Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (song)

"Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is a song by songwriter Johnny Marks based on the 1939 story Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer published by the Montgomery Ward Company.[2] Gene Autry's recording hit No. 1 on the U.S. charts the week of Christmas 1949.

"Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
Gene Autry single cover
Single by Gene Autry
ReleasedSeptember, 1949[1]
RecordedJune 27, 1949[1]
LabelColumbia 38610
Columbia MJV-56
Columbia 4-38610
Columbia 33165
Challenge 1010
Challenge 59030
Songwriter(s)Johnny Marks
Music video
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (audio) on YouTube


In 1939, Marks' brother-in-law, Robert L. May, created the character Rudolph as an assignment for Montgomery Ward, and Marks decided to adapt the story of Rudolph into a song.[3] English singer-songwriter and entertainer Ian Whitcomb interviewed Marks on the creation of the song in 1972.[4]

The song had an added introduction, paraphrasing the poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" (public domain by the time the song was written), stating the names of the eight reindeer, which went:

"You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen,
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?"

The song was first introduced live on New York Radio (WOR) by crooner Harry Brannon in November 1949.[5][6] Gene Autry recorded the song on June 27, 1949;[7] which was later released as a children's record by Columbia Records in September 1949.[8] By November, Columbia began pushing the record to the pop music market. It hit No. 1 in the US charts during Christmas 1949. The song was suggested as a "B" side for a record Autry was making. Autry first rejected the song, but his wife convinced him to use it. The success of this Christmas song by Autry gave support to Autry's subsequent popular Easter song, "Here Comes Peter Cottontail". Autry's version of the song also holds the distinction of being the only chart-topping hit to fall completely off the chart after reaching No. 1. The official date of its No. 1 status was for the week ending January 7, 1950, making it the first No. 1 song of the 1950s.[9]

The song was also performed on the December 6, 1949, Fibber McGee and Molly radio broadcast by Teeny (Marian Jordan's little girl character) and the Kingsmen vocal group. The lyrics varied greatly from the Autry version. Autry's recording sold 1.75 million copies its first Christmas season and 1.5 million the following year.[10] In 1969, it was awarded a gold disk by the RIAA for sales of 7 million, which was Columbia's highest-selling record at the time.[11] It eventually sold a total of 12.5 million. Cover versions included, sales exceed 150 million copies, second only to Bing Crosby's "White Christmas".[12][13]

Autry recorded another version of the song in the fall of 1957 and released it the same year through his own record label, Challenge Records. This version featured an accompaniment by a full orchestra and chorus. This was the only other version of the song Autry recorded and released on an album.[14]

In 1959, Chuck Berry released a recording of a sequel, "Run Rudolph Run" (sometimes called "Run Run Rudolph"), originally credited to Berry but subsequent releases are often credited to Marks and Marvin Brodie.

In December 2018, Autry's original version entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #36, nearly 70 years after it first charted. It climbed to #27 the week ending December 22, 2018.[15] and peaked at #16 the week ending January 5, 2019.[16]

Other notable recordings

The lyric "All of the other reindeer" can be misheard in dialects with the cot–caught merger as the mondegreen "Olive, the other reindeer", and has given rise to another character featured in her own Christmas television special, Olive, the Other Reindeer.

The song in its Finnish translation, "Petteri Punakuono", has led to Rudolph's general acceptance in the mythology as the lead reindeer of Joulupukki, the Finnish Santa.

One line in the song becomes a critical clue to unlocking the exit of a house in the winter-themed section of the escape room in the 2019 film Escape Room.


  • ASCAP Work ID: 480058686 (ISWC: T0701273995)
  1. " Music, Movies & More - The Essential Gene Autry, 1931-1953". Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  2. Bloom, Nate (December 11, 2011). "Shining a Light on the Largely Untold Story of the Origins of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer". Archived from the original on December 13, 2019. Retrieved December 13, 2019.
  3. Kim, Wook (December 17, 2012). "Yule Laugh, Yule Cry: 10 Things You Didn't Know About Beloved Holiday Songs". Time. Archived from the original on December 21, 2014.
  4. Ian Whitcomb interviews Johnny Marks: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. 1972. YouTube. December 3, 2019
  5. U.S. Census Bureau History: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. December 2019. Harry Brannon.
  6. Pop Culture. Country Music News. "'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer': Listen to Gene Autry's Classic Song" Andrew, Stephen. December 1, 2020
  7. George-Warren, Holly (May 7, 2007). Public Cowboy No. 1 The Life and Times of Gene Autry. Oxford University Press. p. 250-251. ISBN 978-0195177466.
  8. Billboard Magazine Sep. 24, 1949, page 37
  9. Casey Kasem American Top 40 April 8, 1979
  10. Green, Abel (December 20, 1961). "Alltime Yule Money Songs". Variety. p. 1.
  11. "Goldisk Finally To Autry's 'Rudolph'". Variety. December 24, 1969. p. 2.
  12. Badger, Reid; Salem, James (December 22, 1996). "America's Holiday Sound– Distinctive artists". The Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
  13. Jackson, Kenneth T. (August 15, 1998). The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Volume 1. Gale. p. 550. ISBN 9780684804927. Retrieved October 17, 2013. , while Autry's version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" sold more than 12.5 million copies
  14. "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Song Information". Gene Autry Entertainment. Archived from the original on December 5, 2019. Retrieved December 5, 2019.
  16. "US Top 40 Singles Week Ending January 5, 2019". Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  17. "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
  18. Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 31. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
  19. Whitburn p. 43
  20. Whitburn p. 36
  21. Whitburn p. 25
  22. Whitburn p. 49
  23. "'Burl Ives' Billboard 200".
  24. Whitburn p. 61
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