During our childhood, my sister and I would wait at the top of the stairs every Christmas morning. We anticipated my parents placing a certain LP on the record player. (Seriously, yes… our entire Christmas celebration would not start until a RECORD was played. How crazy was that? )

I grew up with this LP

I grew up with this LP

The album? John Denver & The Muppets: A Christmas Together, recorded in 1979. We both strained to hear the needle on the record player drop onto the now scratchy record. The opening bars of "The 12 Days of Christmas" would begin playing and then we would rush down the stairs to see what awaited under the Christmas tree. It was a pretty exciting moment. One year, my sister tripped on her long robe while at the top of the stairs… and she tumbled down quickly. A little crying here and there… but hey, this was Christmas! Stop crying and start opening gifts!

Then during my freshman year in college, A Muppet Christmas Carol was being shown as the campus movie one night. Before the film, the organizers held a trivia contest where prizes were being awarded. One of the questions was "Can you identify who is singing in this song?" and then they proceeded to play an audio clip. Can you guess which bars of music were being played over the sound system? I flew out of my seat and rushed up to the front of the auditorium with the answer… "John Denver and The Muppets!"

For my prize I was given a CD version of the album I grew up with… and that was just awesome. It didn't have the authentic scratchy sounds of the LP, but it brought back memories in a format that endured.

I mention all this because that record was actually released alongside an ABC television special by the same name that aired on December 5, 1979. It featured John Denver hanging out with the Muppets, planning a big Christmas show. Some of the songs from the record are in the show, but there's mostly original content. Of course, the interesting thing about that TV special is that it's never been released on video… not VHS, nor DVD, nor any other format. Given the abundance of music used in the program, I can imagine that legal rights issues are one of the things holding up its release.

I was recently able to track down a VHS recording of that special — I had never seen it myself, given that I was 4 when it aired. It's mostly a showcase for John Denver, but there are quite a few notable Muppet-oriented elements that are worthy of watching. For one thing, the original voice cast is present for all the characters (remember, The Muppet Show aired from 1976 to 1981, putting this special right in the middle of that run). It also featured characterizations of the Muppets that I think we've lost in the years post-Henson's death. Compare the edginess of Kermit and Piggy in this special with what was recently shown on NBC's Letters to Santa — A Muppets Christmas. Remember, the Muppets primarily were targeted at adults back then, not kids. Finally, you see a Muppet telling of the Nativity story… probably not something you'd see on broadcast TV today.

As a special treat between now and Christmas, we're featuring this John Denver/Muppets special here for you to watch entirety at your leisure. I hope you get a chance to watch it before it's gone on December 26. It's definitely not the best Muppets special, but it is part of their history. (Personally… I like the record a lot better! )

John Denver & The Muppets: A Christmas Together (1979)

Oh, and as a special bonus, feel free to download a few tracks from the album, which we have featured over the years as part of Steve's 25 Days of Christmas Music:

Like what you hear? Pick up the album for yourself!