While watching “To Tell the Truth” the other night, I leaned forward in interest as three men in flowing clerical robes vaguely dodged each question that Kitty Carlisle tossed their way as she gracefully waved her Tiffany studded wrist. Oh boy; I was so fooled! Really thought it was the red-haired gent; he was so convincing when he revealed that his favorite beverage was mead.
Actually, I was most disappointed to find that this man, made popular by numerous versions of “Winter Wonderland” wasn’t even a real person! It’s simply a reference from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries defining an Anglican priest. Several sources cite that it’s similar to how we use “John Doe” to refer to an unidentifiable man.
In the world of music, Parson Brown is either a person or a band from the Netherlands and has a presence on both YouTube and MySpace. They (or he) released two indie CDs in 2008; both currently out of stock on Amazon. Little information is given on any site leaving this Parson Brown a mystery for now.
And it appears that whoever he is, Parson Brown is so hip he’s even made it into the Urban Dictionary, escalating himself into modern pop culture. Nice going! One thought presented there mentions that Parson Brown is a Peanuts character related to Charlie Brown and is found on a hard to find Christmas special called “Charlie Brown and the Great Christmas Tree Caper”. Not true! Nice try at spoofing us though.
Now, about the song where Parson Brown makes his 21st century debut; “Winter Wonderland” was penned in 1934 by Felix Bernard and Richard Smith. Smith's inspiration came from the snow seen from his window. Guy Lombardo hit with it first, followed by more than 150 recordings of it since. Would love to be related to these gents for a slice of those royalties!
And what role does Parson Brown play in the song? A couple strolls in a scene that’s blanketed by snow. They contemplate building a snowman that could step in as Parson Brown as they romantically dream of being married by a traveling minister the next time he visits their small town. They face, unafraid, the plans they’ve made while frolicking like Eskimos.
While Parson Brown, in song, is assumed to marry people, he draws the line with snowmen, as depicted in the 1996 cartoon, “Frosty Returns”.
But was the notion of suddenly wanting to get married too rebellious for the 1950’s? Sadly, in 1953, the lyrics were revised. Parson Brown took a hike while a circus clown took his place thus making the song more suitable for children. I personally only recall one version heard with the less "scandalous" lyrics.
More recently, Ringo Starr went "boogie woogie" with his intrepetation of the famous tune:
Parson Brown certainly continues to live on as the song continues to be recorded again and again. More recent versions can be found by Clay Aiken, Diana Krall, and Michael Buble, or perhaps you prefer the classic crooning of Dean Martin, Peggy Lee or Johnny Mathis?
Note that the song is a seasonal one and not about a holiday. Yet we don’t listen to it in January, do we? Ah, it’s the magic of marketing!
And, is Parson Brown a person or a band? Listen to "The Trees That Whisper".
Ah, Parson Brown could be Alan Parsons! Bring out the frozen instruments (see video below)! And if you’re feeling like coming in out of the cold, stop by our website, or say hi on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. We'll serve up some virtual hot chocolate for you!