Christmas 2014 (by Jeff Schrembs)

Christmas has always been bittersweet for me.

Seems like all of the “bad” stuff in my life, and I plead guilty to self inflicted bad acts, happens from late September through late December.

Growing up I saw, as was the case the other 364 days of the year, how different my grandparents were on the “sides” of my family. One had animation, full blown christmas decorations, and beauty and the other had “lets all get together as a family”. I enjoyed them both but, for some reason(s), always felt…alone.

As a father I always made an effort for my children to have a great christmas. I have so many memories, still left in my mind and others recorded, of the days before – the day off – and the garbage trash bags being filled with wrapping paper. I watched the christmas video from 2009 but I could only get through 2 minutes as my heart was, is, and god knows if ever it will change…irreparably broken. I mention 2009 because out of all the presents my little girl loved playing with was not the presents but the boxes. With the ribbons and bows. With the wrapping paper. At the time I made this recording, and I was always the one taking the photos and videos rarely being in them, I never imagined how my life would turn within the year.

They say that depression spikes this time of year. Certain statistics bear this out. I don’t really know what is harder; never having a chance to make things right or the role that one played in making things…wrong. I equate it to a one hour QVC special where the host is selling dirt. Yes dirt. For one hour they gush about dirt. Then the next hour dirt is the “todays special” and dirt now is available in 6 easy payments. You get caught up in watching how special they make dirt look and before you know it you regret everything about it and you are mad at yourself for falling for the “manufacturers list price of a pound of dirt being $225.00” then “marked down to $99,95”. It is truly a “lose lose” situation all the way around.

Anyway I was fortunate to have some really good christmas’ spent with those I loved, and still do, the most. It wasn’t all of the animated christmas figures I collected (jealous?) nor the activated matching teddy bears that mesmerized everyone under four foot tall. It was that the mother of my children made it special. She was the reason. She did 99.9% of it. She was the rock. She was…everything.

TIme goes by and those you worried about, raised, loved, gave them baths, put them to sleep, cried over, and loved grow up and before you know it are addicted to screens. Video screens. TV screens. Tablet screens. Every type of screen but a door.

*** Random thought alert *** – I just remembered a christmas when my son was about 10 years old and he got the latest video system and game. He got this game, back when modems where attached to the phone still around 2004, and I remember that it enabled him to join other kids his age. It showed their “screen names” and they were so cute. Such as; I love puppies, daddy’s girl, I like pink, almost 9, etc. And in this game they are parachuting and trying to win a flag. Well, I checked in on my son and he was all in on the game. He yelled out demands for beverages and treats. He LOVED this game. Anyway as he sips on soda, and rips open snacks, he tells me to get out of the way and I try to make “heads or tails” about this game and then (after about 15 minutes) he finds time to show me his character. I almost fell out of the (bottom of the bunk) bed. His character was not “I like kittens”. It wasn’t “I like juice”. It wasn’t G rated. It wasn’t R rated. It was XX rated. And as my eyeballs were trying to fall out of my head I saw that at the bottom of the screen was a live “chat”. It was obvious that the little kids parents had become aware of my sons choice of adjectives. So being 6 foot 1 and around 215 pounds (at the time now I am less than 180) I did what any big man/father figure does…I went and told my wife. She was sitting on a stool and when she laughed her body would move. She spat out her coffee. She thought it was hilarious. Her laugh was unique and it lit up a room. Well, it wasn’t until my son passed out on the bean bag, with crumbs on his face and plastic wrappers in his hands and 2 liter coke bottles to the left and right (by the way how did he get those 2 litres?) that I was able to “rename” his character and put a password on it. I thought he would sleep about 8 hours but in the middle of the night I heard “DAD. DAD. WHAT DID YOU DO”? To prove to him I was in control, and he would listen to his father, I (again) did what anyone in my situation would. We negotiated ending up with me buying him a “cheat code”, which he took full advantage of, in return for a “G rated” character name. Those were the days.

