By Robert Fontenot
6. "White Christmas," The Drifters
Atlantic 1048 b/w "The Bells Of St. Mary's"
Highest chart position: #2 R&B (1954)
Recorded February 4, 1954, New York, NY
Unlike most Christmas classics, which are recorded in the summer or fall, this one was actually waxed the previous winter, partly because that's when twin leaders Bill Pinkney (bass) and Clyde McPhatter (tenor) thought of the arrangement, but possibly also because Atlantic was worried about how composer Irving Berlin would react to this decidedly unorthodox treatment of The Biggest Hit Of All Time. They needn't have worried, as it turned out -- he loved it. So did the public, who brought this seasonal smash back to the radio more often in its time than any other song on our countdown: seven appearances on the pop and rhythm and blues charts from 1954-1962, including two separate entries in the R&B Top Ten. Unfortunately, Elvis himself was enamored of this version, and when he released his similar take on the standard, Berlin was so upset he actively fought to prevent its release.
Which only proves what a polarizing influence The King really was.