Benny Goodman Orchestra: “Winter Weather”
Well, Christmas has come and almost (at this hour in the Pacific Northwest) gone, and I’m more or less out of time to do a Christmas song post this year. But there’s a loophole, naturally: not all Christmas songs are “Christmas” songs. Many of the best are just “winter” songs, so that’s how I’m playing it!
“Winter Weather” is a song I first learned about on the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ very entertaining Christmas Caravan album from 1998. They do a lovely version of it, and of course when I say “a version,” I actually mean the version as far as I knew until fairly recently. It didn’t occur to me to check the songwriting credits at first to see if it was an original song of theirs; I actually would probably have said that I assumed it was a cover if you’d asked me, but I didn’t ever find myself thinking that much about it. As it turns out, it was written (but not performed) by an old Tin Pan Alley songwriter named Ted Shapiro back in 1941 (it was one of his biggest hits). “Winter Weather” does not seem to have been put on record all that many times since, but the versions that were are about as many as you’d need: aside from the somewhat hip cache of the Squirrel Nut Zippers version, you aren’t likely to have it performed any better than by the Benny Goodman Orchestra.
Goodman’s version was recorded in 1941, the same year as a version released by jazz great Fats Waller — essentially, they both got a crack at doing the first recordings of the song. And while both are fun, the Goodman version swings with abandon and features the wonderful vocals of a very young Peggy Lee, who was discovered by Benny Goodman just that year. The male vocal midway in the song is by Art Lund, later known for acting roles on TV.
“Winter Weather” is just one of those instant Christmas classics: its spritely tempo fits right in alongside better-known secular Christmas standards, and the somewhat come-hither melody and vocals hint just enough at evenings in front of the fire to help warm up even the coldest of hearts.
I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and enjoyed whatever warmth your particular winter weather helped you take advantage of!