Sometime later, Walter Schumann, who was conducting Schumann's Hollywood Choir, asked Hairston to write a new Christmas song for his choir. Hairston remembered the calypso rhythm from his old song and wrote new lyrics for it. Harry Belafonte heard the song being performed by the choir and sought permission to record it. It was recorded in 1956 for his album ‘An Evening with Belafonte. An edited version was subsequently released as a single, reaching Number 1 on the UK Singles Chart in November 1957. It was the first single to sell over one million copies in the UK alone. To date, Belafonte's version has sold over 1.19 million copies.
The song was also recorded by Mahalia Jackson in 1956 but titled ‘Mary’s Little Boy Child’. One of the best-known cover versions of the song is from the German-based disco-group, Boney M. from 1978, ‘ Mary’s Boy Child-Oh My Lord’. This version returned the song to the top of the UK chart. It is one of the best-selling singles of all time in the UK and has sold 1.87 million copies as of November 2015.
When Hairston found out how well the Boney M version had done, he said: "God bless my soul. That's tremendous for an old fogey like me". He was 78 at the time, ( a mere two years older than me). I bet he never imagined a 76-year-old man singing his song at the breakfast table some sixty years after he wrote it. The song has also been recorded by Andy Williams in 1965, along with many others since.
Love and peace. Bill xxx