Feb 25, 2021
Welcome to the second episode of season two of Holly Jolly X'masu! This month, I’ll be honoring Black History Month by discussing Sam “The Man” Taylor’s 1968 album, In Christmas. Producing a podcast about Japanese Christmas music doesn’t leave me with many options for Black History Month, but this is an exceptional one.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." Sam Taylor certainly fits that bill. He helped mold Rock and Roll’s early sound yet is virtually unknown outside of the industry. From what I can tell, he had a wonderful career, despite the dearth of public acknowledgement in America.
While he achieved fame and acclaim in Japan, I wanted to do what I could to shed some light on him in his homeland. He was an accomplished saxophonist whose remarkable talent found him constantly in demand, and allowed him the opportunity to play with some of the biggest names in American music.
What I’ve heard of his non-Christmas music is exceptional. His “Harlen Nocturne” is considered the definitive rendition by some fans, and his mist-themed albums are an aural delight. In Christmas is, obviously, his album I’m most familiar with. It’s one of my favorite instrumental Christmas albums, regardless of genre, and knowing a little more about Sam “The Man,” his history, and his ties to some of my favorite songs and entertainers, makes me appreciate it even more.
I wanted to provide a sampling of some of the covers I’ve found of In Christmas, starting with my personal copy, as well as the various singles and EP’s taken from the album. I should note, this is not a comprehensive collection. I’ve seen Some of the LP covers re-used for both EP’s and singles, and the CD cover was also used for either an EP or LP release. There’s at least one single or LP that has Sam up on stage. The bottom line is that it was a popular enough album for repeated releases in a variety of formats.
I also wanted to provide links to some of his best-known recordings, including “Harlem Nocturne” and “Sh-boom”:
As always, thanks for listening. Next month I’ll be celebrating Women’s History Month by discussing Peggy Hayama’s 1964 album, Peggy’s Christmas – Winter Wonderland. It’s a great album by a wonderful singer whose career spanned several decades. You don’t want to miss it.
Any feedback on this episode would be appreciated. If you’d like to recommend a song or album for a future episode, drop me a line and let me know.
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