PRINCETON — Although new artists continue to record their versions of the Christmas songs we all know, it’s the classic renditions that remain the most popular. The owner of Blue Jay Way Records recently attempted to obtain a collection of these past holiday hits, but unfortunately he was late to the Christmas party — 53 years late.
Jim Lovejoy, owner of the popular Princeton music store, has collected records his whole life. After opening Blue Jay Way Records in 2015, he’s also spent quite a bit of time going through the collections of others.
“Everyone owned Christmas records, everyone. And every artist seems to have recorded a Christmas album at some point,” Lovejoy said.
Recently, as he was browsing through another incoming collection of vinyl, he came across a compilation album of holiday hits sponsored by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. As he was removing the record from its sleeve for inspection, a promotional offer from the 1960s was found.
“It’s not unusual to find these types of old offers, and while I’ve thought about sending one in for years, I’ve never done it. This time, I thought it’d be fun and might help give someone a good laugh during the holidays,” he said.
So, Lovejoy filled out the yellowed envelope, enclosed a five dollar bill and dropped it in the mailbox. The offer presented Goodyear’s customers with the chance to purchase their choice of any of the company’s holiday albums released from 1961 to 1964 for one dollar each and an additional 25 cents each for shipping and handling.
From 1961 to 1977, Goodyear sponsored the release of a yearly compilation of Christmas songs. Most of these albums were titled “The Great Songs of Christmas” and were released in conjunction with Columbia Records.
The collections featured many of the label’s artists including Mahalia Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Mitch Miller, Doris Day, Sammy Davis Jr., Danny Kaye, Andy Williams, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Robert Goulet and many more.
The albums were displayed in tire stores and gas stations, and while the company was reportedly skeptical of the idea at first, the albums routinely sold out. They went on to sell millions, and since they never made the transition to digital, they’ve become something of a collector’s item for vinyl lovers.
A short time after mailing the promotion, the envelope was returned to the sender as “not deliverable as addressed/unable to forward. Lovejoy decided to take his Christmas spirit one step further, and he re-sent the envelope to Goodyear’s corporate headquarters in Akron, Ohio.
He soon received a reply, along with his five dollar bill, from Goodyear’s Paul Appleby. He thanked Lovejoy for his inquiry and interest and said the albums were a huge tradition for the company, its employees and their customers. He added that while he’d love to be able to send him the four vintage albums, he couldn’t.
“There was a limited supply available, and unfortunately, we ran out about 53 years ago,” Appleby said in the letter.
He added that the offered expired when he was in the 8th-grade.
Lovejoy was also told he’d enclosed cash, which the offer had specifically forbidden.
Appleby did provide some good news, though, along with a nice bit of customer service.
“There are 93 listings for Goodyear Christmas Albums currently on Ebay, and that $5 could easily snag you some Goodyear Christmas cheer there. Finally, you provided more than one Goodyear associate with a good laugh on a dreary, rainy Akron day,” he wrote, “and we appreciated that!”
Lovejoy has also provided his customers with an easy opportunity to obtain their own Christmas classics. With holiday recordings being such a ubiquitous part of record collections, he’s gathered them into their own section in the store and is offering them free to anyone who’d enjoy one.
“After I first decided to do it, I posted it online, and we had quite a run. It’s slowed a bit now, but I’ve restocked it and we’ve still got plenty of people stopping to take a look. I’ve got The Chipmunks Christmas album in the window right now,” he said.
With the continuing popularity of vintage Christmas classics and the resurgence of vinyl, Blue Jay Way Records has turned up the volume on holiday cheer and is now offering to provide the perfect soundtrack for the season.