Song:The Little Drummer Boy
Album:The Little Drummer Boy
Arranger Harry Simeone scored his only big hit with the 1958 Christmas standard The Little Drummer Boy. It charted for several years and like Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride, it is now a part of everyone's Christmas. He was born May 9, 1911 in Newark, NJ. He was a big opera fan growing up. He learned to play piano. While studying at Juilliard, he was offered a job as arranger for Fred Waring at CBS. So he did that and then moved to Hollywood with wife Margaret who sang for Waring. From 1939-46, Simeone worked at Paramount Pictures. He worked on several of the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope Road films. Then he worked at NBC as orchestra leader on The Swift Show and then The Firestone Hour. In 1958, 20th Century Fox hired Simeone to record a Christmas album. He formed the Harry Simeone Chorale. The Little Drummer Boy was originally called Carol of the Drum when Katherine Kennicott Davis wrote it in 1941. She based it on a traditional Czech carol. Carol of the Drum was recorded by The Trapp Family Singers in 1951. Then it was recorded by the Jack Halloran Singers in 1957 on Dot Records. Dot's Henry Onorati brought it to Simeone and after some changes including a title change, The Little Drummer Boy reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and it returned to the charts at Christmas for several years. Of course it's now a Christmas perennial. Simeone re-recorded The Little Drummer Boy in 1965 for Kapp Records. That's the version that is usually heard and it is on this comp CD from Geffen Records. The original 1958 recording doesn't even seem to be on various artists CDs. I usually prefer the hit version but in this case I don't think it matters. In 1962, Simeone recorded another Christmas perennial Do You Hear What I Hear? After his retirement, Simeone started a music scholarship at Yale University. And he and his wife moved back to New York. After his wife died, Simeone's health declined and he died on Feb. 22, 2005 at age 93. Here's a video for The Little Drummer Boy by Harry Simeone Chorale.