When Shopping for Tires Meant Buying a Christmas Album

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - 04:00 PM

Those ubiquitous Christmas CDs parked at cash registers didn't begin with Starbucks.

As music buyers of a certain age will remember, there was a time when these impulse purchases were tied to whitewalls, not white vanilla mochas. During the 1960s and '70s, the Goodyear and Firestone tire companies peddled annual Christmas albums in their stores, usually for a dollar each, to customers who waited to get their tires changed or wheels aligned.

The LPs were assembled by major labels like RCA and Columbia, and included performers like Leonard Bernstein, George Szell, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr., the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Stan Getz, Isaac Stern and Mahalia Jackson.

Lately, nostalgia-fueled Internet discussions have emerged around the merits and availability of these old LPs. A scan of eBay and Amazon turns up dozens of original Firestone and Goodyear LPs for sale. Part of their allure is about scarcity: these albums never made the jump to the CD or download format.

David Feinauer is the co-owner of Christmas LPs to CD, a seven-year-old family business near Cincinnati, OH that transfers old LPs to CD and MP3 formats and sells them for between $20 and $35. He said that the tire companies’ albums are consistently his top sellers, often because they contained songs not available elsewhere.

“We have people who will buy particular ones because there’s one song they want,” he said, noting how Goodyear's "Great Songs of Christmas Vol. 8" featured a rare Tony Bennett version of “What Child is This.”

Feinauer said the tire company LPs were the brainchild of Stanley Arnold, a music industry consultant who approached Goodyear in 1961 with the idea of a “premium record,” as it was called. At first the company was skeptical, but in the first year, Columbia did 100,000 pressings of the first release for mid November. By Thanksgiving they were sold out. The next year they sold 200,000 copies. Customers were limited one per visit.

By 1966, Goodyear sold 15 million albums, according to a Billboard report. “A great deal of special recording is commissioned for such an album," Arnold told the publication. “Recording teams were sent to England to record Barbra Streisand and Pablo Casals was flown in from Puerto Rico to participate.”

Classical highlights from the 10-volume Goodyear series included Isaac Stern's "Ave Maria," Andre Previn's "The Holly and the Ivy" and Eileen Farrell's "Conventry Carol." Firestone often specialized in opera singers like Franco Corelli (singing "Oh Holy Night") and Roberta Peters ("Ave Maria").

Firestone was apparently less skilled at branding. “A lot of them have absolutely no marks on the record or jacket that say Firestone," said Feinauer. "It was only on the shrink wrap.”

The series featured a mix of secular and sacred Christmas pieces, and remarkably, always had both classical and non-classical artists. They had run their course by the mid 1970s.

“It’s the memories,” Feinauer said of their appeal. "I’m surprised by how many people not only say, ‘I enjoyed it,’ but ‘I want to share this with my children and grandchildren.’"

Weigh in: Did you ever own a Firestone or Goodyear LP? Tell us about it below.

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Comments [17]

Henry from Buena Park Ca 90620

Where can I find a copy of a Christmas album called (Christmas Is) by Columbia sold by Good year?

Dec. 22 2014 05:12 PM

We had the Firestone series of records. I still have the set on vinyl and listen to it every Christmas season. They take me back to our home in Florida when I was growing up. This was a well-written article.

Nov. 04 2013 07:14 PM
Colin in Seattle from Seattle

My family had 1 or 2 of the Firestone albums. But now I'm in the process of collecting the whole series from the Goodwill. Found vols 2-7 so far! I see I can buy vol 1 on the internet for $19. Nope! I want to pay the same price my Dad paid, $1.00 which is what the Goodwill charges for albums. Most are in pretty good shape to! So the search continues...

Jul. 26 2013 12:56 AM
Cheryl from Elizabeth, N.J.

