John didn’t like working Christmas Day, understandably, but to cheer himself up when doing the second part of the 2003 Festive Fifty, he played today’s ditty from a woman who varied her style from gospel to cabaret to blues shouters, Mabel Scott, who was once married to Charles Brown, he of Please Come Home For Christmas fame.
She debuted in professional entertainment at the age of 17, singing at the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem alongside Cab Calloway. In 1936 she relocated to Cleveland, and then toured Europe, even visiting England and recording for Parlophone. Returning to America when the war situation in Europe escalated, she became a headline act at the Club Alabam in Central Avenue, NYC, making an early connection between her jump style and rock’n’roll by performing alongside Wynonie Harris (who recorded what many regard as the starting point of the genre, Good Rocking Tonight). This was her ticket to a recording career with Exclusive, and Elevator Boogie and Boogie Woogie Santa Claus were big R’n’B hits in 1948. It is the latter named that Peel played, and its infectiousness make it an unfairly neglected masterpiece of the Christmas canon.
Mabel’s career lasted until 1955, after which she escaped an abusive relationship and returned to her first love, gospel, singing only in church until her death at the age of 85 in 2000.
Mabel Scott, Boogie Woogie Santa Claus