It’s a familiar sound at the holidays: people young and old singing about their wishes for peace on Earth, happiness for all, presents under the tree, and their two front teeth. Written in just 30 minutes by Donald Yetter Gardner in the 1940s, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” has turned into a December singalong favorite. But do you know the origin of the toothy tune?
In 1944, Gardner and his wife Doris were teaching elementary school music in Smithfield, New York. Donald took over for Doris when she had a baby, and found himself in front of 22 second graders preparing for their holiday concert. Of those 22 students, 16 of them were sporting toothless grins. It was clear to Donald that those gaps could lead to something more: the perfect song for the little ones to sing at their school wide show. The novelty Christmas song was a huge hit that night, but Donald didn’t stop there.
A few years later, when Don had left the school and was working at a textbook company, he offered the song to his new employer for free but came back without a bite. After the first failed attempt at selling what Don knew could be successful, a music publisher in New York also passed on the chance to buy it claiming that “it’ll never be a hit.” Not wanting to go down without a fight, Don claimed there was another offer on the table which changed that publisher’s mind and they got to work.
The song was soon recorded and released by Spike Jones and His City Slickers, with vocals by George Rock, and reached the top of the charts in October of 1948. Two months later, a headline in the December 13 Record Bulletin read: “EXTRA! EXTRA! Jones’ ‘Two Front Teeth’ Rocks U.S. with Loads of Laughter and Gales of Sales!!”
Since it’s catapult to the top, the song has been recorded, performed, and parodied by countless artists including Nat King Cole, George Strait, The Three Stooges, and Count von Count from Sesame Street. It can be assumed that the majority of the song’s appeal is how relatable it is to kids and adults alike. Kids may be losing their front teeth while adults feel a burst of nostalgia thinking about when they lost theirs.
Whether you’re the former, the latter, or somewhere in between, our office is looking forward to keeping those two front teeth healthy in the new year.