James Pierpont

Jingle Bells

    Description by Uncle Dave Lewis

    Jingle Bells was written between 1850 and 1857 by James Pierpont, the son of Unitarian minister and abolitionist John Pierpont. The most reliable account of the composition of Jingle Bells places its creation in the town of Medford, MA, where during the wintertime there were sleigh races through the center of town, originating at the Medford House; as the sleighs passed along their route, townspeople braved the cold and cheered on the drivers, sometimes singing carols and other songs.

    Pierpont had just returned from California, having failed to strike it rich during the gold rush of 1949. Witnessing the sleigh rides and singing, Pierpont was allegedly inspired to write the song; he accomplished this at the home of Mrs. Otis Waterman, a Medford lady who had the only piano in town. After Pierpont was finished playing the tune that was in his head, Mrs. Waterman commented "Oh! That's a very merry little jingle." This statement further inspired the words to Jingle Bells, which is said to have become popular among Medford natives shortly afterward, and even sung along the race course there in the early 1850s.

    The song did not appear in print until the Oliver Ditson Company of Boston published it under the title of The One-Horse Open Sleigh in 1857. The second edition of the song, re-titled Jingle Bells, really took off and became a huge bestseller. The terms of Pierpont's contract with Ditson did not allow him to earn very much in residuals, although he and his family retained the copyright on the tune past 1900. By the time Jingle Bells was first issued as a song, James Pierpont had settled in Savannah, GA, and was working as an organist in his elder brother's Unitarian church. Sunny Savannah seems an unlikely clime for the composition of a sleighing song, but nonetheless the city has become engaged with Medford in a battle for credit as the true home of Jingle Bells that has continued for decades. Pierpont's immediate family ultimately became so pro-Southern that they have helped lead the charge to place the composition of Jingle Bells in Savannah.

