same.
The Firestone series began in 1962 and ran through the 1968 season, 7 volumes total. Volume 1 was titled Your Christmas Favorites from The Voice of Firestone, with Your Christmas Favorites being used on volumes 2 through 7. Whereas other collections would be a mix of classical, pop, country, and R & B; Firestone’s tended to concentrate more on traditional music performed mainly by artists more in tune to the Classical and/or Operatic fields, with some Easy Listening-oriented artists mixed in, as well. Artists who appeared on the Firestone series included Julie Andrews, Andre’ Previn, Ris Stevens, Vic Damone, Leontyne Price, Vikki Carr, and Jack Jones, among others.
Remember, too, the 1960’s was the time of transition from mono recordings to stereo recordings, and for much of the decade, most albums were released in both formats. The same goes here, except for volume 1, which was only mono, and volume 7, which was exclusively stereo.
Currently, I have 5 of the 7 volumes, lacking only 2 and 4.
But while Firestone’s is arguably the best remembered, they were neither the first, nor possibly even the biggest
seller. Goodyear began their series, titled for many years as The Great Songs of Christmas, in collaboration with the man who initially came up with this whole concept, Stanley Arnold. The Goodyear series started in 1961, and according to the website, The Great Songs Of Christmas from Goodyear, Arnold, after getting the tire giant to bite on his idea, wanted to print up to 3 million copies of the first volume, while Goodyear thought 30,000 would suffice. Apparently, 900,000 was agreed upon and by December 1st, those 900,000 copies were sold out. Goodyear continued to offer holiday long plays through the 1977 Christmas season, though in some later years, “The Great Songs of Christmas” was dropped in favor of other titles. Also, per the above website, sales in ’62 and ’63 saw sales over a million, each year.
Numerous department stores also offered yearly Christmas albums, as well. Two in my collection (and came from my parent’s records) were from W. T. Grants. Their series, A Very Merry Christmas, ran from 1967 and 1974. The two volumes I have are volume 4, issued in 1970 in collaboration with Columbia and features mostly CBS (Columbia and Epic) artists such as Johnny Cash, Gary Puckett, Barbra Streisand, and Mark Lindsey (of Paul Revere and The Raiders). Volume 6 from 1972, is the other one I have. It was issued through RCA, with selections from their stable of artists such as Perry Como, Robert Shaw’s Chorale, and Chet Atkins.
In my youth, my parents were devoted followers of Zenith televisions, so I guess it’s no surprise that one of the albums that came out of their collection is the 5th volume of Zenith’s Christmas, A Gift of Music, which were issued between 1967 and 1972.
But the daddy of them all, at least in the total number of volumes, has to be True Value Hardware’s Happy Holidays which ran for 40 years! 1965 through 2005. Unfortunately, I only have volume 13, but if someone wants to donate to me, the other 39 volumes…
I’ve had many of these albums for many years; in some cases, as previously mentioned, they were part of my parents’ collection, yet only recently, have I found myself becoming interested in the story of these unique parts of Christmas music history. Searching online yielded a surprising amount of information, especially concerning the Firestone, Goodyear, and True Value sets. Obviously, I’m not the only one interested in these! And yes, collecting these series has now became a small niche within record collecting, in case you’re wondering. But beyond collectors, there are many others who are now seeking these albums to reconnect with their past, a small part of Christmas’ past, when growing up, their homes would be filled with the music of these albums. Unfortunately, these albums have yet to be reissued in any digital form, though there are some websites that offer original album copies, along with a CD copy. Will they ever be reissued? Good question and I really have no answer. I think it would be cool if they were, particularly the Firestone series, as most others were made up of tracks usually found on other albums. Most of the Firestone tracks were exclusive to these albums, though the exception here is the Julie Andrews tracks on volume 5, most of which later appeared on her RCA album A Christmas Treasure.
So, I now turn to the floor over to you. Which of these albums (or those not mentioned) grace your Christmas memories? Feel free to tell us in the comments, below. And, if you’d like to read more about this fun part of Christmas music history, here are some websites for you to check out, that I found in my own search.
When Shopping For Tires Meant Buying A Christmas Album. This is a post from the blog of radio station WQXR in New York City.
About Thy Author
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. After convincing Vincennes University in Indiana to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting, he has spent most of his adult life on the radio, having worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina, including his current gig, hosting the weekly World Famous Ultimate Twang Radio Show. The show is heard Thursdays, 4-7p ET on WSFM-LP/AshevilleFM, which is at 103.3 FM in Asheville, North Carolina, as well as online at ashevillefm.org. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.