“Santa Claus” Revisited

The death last week of Jimmy Boyd has brought renewed attention to his signature hit “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” which John covered for the first volume of the “A Very Special Christmas” compilations. The set, which came out in 1989, featured a spirited Cajun-flavored take on the classic tune, which Boyd took to the top of the Billboard charts in 1952.

Turns out the song was commissioned by the Neiman Marcus department store chain to promote its annual Christmas card. Boyd’s hit, which the New York Times said he recorded when “he was a skinny, red-headed kid of 12,” was banned by the Roman Catholic Church in Boston, its claim being that it mixed sex with Christmas. Boyd was apparently widely photographed meeting with the Archdiocese to explain the song! The ban was subsequently lifted the following Christmas, when the recording again topped the charts. It has since sold over 60 million copies; to commemorate the first three million, Columbia Records gave Boyd, who loved horses, a silver mounted saddle.

Written by British songwriter Tommie Connor, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” has since been listed among the top 25 Christmas songs, with other noteworthy covers coming from the likes of the Jackson Five, Twisted Sister, and of course the Ronettes, whose classic version graced Phil Spector’s legendary Christmas album (the Ronettes’ Estelle Bennett, incidentally, died last month).

The “Very Special Christmas” compilations benefited the Special Olympics and included such major artists as the Madonna, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, the Pretenders and Bon Jovi—all also starring with John on the first set. John also made a live video for “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis during the filming of the “Check It Out” video. It features an adorable Teddi Jo Mellencamp doing her best to sing the song’s final chorus.