photo by Billboard Magazine
“Rocking around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee is the current number one song in Billboard Magazine, considered the main music source by most broadcasters.
The Lithonia, Ga., native recorded the song in 1958. The song became a holiday favorite in the 60s for Decca Records. Billboard charted the song number 14 in 1960 and number three in 1965, but never made it to number one until this season.
Ms. Lee, now 78, gives credit for her successful career to the late Charles “Peanut” Faircloth, a radio personality who lived in Chattanooga until his death.
Mr. Faircloth said in a WDOD radio interview in 1987 he was performing with the 10-year-old in Augusta, Ga. “My friend Red Foley was passing through one Saturday and I told him about Brenda; Foley signed her to the Ozark Jubilee where she was an instant success.”
Mr. Faircloth said a short time later Brenda Lee signed a recording contract with Decca Records and she’s sold millions of records.
Mr. Faircloth was a country music singer and announcer in Augusta, Macon and Dalton, Georgia. He worked Chattanooga radio on WAPO and WDOD.
In an interview a few days ago with the New York Times, Ms. Lee, a resident of Nashville, said, “I would have never thought in my wildest dreams that Rocking would become my signature song.”
Lucille Huffaker, owner of Jack’s Music Shop in Downtown Chattanooga, said the 45 rpm was a top seller every December.
She said just about every radio station in town played the Christmas favorite.
Ms. Lee went around the country in 2002 promoting “Little Miss Dynamite,” her biography, and one of her stops was the Barnes and Noble at Hamilton Place.
Chattanooga morning radio host Luther Masingill and this writer visited with Ms. Lee during the book signing. Ms. Lee said she was so thankful for all the DJ’s who played her music.
Luther said, “Brenda Lee could sing just about any type song; Rock, Country, Easy Listening and Gospel. My favorites were I’m Sorry and Too Many Rivers; we wore out Rocking around the Christmas Tree, It was a favorite of Buddy Houts.”
Retired Chattanooga radio broadcaster Johnny Eagle said, “WFLI played this record every December for years; going to the top of the chart in 2023 is definitely one for the history books.”
Brenda Lee has performed several times in Chattanooga including a 1958 WDXB concert at the Memorial Auditorium with Johnny Cash and Ray Stevens, according to Hello Chattanooga by David Carroll.
Ms. Lee, whose career spans over 60 years, will celebrate her 79 birthday Dec. 11.
Ms. Lee, who started singing at the age of six, gives lots of credit to Faircloth saying, “If it wasn’t for Peanut I might not have made it out of Georgia.”
Charles "Peanut" Faircloth
photo by Courtesy of the Chattanooga Library