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Gee Whiz, It's Christmas - Carla Thomas




When she was just fifteen, Carla Thomas, daughter of Rufus Thomas, deejay and soul journeyman and famous for "the Funky Chicken" and "Memphis Train" (see https://www.unclestylus.com/single-post/2019/01/21/the-memphis-train-rufus-thomas ), wrote and recorded the song "Gee Whiz (Look at his Eyes)" with her Dad producing. It took another three years before he succeeded in getting it released on Atlantic Records and another year before it hit the charts, making number 10 in the US Hot 100 in early 1960.


Neither the album entitled "Gee Whiz", nor the follow-up single, were as successful as her first release so she switched to her hometown, Memphis-based label, Stax, where she remained for the next 13 years, until 1974. In an attempt to recapture the stardust of her biggest hit so far, she re-appropriated the original tagline of "Gee Whiz" for her 1963 Christmas release, "Gee Whiz, It's Christmas", with little success: it didn't make the charts but it's a great song.


It's possible that Carla was unaware of the original word from which the phrase "Gee Whiz" derives. Like many common phrases, its origins are long forgotten by most people. Had she known that it was a euphemism for "Jesus", when used as a profane exclamation of surprise, she might have employed another phrase. Still, it lends Carla's gentle but soulful Christmas ditty an unintentional edge, a feeling that she's not as innocent as she's trying to make out as she tries to explain to her ex why she's called him up to go with her to her friend's Christmas party:


"....It's been a long long time,

can't explain why you crossed my mind....."


She's disingenuously pretending she's not been thinking about him, but we know better. She's as sweet and innocent as the accidental irony of the "Gee Whiz". Or is she? Or is it?



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