2003   APRIL 25   #115

Jeri Kelly - Poor Ole Santa Claus

I don't recall exactly when or where I got this record, although I think it may have been in a wonderful storefront place which had rows and rows of 45's for a quarter a piece. However, my practice is to simply take home my new finds (unless it's something astounding), and alphabetize them into the records that are already waiting to be listened to. Then I record a bunch of them onto tape, and listen to them on the way to work. Always a bunch of surprises that way.

So one day in 2000 - by coincidence a few weeks before Christmas - I'm listening to such a stack of records, and this Christmas song comes on, sung by what sounds like a nine year old girl with "pipes" from another galaxy. The accent told me that she was from the deep south (later confirmed by the writing on the label itself.)

Odder yet was the fact that, in the middle of the song, a man playing the singers daddy enters this musical mix for a spoken word section, in a mix of a southern feel and hipster language. This dated it, for me, at about 1960 or 1961, as this man seems to be deliberately copying the style of Brother Dave Gardner, who was briefly (and hugely) popular at that moment.

What a bizarre mix can be heard in this little tune. In addition to those things I've already mentioned, I'm knocked out by the way the lyrics sound like what kid would think, in such a situation (the line "I asked my daddy, who knows everything", is fit into the music just beautifully). I also love the wonderful piano playing which sneaks through here and there, and, at the end, Jeri Kelly's last note. This record quickly rose to the top of my favorite Christmas numbers, and remains there, today.

I have subsequently managed to get a scan of the picture sleeve this record came in, which is also featured below. In fact, the blurb on the back cover of this sleeve makes mention of the last two Miss Americas having been from Mississippi. That happened in 1958-59, meaning this record was, as I suspected, made in 1960.

As I so often do when I find something like this, I find myself wondering from time to time where Jeri Kelly (and, for that matter, the man speaking on this record) is today.

- Bob Purse

TT-1.46 / 1.2MB / 96kbps 44.1khz
from 7" 45rpm single, MPI records, label number 1002

(Album cover images courtesy of Bob Purse)

(Ad image courtesy of Rob Martinez)