    The melody of the chorus as we know it today is not the same as that published by Ditson in 1857, and so far no scholar has convincingly uncovered information about how, when, and why the tune was so radically altered in the vernacular. One account states that the simplified version of Jingle Bells was contrived by Chinese Christian missionaries around 1900, and that this is the source of the song as popularly sung today. But digests of popular songs dating from the 1880s already demonstrate the trend towards a simpler chorus for Jingle Bells. Nonetheless, the verse, with its sense of growing expectation and excitement, remains exactly as James Pierpont composed it, and forms a testimony to his skill as a writer of popular songs.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Rondeau ROP 6109
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon 002369202
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2015 Guild Light Music GLCD 5233
    2015 Silva Classics SILKD 6049
    2015 Hyperion CDA 68087
    2014 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Sonoma 271
    2014 Dynamic / Dynamic Nostalgia 4930
    2014 Somerset Entertainment / 'Tis the Season 62300
    2014 ABC Classics 4821693
    2014 Frémeaux / Frémeaux & Associés FA 5475
    2014 Decca 4821681
    2013 Basset Hound Records BHR 1122
    2013 Carus CV 83385
    2013 Mormon Tabernacle MTC5110056
    2013 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon / DG Deutsche Grammophon B 001966502
    2013 Universal Latino
    2013 Dynamic DYNCDS 7681
    2013 MSR Classics MS 1485
    2012 Naxos 8573030
    2012 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2012 Naïve V 5319
    2012 TGG Direct 60266
    2012 MVD Audio MVD 5973A
    2012 Gothic Records G 49283
    2012 Lifestyles 46033
    2012 Universal Music / Universal Music Classics and Jazz
    2012 ABC Classics ABC 4810033
    2011 AAO Music / United Entertainment / United Multimedia BN 19062
    2011 Altissimo BOL 0301
    2011 Sonoma / Sonoma Entertainment SBX 20377
    2011 Harp Music to Go 89076
    2011 Signum Classics SIGCD 268
    2011 Erato 2564676062
    2011 CD Listening Bar / Harp Music To Go 2119
    2011 Avie AV 2244
    2011 Eye-Full Tower Records ET 00002
    2011 Altissimo 62182
    2011 Guild Light Music GLCD 5185
    2010 RSNO / Signum UK 202
    2010 Aca Digital 30007
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099962936
    2010 Clarion 939
    2010 Music & Melody MUS 50042
    2010 Decca / Philips 0015001
    2010 CD Baby / SMP 5637717264
    2010 Metro / Union Square / Union Square Music METRCDX 527
    2010 Thorofon / Zebralution
    2009 Carus 83432
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Siente Music / Sugar Music / Vene Music 653936
    2009 Sugar Music / Universal Music Latino 653950
    2009 FODOR / Zebralution
    2009 Decca / Philips 13657
    2009 Decca / Philips 13437
    2009 Decca / Universal Distribution 2720642
    2009 Signum UK 182
    2008 Immergent 81163
    2008 Immergent 81161
    2008 Immergent 81154
    2008 Word Distribution 887758
    2008 Elevation Records 2
    2008 Legacy / Play 24-7 PLAYX02
    2008 Martingale 700682
    2008 Echo Bridge Home Entertainment / Platinum Disc 4083
    2008 Music Digital / Zebralution
    2008 Koch / Koch International / Koch International Classics KICCD 7748
    2008 EMI Classics 42605
    2008 BIS 1747
    2008 Word Distribution 887759
    2008 Universal Distribution 4800849
    2007 Classic FM / Universal Distribution 4800354
    2007 Stoker / Stoker Resources Group 111407
    2007 Hänssler Classic / Haenssler 97017
    2007 Scotdisc CDITV 643
    2007 St. Clair 65
    2007 Oglio Records 81616
    2007 Decca 000981702
    2007 Swedish Society Discofil 1139
    2007 Frémeaux & Associés 406
    2007 Sony BMG 711325
    2007 Roberts Harp Ensemble 4997
    2007 Mormon Tabernacle 5007325
    2007 Daywind / Vital Communications 86
    2007 Peace Arch
    2006 Buena Vista 861377
    2006 Immergent 284105
    2006 Madacy 52688
    2006 Gothic Records 49246
    2006 LaserLight 76056
    2006 St Clair / St. Clair 9465
    2006 Madacy 52583
    2006 DG Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Distribution 4776281
    2006 C&B Media 10209
    2006 Madacy 52306
    2005 Capitol / Liberty 12263
    2005 Summit Records 424
    2005 BMG Special Products / Sony Music Distribution / Sony Special Products 95994
    2005 Mark Custom Recording 6140
    2005 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    2005 EMI 3380822
    2005 ZYX Music 9700
    2005 First Run Productions 704
    2005 Sony Classical 94769
    2005 Madacy 251569
    2005 Decca 000535502
    2005 Evosound 16
    2005 Silverline Records 284110
    2004 Compendia / Intersound 5780
    2004 BMG Special Products 8772
    2004 BMG Special Products 747685
    2004 North Star Music 203
    2004 A440 Music Group / Proteus Entertainment 9001
    2004 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2531
    2004 Retro Records / St. Clair 6318
    2004 Lifestyles 216001
    2004 Swedish Society Discofil 1095
    2004 St. Clair 6313
    2004 Madacy 01059
    2004 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 5189693
    2004 BMG / BMG Special Products 484322
    2004 Reader's Digest Music 4047
    2004 Amerimusic 4000
    2003 Coeur De Lion 1961
    2003 Baby Einstein 860796
    2003 Rock-It-Science Records 0011
    2003 Clarion 903
    2003 Direct Source 1677
