Error report


Carol of the Drum (Bastien) - Trapp Family 1955

Submitted by


On November 20, 2011

Error description

Carol of the Drum

There are earlier recordings of Carol of the Drum written by Katherine Davis. The earliest version I have found so far is by the Trapp Family Singers.


Trapp Family Singers

Original issue:

Audio album LP, Christmas with the Trapp Family Singers - Vol 1 (Decca DL 9553)

Date of issue:


Decca placed an ad for this album on page 27 of the December 10, 1955 issue of Billboard.

Carol of the Drum appears as track 6 on side 2 (see attachment).

No writer credits appear on Decca DL 9553. However, on page 50 of the November 9, 1959 issue of Billboard there is a review of the single

Trapp Family Singers

Decca 30997

Waltzing Matilda

b/w Carol of the Drum

This review indicates that Carol of the Drum was published by B. F. Wood, ASCAP.

If we now jump to page 21 of the February 15, 1960 issue of Billboard we find an article with headline "Drummer Boy Suit Settled". Here is an excerpt:

"According to the complaint, B. F. Wood had claimed that a tune written prior to 1942 by Katherine Davis, titled "Carol of the Drum," was infringed upon by the defendants who wrote and recorded "The Little Drummer Boy."

So we can conclude that B. F. Wood published the Katherine Davis version and that was the version recorded by the Trapp Family.


Comment by SlimD
2011-12-04 14:42:16 UTC

There's an excellent post about "Carol of the Drum" on the Music You (Possibly) Won't Hear Anyplace Else blog site:

I raised the issue of the original release date the Trapp Family recording with Lee Hartsfeld, the author of this great blog.

Here's Lee's response.


Aieee!! You would ask me that. (-:

I don't remember the exact details, so I'll give a quick sketch off the top of my noggin. "Carol" was recorded for Deutsche Grammophon between 1951-53, and it appeared in the U.S. on Decca in 1953 on a two-part 45 rpm EP set. I'd bet the farm there was a corresponding 10-inch set of at least two parts. Then, in 1955, came the 12" two-parter.

If you want, I can retrace my steps in greater detail. I do remember nailing the year as 1952 via cross-dating. As you know, Decca reissued "Drum" in 1959, hoping to benefit from the 1958 Simeone rip-off (which in turn was swiped from the 1957 Jack Halloran version!).


Lee has just added more details:


Lee Hartsfeld said...


Actually, to make life more confusing, Decca DL 9553 appears to have been a 1952 or 1953 issue itself! Meaning, no 10-inch issue--it went right to 12". U.S. Decca had a weird (read: inconsistent) numbering system. Note that the Billboard ad lists both Vols. 1 (Decca CL 9553) & 2 (Decca DL 9689), which may explain the 1955 date.

Several on-line library listings date DL 9553 as either 1952 or "c. 1952."

2:10 PM

Blogger Lee Hartsfeld said...

Hold the press! My copy of Vol. 2 (DL-9689) gives a copyright date of 1953 on the front cover, lower r.h. corner. So, DL-9553 (Vol. 1) would have the same copyright date or earlier. It depends on the source for the 12-inchers--i.e., if they were (as I suspect) reissues of the 45 rpm EP sets, using the same cover designs.


Comment by Quentin
2011-12-04 15:05:28 UTC

And here's the Onorati/Simeone's story:

The Jack Halloran Singers recorded their version of "The Little Drummer Boy" in 1957 -- a full year before the Harry Simeone Chorale. Dot Records originally released it on the album "Christmas Is A-Comin'" with its original song title of "Carol Of The Drum." Then, the very next year, in 1958, and much to the chagrin of Mr. Halloran and Dot Records, Harry Simeone took pretty much the same group of singers and recorded his own version of the song for 20th Century Fox Records. It was then quickly issued as a single with the new title of "The Little Drummer Boy," and as the saying goes -- the rest is history. In addition, Mr. Simeone, along with Henry Onorati (who was a Dot Records producer who took the song and arrangement to Simeone) was also able to negotiate co-writing credits to the song, along with the song's rightful composer Katherine K. Davis. Other than the re-titling, Mr. Simeone and Mr. Onorati had nothing else to do with the composing of this song, which was done long before, in 1941.