Well, this story would not be complete (oxymoron for this post went way off course) without a “shout out” to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I still have nightmares, not really after all it was funny in hindsight, about the time I loaded up all of our beach vacation suitcases/etc. while the SUV was IN the garage only to have it pointed out to me (again with the laugh) that my SUV now could not back out of the garage because I had 350 pounds of luggage on top.

Christmas. Memories. May you have many many more of them and enjoy them to no end.

WHAT. I wrote this on my Elvis Expert Blog? Come on Jeff. My apologies to those expecting Elvis. Here is a rain check and not from…QVC.

Elvis Presley and Christmas (by Jeff Schrembs All Rights Reserved)

WM Christmas Card

The photograph above is a very rare Christmas card from Elvis and his infamous home…Graceland. This Christmas card is one of many that I have but it is among my favorite(s). There is no doubt that Elvis was proud of Graceland and loved spending Christmas there.

Christmas, and the weeks leading up to, was Elvis’ favorite time of the year. He loved the decorations, the smiles on others faces, the gracious acts of people during this time of year, buying presents for others, reflecting back on the year and looking forward to the next, and most of all having; friends, loved ones, relatives, etc. with him to share memories – love – time and more.

To those who were able to look upon Graceland, especially from the years of 1966 through 1973, the tasteful decorations – the lights – and the beauty would literally cause cars passing by to brake and the passengers look in wonder. It was a beautiful sight to behold and Elvis took great pride in illuminating Graceland and he never grew tired of driving through the gates of Graceland winding up towards his home looking at the spectacle of lights.

Even during the saddest Christmas of his life, which was Christmas of 1958 as his mother had died a few months earlier on August 14, 1958, Elvis still found the time to think about others and try to make it a special time…for others.

Interestingly, though Elvis is the most successful recording artist ever (note: in many categories including pertaining to Christmas songs (i.e. total album sales, total single sales, number of hits on Billboard, etc.) the music playing at Elvis’ home were those of other artists such as; Dean Martin, Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, and others.

Here is a summary of Elvis’ Christmas Songs: Elvis recorded his first Christmas album in sessions of September 5 – 7, 1957 at Radio Recorders in Hollywood entitled “Elvis’ Christmas Album” and was released in October 1957. Content included Christmas hymns, secular Christmas songs and non-holiday gospel numbers. It initially hit #1 for 4 weeks on Billboard’s pop album chart and revisited the chart due to strong sales in subsequent holiday seasons through 1962. It was repackaged with a new cover in 1958. There were other reissues with altered content and cover later on.

Working the sessions with Elvis were Scotty Moore (guitar), Bill Black (bass), D. J. Fontana (drums), Dudley Brooks (piano), and backing vocalists The Jordanaires and Millie Kirkham. These sessions were Millie’s first work with Elvis, who, ever the gentleman, took special care to see to her comfort because she was seven months pregnant at the time.

Millie performed a soprano obbligato (in a “winter wind” sort of effect) behind Elvis’ lead on the song “Blue Christmas”, a song that over the years would become synonymous with Elvis and Christmas. During the session, song writers Leiber and Stoller wrote for Elvis a song called “Christmas Blues”. By the end of the session it was renamed “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” and it became another famous Elvis Christmas song. Material unrelated to the Christmas album was also recorded at these sessions.

Elvis recorded a second Christmas album called “Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas” in sessions of May 15 -21, 1971 at RCA Studio B in Nashville. It was released October of 1971. Players were James Burton (guitar), Chip Young (guitar), Charlie Hodge (guitar), Norbert Putnam (bass), Jerry Carrigan (drums), Larry Londin (drums), Kenneth Buttrey (drums), David Briggs (piano), Imperials member Joe Moscheo (piano), Elvis Presley (piano), Glen Spreen (organ), and Charlie McCoy (organ, harmonica and percussion). Backing vocalists were The Imperials, June Page, Millie Kirkham, Ginger Holiday and Temple Riser. For this album producer Felton Jarvis attempted to set the Christmas mood in May by having the studio decorated with a tree and empty boxes beautifully wrapped. Elvis even brought gifts for everyone, presenting each with engraved gold bracelets that said “Elvis ’71”.

I hope that you enjoyed this article and may God bless you all.


Jeff Schrembs