ere's a jolly little Christmas song that every child learns, at a very young age. As a matter of fact, it wasn't even written as a song in the beginning - it was a book. Yes, this is a real story behind the song!
In Chicago, there was a department store called Montgomery Ward. Every Christmas, the store bought and distributed free colouring books for their customers' children. In an attempt to save money one year, they decided to have their own storybook written and printed instead.
A man called Robert L May, who was a copywriter for the store, was given the task of writing a Christmas story. The story that Robert May wrote was inspired by his own childhood. He had been a small, frail boy and didn't have much confidence at school or with other children. The character in his story, a reindeer, was shy and a bit of a misfit, too.
In May's story, a young buck is teased by his peers because of his bright, shiny nose. Rudolph is left out of the games that the other reindeer play until the day that Santa Claus comes to town and asks him to become his 9th reindeer because of his beautiful bright red nose. Thereafter, all the other reindeer shower him with respect.
May was undecided about a name for his reindeer. He considered Rollo or Reginald, before finally settling on Rudolph.
The year was 1939 and a total of 2.4 million copies of the book were distributed by the store in that first year alone.
By the end of 1946, 6 million copies had been given out. A sizeable number, considering the restrictions on printing, due to the wartime paper shortage.
After a few years, Robert May's reindeer story was made into a song, when his brother-in-law songwriter Johnny Marks, developed the lyrics and a melody for it. Johnny Marks specialised in Christmas songs.
Some of his other classic seasonal hits are: Rocking around the Christmas Tree, (made famous by Brenda Lee ) A Holly Jolly Christmas (made famous by Burl Ives & later, Michael Buble) and Run Rudolph Run (made famous by Chuck Berry).
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer sold 2 million copies in 1949. The singer, Gene Autry, was a well-known singing cowboy on American TV but he is best remembered for his novelty Christmas recordings, which also include Frosty The Snowman and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
When Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer was first presented to Gene Autry, he wasn't interested in it at all. It was his wife who pressed him to record it and it went on to become the second best selling Christmas song of all time, after White Christmas, of course.
Only when the 1980's arrived, did Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer slip out of our list of favourites. Still, to date, it has sold more than 25 million copies.
In 1964, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer inspired a TV special, then in 1998, it became a feature-length film.