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  • Today, you can listen to anything you want on Apple Music or Spotify, but back in the 1960s, your Christmas music was on the radio or vinyl.
  • It may seem unlikely today, but Goodyear and Firestone sold holiday music along with tires during the holiday seasons of the 1960s and early 1970s.
  • Because the LP to MP3 conversion company in Ohio still does a thriving business with these classic discs, even though the era of getting them at tire stores is long gone.

From Spotify playlists to radio stations cranking out holiday tunes on Black Friday, it’s nearly impossible to escape the sounds of the Christmas spirit. But back in the 1960s, if you wanted a set of holiday tunes, chances are you got it from the same place you’d get a new set of white walls. From 1961 to the mid-’70s, before Mariah Carey monopolized the holiday spirit, tire manufacturers like Goodyear and Firestone offered Christmas records in their stores for about $1 (roughly $9.40 today).

Stanley Arnold was the man responsible for the unlikely but successful pairing of Rubber and Rudolph. Arnold worked at an advertising agency before striking out on his own and convincing Goodyear executives to lure customers into stores with something that anyone with a smartphone can access today: classic christmas t-shirts. Arnold’s idea helped Goodyear sell more than 15 million CDs, not to mention millions more in tire and accessory sales, over a 17-year period.

The albums remain popular even today. “Those are still our bestsellers, particularly the Goodyear and Firestone albums,” said David Feinauer, co-owner of Christmas Records, a Cincinnati, Ohio, company that converts vinyl into downloadable MP3s and CDs. For Godyear in 1965 and 66 [albums] the two most famous are: Firestones have a more even demand.”

Lucky strike!

But how did Arnold connect Christmas music with tire companies? The idea, as he wrote in his 1968 The Tale of the Blue Horse and Other Million Dollar Adventures, began after a meeting at Lucky Strike headquarters in Durham, North Carolina. Arnold and others were invited to come up with ideas to help boost tobacco sales.

“All the way back to the office, I kept humming the tune from the Lucky Strike TV commercial that came on during the meeting,” Arnold wrote. “I decided that music would reverse the decline in Lucky Strike sales.”

It was Arnold’s idea to offer a collection of music, compiled from Columbia Records, to those who mailed in $1 and proof of purchase of Lucky Strikes. It wasn’t long before sales picked up. The plan was a success, and Arnold set out to replicate it with another billion-dollar industry: tires.

A good year for Christmas music

With the run-up to Christmas being a big tire sales season, Arnold bet that music could draw people into Goodyear’s then 60,000 retail stores. Arnold suggested that buyers would be interested in a Christmas music album.

One of the ways he made it easy for a tire company to agree to sell records was by proving it wouldn’t cost them anything. Arnold worked with Columbia Records, which agreed to put together a collection of its top recording artists to offer Goodyear as an exclusive for just $1 per record. As long as Goodyear sold the CDs for the same amount, the tire company wouldn’t pay a penny for the albums. Even if no one bought a tire, chances are these companies wouldn’t lose money from this scheme.

For the inauguration Great Christmas carols!Arnold compiled a collection of timeless songs that included the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing “Silent Night” and the Leonard Bernstein-conducted New York Philharmonic’s version of “Unto Us a Child Is Born,” as well as classics such as “The First Noel,” “The Twelve Days of Christmas ” and “Decked Halls”. Despite Arnold’s offer to order 3 million copies, Goodyear countered with 90,000 records. Arnold worked to get the order up to 900,000.

Christmas by the fire (stone)

It was then that Arnold heard that Firestone was working with RCA Records on a Christmas album. Arnold wrote about outstanding times: “These coincidences are common in the world of ideas, but the determining factors are the relative quality of the ideas and the determination with which management supports them.”

On December 1, 1961, after only a few weeks on sale, Goodyear stopped promoting the Christmas album; the tire giant had sold all the records it had ordered. When Goodyear’s second Christmas album came out in 1962, it sold every one of the 1.5 million copies he ordered. This trend also continued. By the time Goodyear’s sixth Christmas album came out, the tire company had sold 4 million records. Once again they ran out. Eventually, distribution of the Goodyear Christmas sets was switched from Columbia Records to RCA Records. As a result, a diverse group of artists appeared on these albums, including Julie Andrews and Ella Fitzgerald.

Meanwhile, Firestone released a total of seven Christmas records beginning in 1962 and ending in the 1970s. While Goodyear records often featured images of artists, Firestone records featured a bow. Feinauer classified the Goodyear albums as having more of a pop twist with “Jingle Bells”. Meanwhile, Firestone collections have become a bit more traditional, as evidenced by more subdued record branding.

By the mid-’60s, the trend of tire companies selling Christmas music took hold, and other tire manufacturers, including BFGoodrich, joined in. Other stores, such as JCPenney and Sears, soon offered Christmas records. With this increased competition, sales of such albums from tire companies began to decline. Before long, the era of tire manufacturers selling Christmas rims came to an end.

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