The Christmas Hit That Wasn’t

Last year, I amused myself one afternoon by digging into the Cash Box archives looking for Christmas songs that had appeared on the magazine’s charts. One of the oddities I found was “Kid Santa Claus” by Patsy, which charted in 1982, 1983, and 1984, never getting above 92. While it was common in the 50s and 60s for Christmas records to chart in multiple years (and it’s common again today thanks to the practice of downloading), 30 years ago it wasn’t common at all. Certified monster hits from that era, like the Eagles’ “Please Come Home for Christmas,” didn’t rechart, so Patsy’s reappearance is anomalous. “Kid Santa Claus” never appeared on the Hot 100, although this was a time when Billboard‘s Christmas charting practices were maddeningly erratic—it may have appeared on Billboard‘s special Christmas chart in 1983 or 1984, but I don’t have access to that, so I don’t know for sure. The record never appears at ARSA, the Airheads Radio Survey Archive. Back in the day, record charts could be—and sometimes were—tweaked as favors to artists, producers, labels, and such. I suppose it could have happened with Patsy, but that’s idle and baseless speculation on my part. All I know is that “Kid Santa Claus” didn’t get any airplay on any station I worked at or listened to during those three years, when I was a program director and music director.

At Christmas 1984, Billboard reported that Patsy Maharam, the creator of “Kid Santa Claus,” had developed a book and computer-animated video for the character and signed licensing deals for a Kid Santa Claus clothing line, but I can’t find any further mention of any of them online. “Kid Santa Claus” itself goes dark for a decade in Billboard, before being mentioned in December issues from 1994 through 1997 on the Single Reviews page, but without comment. Finally in 1998, Maharam gets a review for “The Daughter of Santa Claus,” which is touted as a sequel to “Kid Santa Claus.” “Kid Santa Claus” itself is mentioned as “a track that has continually gotten Top 40 and AC radio play since its release 10 years ago.” Two years later, in September 2000, the same reviewer, whose columns read like recycled press releases, touts another Maharam single, “The Christmas Girl.” He says, “It appears that this lovely li’l gem will be circulating all over the world within the next six weeks,” provided Maharam could find a distributor. Apparently she didn’t. In 2001, Maharam was back to shopping “Kid Santa Claus,” and back to mentions without comment in Billboard‘s new single releases section. “The Daughter of Santa Claus” gets a similar mention in 2003 and 2004.

“Kid Santa Claus” next reappears on the Net in the finding of a lawsuit Maharam filed against Time Warner and Little, Brown and Company, claiming that their children’s book santaKid infringed her copyright for “Kid Santa Claus.” In the suit, Maharam apparently argued that her song had been “widely disseminated,” but the court disagreed with her definition of the term, indicating that the airplay she had received and her other promotion of the record (as much as 20 years before she alleged her copyright was infringed) didn’t rise to the level of “wide dissemination.” In 2007, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York found that the author and publishers of santaKid had not infringed copyright, and the case was dismissed.

Given Maharam’s tenacity and litigiousness, I’m not going to post the track, although I have it in my library. While I admire anybody who believes in one’s creation to the extent that Patsy Maharam does, it’s pretty clear from listening to it why “Kid Santa Claus” never became a Christmas perennial. It sounds more like the opening number from a Broadway musical than it does a holiday song, and it’s neither well-sung nor especially distinctive. The only place it might fit on the radio today would be a kids’ format, and even there, it would probably be a bit too Liza Minnelli to fly.

Recommended Reading: Gawker’s list of the 10 Most Annoying Christmas Songs. No “Kid Santa Claus” there either. If there’s a Christmas song that annoys you, put it in the comments here, since Gawker’s been having a well-publicized bout of comment hacking this week.

One response

  1. Interesting stuff. I had no idea the song charted in Cash Box.

    What I *do* remember is that Billboard used to list new Christmas singles at the end of its Reviews section. They had reviews of both albums and singles, but for the holiday stuff there was just a list with a little note saying that they weren’t writing reviews for those due to the seasonal nature of the material. So every week in the late fall there would be a list of new Christmas singles, and it was different every week, but almost every week, for *years*, “Kid Santa Claus” was listed.

    I don’t think I ever heard it on the radio, either.

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