Kay Starr doesn’t get a lot of recognition these days, but she was among the most popular singers of the late 1940s, into the mid ’50s, with numerous top 10 singles and two #1 songs. When rock ‘n’ roll came roaring in, she apparently did her best to adapt, but her star(r) went into decline. But during her biggest years, she left us with one of the greatest, swinging-est Christmas singles: “(Everybody’s Waitin’ for) The Man with the Bag,” released in 1950. Starr was the first to record the song (and it’s the best, of the versions I’ve heard), and it became one of her most popular hits. Interesting, then, that it’s impossible to find the song on any of her greatest hits compilations — she never had a full Christmas album, so you might expect it to show up on some CD of her recordings. But no. Not that I can determine, anyway — I guess it would have seemed out of place alongside her regular recordings? Who knows. Thankfully, you can find it on the Christmas Cocktails, Vol. 1, collection.
Regardless, “The Man with the Bag” is fantastic — Starr’s singing is a tour de force — and it has one of my favorite opening verses of any pop Christmas song:
Old Mr. Kringle is soon gonna jingle
The bells that’ll tingle all your troubles away
Everybody’s waiting for the man with the bag
‘Cause Christmas is coming again
That “ingle, ingle, ingle” combination sets the mood and gets the tempo of the song into full swinging mode right from the start, replicating the jingle of bells in its own jazzy way. You almost expect the song to veer into “Santa Baby”-style suggestiveness, but the songwriters opted to keep it clean. You do get this line a little later on:
You’ll get yours
If you’ve done everything you should extra special good.
but given the context of the rest of the song, it doesn’t get taken the way it could. And that’s just fine — “The Man with the Bag” earns its place as an excellent grownup sibling song to “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” on its own, face-value merits.