Disney's Christmas Favorites: My OG Christmas Soundtrack

For this inaugural episode, I’m reaching back to one of my earliest Christmas memories, the Disney’s Christmas Favorites album. My OG Christmas soundtrack.

Originally released in 1979, this album was a fixture throughout my childhood. It lived year-round on the LP shelf at the bottom of my parent’s stereo system, surfacing twice a year: first, on the evening we decorated the tree, then again on Christmas day. After that, having fulfilled its annual obligation, it would retire back to its home to sleep until it was called up to duty the following year.

Cover of the Disney's Christmas Favorites album, featuring a cartoon image Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters sledding down a snow-covered hill.
Disney's Christmas Favorites Album

As a child, I didn’t particularly like the album. My kid brain could not reconcile why someone would go through all the effort of featuring Mickey and the gang on the cover, blasting down the hill on a sled, but not have the decency to ask any of them to sing. Not a single character. Not so much as an interlude. Nothing.

It would be like putting on the Urban Chipmunk album that came out around the same time only to find that instead of Alvin and the crew, you’d just strapped into forty-five minutes of Ronnie Milsap. Not the worst thing in the world, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a grade-schooler excited about that trade-off.

So, if not the classic Disney characters implied by the artwork, who was on the album? It was packed with thirteen of the most classic of Christmas tunes: White Christmas, Frosty, Rudolf, Jingle Bells, you know the drill, all performed by either Larry Groce, The Disneyland Children’s Sing-along Chorus (sometimes accompanying Larry) or the Mike Sammes Singers. These names meant very little to five-year-old me whose musical knowledge both started and ended with the Beach Boys, an early fascination I directly attributed to another Disney creation of the time, The Flight of The Navigator.

Disney’s Christmas Favorites

Label: Disneyland Records (2506)
Released: 1979


While that level of musical naivety might be excusable for five-year-old past-me, I am a bit embarrassed to say that forty-something-year-old present-me still had no working knowledge of either Larry Groce or the Mike Sammes Singers until I started researching for this post. Turns out they are both extremely talented, highly prolific artists with interesting histories. For those of you as clueless as I was, here is just a taste of their accomplishments.

Larry Groce’s resume includes recording a total of nine albums for Disney, five of which went platinum. He also co-founded Mountain Stage, a 2-hour, nationally syndicated music program that he hosted for its first 38 years! Mountain Stage has its own important place in music history, being the first national exposure for many artists who have gone on to be quite famous. Names you might recognize like Lyle Lovett, Sheryl Crow, Alison Krauss, Phish, Tori Amos, The Avett Brothers. The list goes on and on.

Oh, and Larry also recorded his own one-hit-wonder in 1976, “Junk Food Junky” which spent an impressive 15 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #9.

Equally impressive are the Mike Sammes Singers, whose career spanned the late 1950s to the late 1980s and included everything from radio jingles to soundtracks to television theme songs and a whole slew of Disney records. They also featured on hit songs from the likes of Tom Jones, Olivia Newton-John and even the Beatles. That’s right that is the Mike Sammes Singers you’re hearing providing all the background chanting on I Am the Walrus.

I could go on and on about both these tremendous artists, but we’ve strayed pretty far off course and need to start bringing it back in.

This is the part of the episode where you might be expecting me to talk about how much I’ve come to love this album over the years. Unfortunately, reality rarely ends like a Hallmark movie. And unless you’re David Nehdar, nor does it feature nearly as much Lacey Chabert.

So, thirty-some years later and I still don’t love this album. Don’t get me wrong, the tracks are all well done, if maybe a bit sterile. But when it comes right down to it, if I’m in the mood for White Christmas, I’m probably reaching for Bing, not Larry. The same goes for Rudolf, except substitute Gene Autry and Mike Sammes accordingly. That or I’m putting on some indie-hipster nonsense from the early tens. Sorry.

But that’s the thing about nostalgia, right? It’s not so much about liking something as it is about how that thing makes you feel. And hearing these songs, seeing the album art, heck just thinking about it evokes some of my clearest childhood Christmas memories. Like sitting on the living room floor, meticulously deciding where each and every ornament would be placed once the lights were strung on the tree. Or the mad-dash descent, down the stairs Christmas morning to see if Santa had finally brought the Teddy Ruxpin I’d been coveting. And, after being let down a couple of years in a row, finding not only Teddy but a Diplodocus Dino-Rider waiting for me. Best Christmas ever!

It makes me wonder if 30 years from now my own kids will hear Kelly Clarkson on some oldies station and have the same immediate nostalgia for our holiday traditions as I have etched into my soul by the pops and cracks of the vinyl spinning up while Larry Groce starts into White Christmas.

Cheers and Merry Christmas!

Posted by Kevin Williams | Sunday, February 25, 2024
Disney Music Nostalgia