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Why a teacher wrote ‘All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)’


You’ve heard it and you’ve sung it, but you probably don’t know by whom or why  “All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)” was written.

It turns out it was penned by a music teacher and textbook editor named Don Gardner, in the 1940s.  There are different stories about how he came to write it. All of them place Gardner in Smithtown, N.Y. at the time.  An obituary published in The Boston Globe  in 2004 says:

Mr. Gardner wrote his famous song when he was a music teacher in the town of Smithtown on Long Island and selecting songs for the Christmas program.

“I didn’t yet have anything selected for the second-graders,” he told the Wellesley Townsman in the 1980s. One by one, he watched the children tell the teacher what they wanted that year. “They were all using the same phrase, `All I want for Christmas,’ ” he said.

“Then, the teacher said something funny and they all laughed, and I noticed that 16 of the 22 in the class were missing their front teeth.”

A Los Angeles Times obituary takes the story from there:

“I was amazed at the way that silly little song was picked up by the whole country,” Gardner told the alumni newsletter of his West Chester University School of Music in 1995.

It took a few years to catch on. Initially, his Smithtown pupils sang the song annually at the school Christmas pageant. Then a woman who heard Gardner sing the tune at a music teachers conference introduced him to her boss at Witmark music company, which published the song in 1948.

Spike Jones and his City Slickers released a recording Dec. 6, 1948, with the bandleader using the falsetto voice of a little boy unable to pronounce words with the letter S. Jones’ recording reached No. 1 on pop charts in 1949.

 The song brought Garner royalties until he died.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

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