This forgotten history of the song's origins understandably sticks in the craw of Mr. Halloran's children, especially his daughter Dawn Halloran Charouhas, with whom I am acquainted. In fact, Dawn wrote an excellent article on this that pretty much says it all. Take a look:

The LP "Christmas Is A-Comin'" was only in print for two years before Dot Records reissued it in 1959 with the new title of "The Little Drummer Boy," in order to capitalize on the popularity that was generated by Mr. Simeone's hit single. Because it was only in print for two years, very few copies of "Christmas Is A-Comin'" were ever printed. In fact, after 35 years of collecting, it remains the most rare and hard-to-find album in my entire collection. It also the album I had to pay the most amount of money to obtain -- nearly double my next highest album. Other than the copy I have in my collection, I have literally never even seen another copy -- ever.

Ernie, you should feel quite fortunate that you found a copy of this very rare album, and I’m sure you paid a lot less than I did!

By the way, Mr. Halloran was also the arranger for what in my opinion is the greatest version of "The Little Drummer Boy" (aka "Carol Of The Drum") ever recorded: the 1962 rendition by The Ray Conniff Singers, which was released on the classic and legendary Columbia Records LP, "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." In addition to this, Mr. Halloran also arranged the version of the song recorded by Bing Crosby in 1964 for Reprise Records, as well as the version recorded by The Johnny Mann Singers in 1967 for Liberty Records.

Even though today he is not generally credited with the song's success as Mr. Simeone is, I think it would be more than fair to say that Mr. Halloran is indeed the godfather of this modern-day Christmas classic.

Comment by walt
2012-04-11 21:21:55 UTC

FWIW, years ago, a friend of mine found the Trapp recording date of that Christmas album: February 1953.

Work: Christmas with the Trapp family singers, Performer: Trapp family singers, Date: 1953-02-01

LpNum: DL-9553 Conductor: Wasner, Franz

Other Trapp albums from that era on Decca:

Work: An evening of folksongs, Performer: Trapp family singers, Date: 1952-09-15

LpNum: DL-9793 Conductor: Wasner, Franz

Work: Yuletide songs of many lands, Performer: Trapp family singers, Date: 1953-02-01

LpNum: DL-9689 Conductor: Wasner, Franz

Last updated by walt on 2012-04-11 21:35:47 UTC

Comment by walt
2012-09-24 09:31:32 UTC

Trapp Family recording added with a comment regarding release.

Change by shs
2016-03-09 00:00:00 UTC
Conversion from forum topic to error report
Comment by Bastien
2016-04-11 05:11:45 UTC

The earliest version I have found so far is by the Trapp Family Singers.

Added by walt: Carol of the Drum

Comment by Bastien
2016-04-11 05:24:14 UTC

Any idea if it's correct to credit Henry Onorati for Carol of the Drum by Jack Halloran ? He was the producer, but I don't know if he took credit at that stage. Can"t find a scan of Christmas Is A-Comin' to verify.

Comment by walt
2016-04-11 07:46:38 UTC

My thoughts on the song are in this thread:

Comment by hounddogman
2016-12-06 23:16:15 UTC

Any idea if it's correct to credit Henry Onorati for Carol of the Drum by Jack Halloran ? He was the producer, but I don't know if he took credit at that stage. Can"t find a scan of Christmas Is A-Comin' to verify.

The back cover and the record label are shown at Discogs, and neither mention Onorati.

The label actually names K.K. Davis as arranger. In my opinion Jack Halloran's performance should be tied to Davis' version and Onorati's adaption should be deleted.

Comment by Bastien
2016-12-09 16:09:44 UTC

In my opinion Jack Halloran's performance should be tied to Davis' version and Onorati's adaption should be deleted.


Comment by jojo
2017-03-29 09:21:24 UTC

Finally looked up the recording dates for The Trapp Family's "Carol Of The Drum" takes in Michel Ruppli's "The Decca Labels a Discography volume 3 The Eastern Sessions 1943-1956.

The Trapp Family Singers

Chorale dir. by Franz Wasner.

July 23, 1951

Master numbers assigned in NYC, March 23, 1952

Matrix 82564 --------------------------------------- Carol of the Drum ------------------------- Decca 9-16033

9-16029, 9-16030, 9-16031, 9-16032 9-16033 and 9-16034 (45 RPM) were issued in album Decca 9-339 (a set of six 45's)

Also issued on Decca album DL-9553

In 1959 The Trapp Family recorded a new version following Harry Simeone's fenomenal succes with the song.

The Trapp Family Singers

Chorale dir. by Dr. Franz Wasner

NYC, September 17, 1959

Matrix 108134 ------------------------------------ Carol of the Drum --------------- Decca 3097

JoJo greets

Comment by jojo
2017-03-29 09:24:32 UTC