Music

Carly Simon Helps Willie Nelson Sing His Christmas Classic, 'Pretty Paper'

Willie Nelson wrote the holiday classic "Pretty Paper" in 1963 when signed to Monument Records. Producer Fred Foster pitched the tune to Roy Orbison, who turned the heartfelt song into a hit. But Nelson wasn't done with "Pretty Paper"; he would go on to record his own version in 1964. Then in 1979, he included the song on his classic Christmas album of the same name.

Since then, Nelson's recorded a gorgeous duet version with Carly Simon and her band in Room 139 of The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA (as heard in the above video). That version appears on Simon's 2002 holiday album Christmas is Almost Here.

The song has become a fan favorite that's played every holiday season. But many don't know that the song was inspired by a real person.

Read More: The 15 Best Country Christmas Songs Recorded Before 1985

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram the song was inspired by a street vendor named Frankie Brierton from Santo, Texas. Brierton sold pencils and paper outside of the now-shuttered Leonard's Department Store. He had spinal meningitis as a child, which caused him to be disabled below the neck. Everyone in the town knew Brierton from his shop, including Nelson, who lived there before he made his big move to Nashville.

Per Bud Kennedy's 2004 column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Brierton "crept on all fours along Houston or Throckmorton streets outside Leonards, wearing clunky gloves and kneepads made from old tire tread and a custom leather vest with a pencil rack and coin box sewn onto the back."

"Pretty Paper" has been recorded by Mickey Gilley, Glen CampbellRandy TravisKenny Chesney and more country music stars. At this point, it's as at home on Country Christmas albums as "Blue Christmas," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," Frosty the Snowman," Here Comes Santa Claus," "Jingle Bells," "Silent Night" and numerous other holiday favorites.

Although Brierton passed away in the 1970s, he lives on in the track that has become one of the most beloved country holiday songs in history.

"Pretty Paper" Lyrics:

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you
Pretty pencils to write I love you
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue

Crowded street, busy feet, hustle by him
Downtown shoppers, Christmas is nigh
There he sits all alone on the sidewalk
Hoping that you won't pass him by

Should you stop? Better not, much too busy
You're in a hurry, my how time does fly
In the distance the ringing of laughter
And in the midst of the laughter he cries

Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue
Wrap your presents to your darling from you
Pretty pencils to write I love you
Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue

This story previously ran on Nov. 21, 2019.

WATCH: The Very Best Willie Nelson Collaborations

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Carly Simon Helps Willie Nelson Sing His Christmas Classic, 'Pretty Paper'