Johnny Bower/The China Wall sings “Honky the Christmas Goose”

The 12 Discs of Christmas 2010 #2

Johnny Bower – Honky the Christmas Goose (Capitol 72318, 1965)

This one’s a repost from five years ago, when it appeared in the Stacks o’ Wax series, but I get requests for it every year, so here it is again. There are novelty records, and then there are novelty records. Artists like yesterday’s star Jerry Colonna could pump out crazy tunes at regular intervals and make a career of it, but then there are those singular recordings that bob up briefly to grab our attention before those involved disappear back into the murk of obscurity.

Lucky for Johnny Bower he had a day job, as goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs back in the day when they actually won Stanley Cup Championships. Known as “the China Wall” (as much for his advanced age as his ability to block shots), his career highlight was a hat trick of Leafs’ Stanley Cup victories in 1962, 1963 and 1964.

Legend has it Bower was asked to record a children’s record based on his popularity with Canuck kids as a sort of sports father figure. This story recounts how he would play Santa Claus at the Leafs’ annual Christmas parties. Listening to Bower’s gravelly tones, it’s not hard to guess why he never got past the first single, but at the time it was a success, getting to number 29 on the Canadian charts and selling around 40,000 copies, and to this day the elderly Bower is still asked to growl the tune at charity events.

No one’s ever going to confuse Honky the Christmas Goose with White Christmas or Fairy Tale of New York, but if you’re Canadian, over 40 and love hockey (and perhaps, on the outside chance that you even love the Leafs), it’s some kind of classic.


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