Collection: Little Drummer Boy - Detail

ARTIST: Dan Paulos


Written in 1941 by a music teacher, The Little Drummer Boy (originally titled “Carol Of The Drum”) has become a favorite Christmas carol around the world with over 220 different versions having been recorded in seven different languages.

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The song was originally titled "Carol of the Drum" and was published by Davis as based upon a traditional Czech carol. Davis's interest was in producing material for amateur and girls' choirs: her manuscript is set as a chorale, the tune in the soprano with alto harmony, tenor and bass parts producing the "drum rhythm" and a keyboard accompaniment "for rehearsal only". It is headed "Czech Carol freely transcribed by K.K.D", these initials then deleted and replaced with "C.R.W. Robinson", a name under which Davis sometimes published.  

Although Davis did search far and wide for suitable material, the Czech original has never been identified, though the style is comparable with the Czech "Rocking Carol", a lullaby collected in the early 20th century by a Miss Jacubickova as "Hajej, nynjej" and given English words by Percy Dearmer for the Oxford Book of Carols in 1928. The tune of the "Rocking Carol", however, bears almost no resemblance to that of "Carol of the Drum", as may be heard in several places online.  

"Carol of the Drum" appealed to the Austrian Trapp Family Singers, who first brought the song to wider prominence when they recorded it in 1955, shortly before they retired: their version was credited solely to Davis and published by Belwin-Mills.[8] In 1957 it was recorded, with a slightly altered arrangement, by the Jack Halloran Singers for their album Christmas Is A-Comin' on Dot Records. Dot's Henry Onorati introduced the song to his friend Harry Simeone and the following year, when 20th Century Fox Records contracted him to make a Christmas album, Simeone, making further small changes to the Halloran arrangement and retitling it "The Little Drummer Boy", recorded it with the Harry Simeone Chorale on the album Sing We Now of Christmas. Simeone and Onorati claimed joint composition credits with Davis.  

The album and the song were an enormous success, the single scoring on the U.S. music charts from 1958 to 1962. In 1963, the album was reissued under the title The Little Drummer Boy: A Christmas Festival, capitalizing on the single's popularity. The following year the album was released in stereo. In 1988, The Little Drummer Boy: A Christmas Festival was released on CD by Casablanca Records, and subsequently, on Island Records. Harry Simeone, who in 1964 had signed with Kapp Records, recorded a new version of "The Little Drummer Boy" in 1965 for his album O' Bambino: The Little Drummer Boy. Simeone recorded the song a third and final time in 1981, for an album (again titled The Little Drummer Boy) on the budget Holiday Records label.