There’s no where like Memphis, especially during the holidays. Even in the music that takes over the Memphis atmosphere, you can feel the 901. Here’s 20 Memphis Made songs to add to your Holiday Playlist, Mane.
From old favorites to more recent releases, here are 20 of the greatest Memphis-made holiday songs:
“Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday” by William Bell
If you’re looking for some sweet Southern soul to add to your Christmas playlist, you can’t do much better than the album Christmas in Soulsville. In fact, the compilation of Stax Record’s best holiday tunes is so essential that we couldn’t pick just one. Our first entry comes from the underrated singer William Bell, whose Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday was named “the Greatest Christmas record of all time” by Hot Press Magazine. Once you hear it, it’s easy to understand why.
“How Does Christmas Sound” by Kirk Whalum
Kirk Whalum’s 2021 album, How Does Christmas Sound?, is an amazing addition to any Memphis Holiday playlist, so it’s no surprise we have it here. The title track provides a perfect atmosphere setter for baking those cookies, or waiting for Santa to make his rounds on Christmas eve night. Kortland Whalum’s smooth yet rooted vocals lay perfectly over the saxophone played by Kirk.
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Booker T. & the MGs
In 1966, Memphis’ greatest house band released their holiday album In the Christmas Spirit, a collection of twelve funky instrumental covers of holiday standards. As always, the team of Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, and Al Jackson, Jr. proves irresistible.
“Silver Bells” by McKenna Bray
One of the newest songs on our list, Silver Bells finds singer-songwriter McKenna Bray tackling a holiday classic with her signature sound: sweet vocals over a country-tinged instrumental. If you haven’t heard of McKenna Bray yet, then do yourself a favor, because she’s undoubtedly a rising star in Memphis
"Wish List" by Kendrick P
Trust us when we say this song serves as the soundtrack to being cuddled up in your Christmas Sweater with your significant other. Kendrick P’s track, Wish List, is a smooth and sensual Christmas song that serves as the perfect track for when you and that special someone are snowed (or in Memphis’ case, iced) in the house.
“Soulful Christmas” by Tav Falco
For nearly four decades, Tav Falco has reigned as one of the Mid-South’s greatest musical eccentrics and revivalists. In 2017, he graced us with the album A Tav Falco Christmas, a collection of both standards and obscure tracks all recorded at Sam Phillips Recording studio. While the album has plenty of stand-outs, our favorite is the funky Soulful Christmas.
“Awake on Christmas Break” by Robby Grant
This low-fi jingle comes from Robby Grant, a prolific musician whose credits include groups such as Mellotron Variations, Vending Machine, and Mouserocket. If you enjoy this DIY ditty, be sure to check out the album Put a Quarter in the Christmas Vending Machine, which is filled with similar gems.
"The Christmas Song" by Al Green
Released in 1983 after his incredible string of hit records had ended, Al Green’s The Christmas Album proved that the iconic soul singer still had it. Green’s joyous singing makes it a worthwhile endeavor for a Memphis Christmas.
“Merry Christmas, Pretty Baby” by Jessie Mae Hemphill
Hill Country blues singer Jessie Mae Hemphill released this foot-stomping tune in 1984 that is truly timeless. If you want something a little different for your holiday playlist, this is definitely the Memphis track for you.
“Feeling Like Christmas” by Webbstar
Webbstar provides witty and funny rhymes on his track Feeling Like Christmas, while short, it definitely adds something different to your holiday playlist that will make you smile as you’re decorating the tree and chilling with friends for the holiday.
"Rock and Roll Christmas" by Cordell Jackson
Cordell Jackson, who became a national sensation in the 1980s as “the Rock ‘N’ Roll Granny,” was actually much more of a pioneer than she generally gets credit for. In 1956, Jackson founded Moon Records in Memphis and is believed to be the first woman to produce, engineer, arrange and promote music on her own label. One of her earliest releases was Rock and Roll Christmas, a raw and charming tune from a true innovator.
“Let It Snow” by Valerie June
With her plume of thick dreadlocks, distinctive voice, and undeniable musicianship, Valerie June has become one of Memphis music’s biggest success stories over the past decade. Last year, she released her new Christmas single Let It Snow, putting her own unique spin on a holiday favorite.
“Lonesome Christmas” by B.B. King
Although a little overproduced for my taste, B.B. King’s 2001 album A Christmas Celebration of Hope is still a captivating example of the blues legend’s unparalleled guitar skills. Unlike many holiday albums, it also seems like B.B. is having plenty of fun with this material, especially on the song Lonesome Christmas.
“Silent Night” by Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins
In 1977, Johnny Cash assembled some of his old friends from Sun Records to join him on his TV program “The Johnny Cash Show” for the annual Christmas Special. The result is a surprisingly powerful rendition of Silent Night, where you can hear the plethora of mustaches and polyester.
“Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley
However you feel about Elvis (and every Memphian has some opinion on The King), Blue Christmas is a stone-cold classic. Recorded in 1957 during the height of his power and popularity, the track is probably Memphis’ best-known holiday tune and a perennial Christmas staple around the world.
“A Kiss at Christmas” by Jessica Ray
R&B singer Jessica Ray released a Christmas EP A Christmas Vibe, last year and we are happy to have it back in rotation this year. It’s a welcomed new addition to the Memphis holiday vibes that includes two covers and two originals. Although all four tracks are worth checking out, her original A Kiss at Christmas is our personal favorite.
“Merry Christmas, Baby” by Otis Redding
No Memphis holiday playlist is complete without this classic from the late, great Otis Redding. Like almost every song the soul icon covered during his career, Redding may not have written Merry Christmas, Baby, but he certainly made it his own.
“Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'” by Mack Rice
From Clarence Carter’s Back Door Santa to Eartha Kitt’s Santa Baby, there is a long tradition of Christmas songs that some could call a bit much. Add Mac Rice’s Santa Claus Wants Some Loving to that list. With Carter’s strong vocals,it makes sense that Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’ has gone on to be covered by everyone from Albert King to Bill Murray.
“The Last Month of the Year” by The Staple Singers
Before they became superstars with songs like Respect Yourself and I’ll Take You There in the 1970s, the Staple Singers were a relatively unknown family gospel group. However, their anonymity doesn’t mean they weren’t already wonderful. Perhaps the greatest testament to the group’s early sound is their 1962 holiday album, The 25th Day of December, a collection of songs that Rolling Stone named as the fourth best Christmas album of all time.
“Gift worth giving” by Ryan Peel
One of the smoothest Christmas songs we have on our list is by Ryan Peel. Gift Worth Giving is a smooth ballad that is perfect to get a little two step going next to the fireplace with a little egg nog. However, the rest of this EP entitled serves as a perfect little pack to ensure that you get into the holiday spirit by yourself or with that special someone.