[Advent Calendar 2013] Gene Autrey - "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"

Gene Autrey, the Singing Cowboy, performing "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" on his variety show, 1953.

Rudolph was not one of Santa's reindeer -- along with the original eight, who were named in Clements' "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" -- until 1939, when the tale was written as an advertising tie-in for the Montgomery Wards chain of department stores, where the storybook was given away to children who visited that Christmas season. The book proved an instant hit, and a mass-market edition was published in 1953, along with a sequel. Gene Autrey penned the famous song in 1949. It, too, took off, and inspired further productions, like the infamous Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation special in the 1960s.

Mongomery Wards no longer exists as a department store, although they still have an online shopfront called Wards, and periodically issued reprints of the original pamphlet as promotional items. We had one when I was a kid, and it turns out that you can still get them on Amazon.