I've never heard of the tire company Xmas albums, but I have quite a few Xmas music albums from the Singer Sewing Machine Co. I don't know if they were just regional, as we had a Singer plant in Elizabeth for a good many years and I haven't seen any listed anywhere. I'm glad to learn of the tire company albums, I collect odd and old vinyl, esp. Xmas.

Jan. 01 2013 03:32 PM
Cheryl

I've never heard of the tire company xmas albums, but I have quite a few xmas albums put out by the Singer Sewing Machine Co. I'm not sure if they were just regional, as there was a Singer plant in Elizabeth way back when, but I haven't seen them listed anywhere.

Jan. 01 2013 03:27 PM
Karletta from San Francisco

I was just trying to explain to a younger friend the other day how it is that I know so many Christmas songs. My mother walked into the local Firestone dealer every year and bought the Christmas album!

Dec. 22 2012 11:29 AM
Carolann from Denville,NJ

Actully, it was a 2 disc set, 4 sides, a lovely mix of choral and instrumental music, sacred and secular. I think that sides 1 and 3 were mixed, while side 3 was all choral and side 4 was all instrumental.

Dec. 20 2012 01:06 PM
Carolann

We didn't have the tire company albums, but we did have something called "A Christmas Festival" that was the featured selection by the Columbia Record Club. My sister and I used to decorate our Christmas tree to that 4 disc set!

Dec. 20 2012 12:58 PM
caleigh from Trenton

Oops. That was "Wexford Carol," not "Sussex Carol," that was on the Firestone Julie Andrews Christmas LP mentioned above.

Dec. 19 2012 02:57 PM
caleigh from Trenton

I have vol. 5 of the Firestone series, all Julie Andrews. This LP was a revelation because it was the first time I heard carols - "Sussex Carol," "Irish Carol," and "The Bells of Christmas" - other than the ones generally familiar to a kid in mid-20th c. America.

This is a little off the topic of promotional LP's, but there's another Christmas LP I associate with the late 60's - the Roger Wagner Chorale's "A Christmas Festival." Not only did it introduce me to music of the Renaissance - Gabrieli(s) and Palestrina - but also to lovely, more contemporary works for Christmas by Flor Peeters and Daniel Pinkham.

Dec. 19 2012 02:39 PM
Joyce from Middletown, CT

My earliest Christmas music memories are from the Firestone LP, our family owned several...I went on to scratch them but not before they were played (lovingly) over and over and over.....thank you for this wonderful memory!

Dec. 19 2012 01:33 PM
John from NJ

Every December, Mom would walk in the house with the latest editions. Some great music on these relics.

Dec. 19 2012 11:30 AM
Frank from UWS

Ah, that brings back memories. I remember "Carols and Candlelight" with Stan Getz doing "Moonlight in Vermont." And something by Doris Day. Anyone remember the albums by JC Penny's too? Now that was the shizzle.

Dec. 19 2012 10:03 AM
Rowland C. Rodgers from Center Valley, PA

I still have many of them that I inherited from my Father. They were a large part of our holiday celebration when I was a child.

Dec. 19 2012 09:52 AM
Paul

I remember my dad going around to all the tire stores collecting all the albums each year, they were ly soundtrack for Christmas day; they were as much a Christmas tradition as the search for the head truck, there were few Hesses in the Delaware Valley in the 60s and early 70s, and the trips to the department stores in downtown Philly.

Dec. 19 2012 09:17 AM
David from Fairfield County, CT

The Goodyear and Firestone Christmas albums are a part of Christmas tradition for most of us. My dad worked for Uniroyal (former US Rubber) in Manhattan. As a young child, I can remember each Christmas season when dad arrived home from work with copy of the latest year's Christmas album. We were all excited year after year. They were treasured competitor's gifts then and a treasure to our listening pleasure still today.

If you have any of these albums and remember them as a child, pull them out and have an old fashioned Christmas. Enjoy the memories!

Dec. 19 2012 08:30 AM
jim from Westchester

I have a a few of the original LP's and play them each Holiday Season.

Dec. 19 2012 08:14 AM

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