    2003 Medalist Entertainment 60125
    2003 Madacy 2913
    2003 Altissimo 55542
    2003 Hallé CDHLL-7504
    2003 IMM / In-Motion Marketing 803085
    2003 Koch / Koch International Classics 7637
    2003 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 4460
    2003 BMG / BMG Special Products 123458
    2003 Koch / Koch International Classics 7557
    2003 Chandos 6671
    2003 Dana Point Music / Maranatha Music 971778
    2003 DRG 91478
    2003 Windham Hill Jazz / Windham Hill Records 10135
    2003 Reader's Digest Music 4004
    2003 Louisville Chorus / TNT Records
    2003 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 57673
    2003 Edel Records 0152868
    2003 Genius Products / Genius Records 3057
    2003 Silverline Records 288212
    2003 Silverline Records 281212
    2002 St. Clair 6374
    2002 Inside Out Music SPV 08565422
    2002 Alanna 5598
    2002 St. Clair 6371
    2002 St. Clair / Premier / Premiere 62172
    2002 AAO Music / United Multimedia 10991
    2002 Sony Music Distribution 70317
    2002 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 87770
    2002 Intersound 1907
    2002 EMI / EMI-Capitol Special Markets 37321
    2002 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 5071
    2002 St. Clair 6375
    2002 Silva America / Silva Treasury 5026
    2002 Madacy 2621
    2002 Madacy 5097
    2002 BMG Special Products 553094
    2002 BMG / BMG Special Products 45846
    2002 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 5067
    2002 Direct Source 1912
    2002 Madacy 3053
    2002 Compendia Music Group / Intersound 1917
    2002 Pro Organo 7145
    2002 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 85973
    2002 Madacy 5072
    2002 Direct Source 2032
    2002 Direct Source 1911
    2002 St. Clair 6378
    2002 Madacy 8251
    2002 St. Clair / Premiere / Premiere Music Distribution 62192
    2002 Madacy 1920
    2002 Madacy 5074
    2001 Pegasus (Pinnacle) 0000405
    2001 Pamplin Music 2267
    2001 Direct Source 5660
    2001 Erin 15114
    2001 Etherean Music 8802
    2001 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3229
    2001 Sony Music Distribution / Sony Music Entertainment 52449
    2001 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3240
    2001 Laserlight 35890/35608
    2001 Laserlight 35608
    2001 VAI Audio 1225
    2001 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3238
    2001 Lifestyles 160023
    2001 Fine Tune 3357
    2001 Priory Records PRCD-768
    2001 Madacy 5293
    2001 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3235
    2001 Time/Life Music TCD 802
    2001 Madacy Distribution / Madacy 3300
    2000 Naxos 8.555291
    2000 Dynamic Recording Studio (Records) / Dynamic 105
    2000 Aca Digital 20047
    2000 6w 6500
    2000 Arts Crossing 49008
    2000 Mainya 0900
    2000 Legacy 009
    2000 RCA Victor Red Seal / RCA 09026637122
    1999 Sony Music Distribution 64354
    1999 Scotdisc 643
    1999 St. Clair / Start 6324
    1999 Echo Bridge Home Entertainment / Platinum Disc 306
    1999 Delta Distribution 24827
    1999 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 357
    1998 Madacy 2623
    1998 Doyen 074
    1998 Delta Distribution / Laserlight 12198
    1997 BMG Special Products / Excelsior Recordings 44553
    1997 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 365
    1997 Philips 536104
    1997 Philips / Polydor 5361044
    1997 Time/Life Music 802
    1996 Direct-To-Tape / DTR/Direct-To-Tape 9102
    1996 Direct-To-Tape / DTR/Direct-To-Tape 9407
    1996 Retro Records 3540
    1995 EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution CDC-55536
    1995 Laserlight 12543
    1995 MLK / Sony Music Distribution 69253
    1995 Disques XXI / XXI 1472
    1995 Swedish Society Discofil 1018
    1994 United Recordings 88003
    1994 Naxos 550301
    1994 Naxos 550188
    1993 Laserlight 55533
    1993 Sony Music Distribution MFK-53725
    1993 Newport Classic 85529
    1993 Crystal Records Dist. 430
    1993 Hallmark 9720
    1992 Sugo 9207
    1992 Reader's Digest Music 171
    1990 CBS Records MK-39669
    1990 Alfredo Rolando Ortiz / Arpa Music Co. 1090
    1990 Philips 4268352
    1989 Voix de l'Orient / Voix de L'Orient 515
    1989 FFRR 075789
    1985 Sun Scape Records 28
    RWYA
    Vox Allegretto 8406
    RCA 7931
    Varèse Sarabande 5441
    Woodbridge Flute Choir
    Universal Distribution 549062
    No-No-Betta
    Special Music Company 4500
    Baby Einstein 630024
    VM Productions 25000
    A.W. Promotions 1001
    Denver Brass 8827
    Disky 102
    Special Music / Special Music Company 4568
    Direct Source 2401143
    Opening Day Recordings 79670
    Word Distribution 887792
    ImTek Multimedia Services
    Platinum Entertainment 10942
    Giannini Brass
    Sugo 236
    Mark Sorrells
    Platinum Entertainment 308
    Universal Music
    Summit Records 1001
    Morning Star Quartet
    Daniel Ho Creations DHC 80101
    Indianapolis Saxophone Quartet 6280
    Angel City Music
    7 Productions
    Bayard Musique 9630932
    Linn Kezer and Jessica Summerv
    Classic Raps 503000
    Sony Music 028792
    Silverwood Duo
    Bayard S396232
    7 Productions
    Texas Saxophone Quartet
    Jim Hendricks
    Ottawa Suzuki Strings 4
    Telarc Distribution 83330
    Word Distribution 887788
    Mercury 536104
    Richardson Records 700002
    BMG Special Products 44576
    BMG Special Products 44577
    Mark Custom Recording 2892