Story behind the Christmas song – Santa Claus is Coming to Town

The Jackson Five sang one of the most famous versions of the song (Frank Barratt/Getty Images)

FIRST written in 1933, Santa Claus is Coming to Town apparently began life scrawled on the back of an envelope during a ride on the New York Subway.

Penned by Haven Gillespoe and J. Fred Coots, it was first performed by US comic Eddie Cantor on his radio show.

Cantor thought the song was too juvenile and had to be persuaded by his wife to give Santa Claus is Coming To Town a go.

He sang it for the first time during a live radio broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – just as Santa entered the store.

Within 24 hours, 100,000 copies of sheet music had been purchased, and another 300,000 had sold by Christmas.

It was the height of the Great Depression in the US, and extra verses promoted charitable acts and helping out the less fortunate.

Audiences loved it, and soon the first recording of it was released by banjo player Harry Reser and Tom Stack on vocals.

Various versions of the song have appeared over the years.

Perry Como had a swing version in the mid-1940s which had lasting appeal.

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, the biggest names in music all had a go at recording the song.

Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Dean Martin – you name them, they’ve performed it.

Perhaps the most famous version is by the Jackson 5, from 1970.

It was part of the group’s first Christmas album, which also featured their version of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

Having had three consecutive top 5 pop albums that year alone, Motown put together classic songs and specially written melodies for the Jacksons for the festive release.

It has sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide to date.