Next on my list of Christmas Songs for the South is, “Pretty Paper.”
We’re all quite familiar with the red headed stranger, Willy Nelson’s version of this song that was written by him.
However, he was not the one that made the first recording.
That honor goes to Vernon, Texas native son, Roy Orbison.
Orbison began singing in a rockabilly and country and western band in high school. He was signed by Sam Phillips, Sun Records in 1956, but his greatest success came with Monument Records in the early 1960s. While most male rock and roll performers in the 1950s and 1960s projected a defiant masculinity, many of Orbison’s songs instead conveyed a quiet, almost desperate, vulnerability. His voice ranged from baritone to tenor, and music scholars have suggested that he had a three- or four-octave range. During performances, he was known for standing still and solitary, and for wearing black clothes, to match his jet black hair and dark sunglasses, which lent an air of mystery to his persona.
After leaving his thick eyeglasses on an airplane in 1963 while on tour with the Beatles, Orbison was forced to wear his prescription Wayfarer sunglasses on stage and found that he preferred them. His biographers suggest that although he had a good sense of humor and was never morose, Orbison was very shy and suffered from severe stage fright; wearing sunglasses helped him hide somewhat from the attention.
His dark and brooding persona, combined with his tremulous voice in lovelorn ballads marketed to teenagers, made Orbison into a superstar during the early 1960s. He had a string of hits in 1963 with “In Dreams,” “Falling” and “Mean Woman Blues” coupled with “Blue Bayou.” He finished the year with a Christmas song written by Willie Nelson titled “Pretty Paper.”
Here’s a link to hear the original of Willie’s awesome Christmas song, “Pretty Paper.”