Rudolph….”Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”


As the holiday season of 1938 came to Chicago, Bob May wasn’t feeling much comfort or joy. A 34-year-old ad writer for Montgomery Ward, May was exhausted and nearly broke. His wife, Evelyn, was bedridden, on the losing end of a two-year battle with cancer. This left Bob to look after their four-year old-daughter, Barbara.

One night, Barbara asked her father, “Why isn’t my mommy like everybody else’s mommy?” As he struggled to answer his daughter’s question, Bob remembered the pain of his own childhood. A small, sickly boy, he was constantly picked on and called names. But he wanted to give his daughter hope, and show her that being different was nothing to be ashamed of. More than that, he wanted her to know that he loved her and would always take care of her. So he began to spin a tale about a reindeer with a bright red nose who found a special place on Santa’s team. Barbara loved the story so much that she made her father tell it every night before bedtime. As he did, it grew more elaborate. Because he couldn’t afford to buy his daughter a gift for Christmas, Bob decided to turn the story into a homemade picture book.

In early December, Bob’s wife died. Though he was heartbroken, he kept working on the book for his daughter. A few days before Christmas, he reluctantly attended a company party at Montgomery Ward. His co-workers encouraged him to share the story he’d written. After he read it, there was a standing ovation. Everyone wanted copies of their own. Montgomery Ward bought the rights to the book from their debt-ridden employee. Over the next six years, at Christmas, they gave away six million copies of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to shoppers. Every major publishing house in the country was making offers to obtain the book. In an incredible display of good will, the head of the department store returned all rights to Bob May. Four years later, Rudolph had made him into a millionaire.

Now remarried with a growing family, May felt blessed by his good fortune. But there was more to come. His brother-in-law, a successful songwriter named Johnny Marks, set the uplifting story to music. The song was pitched to artists from Bing Crosby on down. They all passed. Finally, Marks approached Gene Autry. The cowboy star had scored a holiday hit with “Here Comes Santa Claus” a few years before. Like the others, Autry wasn’t impressed with the song about the misfit reindeer. Marks begged him to give it a second listen. Autry played it for his wife, Ina. She was so touched by the line “They wouldn’t let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games” that she insisted her husband record the tune.

Within a few years, it had become the second best-selling Christmas song ever, right behind “White Christmas.” Since then, Rudolph has come to life in TV specials, cartoons, movies, toys, games, coloring books, greeting cards and even a Ringling Bros. circus act. The little red-nosed reindeer dreamed up by Bob May and immortalized in song by Johnny Marks has come to symbolize Christmas as much as Santa Claus, evergreen trees and presents. As the last line of the song says, “He’ll go down in history”

Z:  This story is the truth;  I Googled around and all the stories pretty much tell this story with only slightly different details….I thought it was nice to share a HAPPY STORY….good for Christmas Eve!   Have a beautiful evening!

Love, Z

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13 Responses to Rudolph….”Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

  1. bunkerville says:

    A beautiful story. Have a wonderful Christmas Eve1 🙂


  2. Mustang says:

    I had not heard this story before; very touching – Merry Christmas, Z and all who comment here.


  3. geeez2014 says:

    Thanks..I LOVE SUCCESS STORIES!! This was so sweet and Rudolph is a fun secular Christmas song. The hymns are fabulous but the fun secular songs are SO much fun! Frosty the Snowman, I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus, Santa Claus is COming to Town!

    My dad and uncle used to sing together every Christmas after dinner….I’d play piano and everybody’d sing all the fun songs (lyrics are passed around)…there were usually about 25 of us…and then Dad and Uncle John would solo with “Up On the Housetop!” They enjoyed helping each other with the words, laughing, enjoying OUR laughing with them. Great memories! “Click click click! Down through the chimney comes Old Saint Nick!” 🙂

    Happy Christmas Eve to all! xxxx


  4. kidme37 says:

    Interesting story.

    I hope there is joy and warmth in your home this Christmas season.


  5. geeez2014 says:

    KID…thanks …same to you! xxx


  6. MAL says:

    That is so neat, Z! I hadn’t heard about this, either, so I’m so happy you shared it today.
    I can just picture your dad and your uncle John clowning around with the lyrics, too!



  7. Elizabeth Kanas-Gonzalez says:

    What a beautiful story Z. Small things turn into miracles. Back then times were gentler and kinder in many ways. Something we need to stive to get back too. Something we should all strive to live. Who would give back the rights to any money makers these days? Probably no one. Thank you for sharing this story and so happy it came to life in my hometown of past, which I miss, not the city now. It warmed my heart to know this came out of Chicago. Let’s pray for miracles this season of Jesus Christ, the true meaning for this season. Thanks so much for putting this up! Merry Christmas Z.


  8. Baysider says:

    A beautiful story. Thanks for an uplifting moment. It’s been a decompression day for me – decompressing instead of getting Christmas letters out. I don’t care, and I loved reading your post instead too.


  9. geeez2014 says:

    BAYSIDER….I’m glad you enjoyed this story, too. Yes, we SO need uplifting moments. I’m very glad you were able to decompress……..
    I don’t have to tell you how much I wish you a very merry Christmas….Even if it’s not THE day He was born, it’s so good to stop once a year ..and remember and thank and adore.
    XXXX Merry Christmas, friend.


  10. geeez2014 says:

    Am trying to not go ‘negative’ around Christmas time…but just saw yet another two instances of things I’m tired of and had to share;

    I don’t want to hear how SHOES or SHAMPOO are GLUTEN FREE…who eats shoes and shampoo? I’m tired of seeing leather shoes sold on QVC which are ETHICALLY produced……All the BUZZ words …vegan, gluten free, plant based, ethically ….

    I want to see BEEF and LEATHER and want people who’re gluten free to find their OWN stuff….I don’t need to know !!!

    What worries me is they’re TAKING OVER, these people pushing this crap; there’ll be a time, and not too long in the distant future, where WE will be the minority and all we’ll FIND is VEGAN junk!!!

    OK…I’m done now…and about to watch my church’s Youtube service from John Adams!!!


  11. kidme37 says:

    Snake oil. Better business than it ever was with all these dumb bunnies running around.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Baysider says:

    I share the label bugbear. No, I DON’T want to see “fat free” on that water bottle. While ‘gluten free’ might be helpful – at least 30 years ago – it’s so overdone it lacks meaning. Strong food sensitivities all my life. A label reader. While we’re at it, why do oil bottlers get to omit an oil from the label if it’s less than 30% of the total?

    BTW, “BPA free” is another. As we’ve become educated on the endocrine disrupting effects of BPA, manufacturers are substituting another sub-set in the bisphenol family, such as BPS which has been found to be just as hormone disrupting. BUT … they can say “BPA free!” on the label while still getting the flexibility in plastics bisphenols provide. Merry Christmas

    Liked by 1 person

  13. geeez2014 says:’s just NUTS, isn’t it!
    And nobody’s DOING much about all this…particularly the BPA thing.


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