Nfld. & Labrador

Unreleased 1978 Wonderful Grand Band Christmas song finally gets on the radio

An unreleased Christmas song written by Ron Hynes and recorded by the Wonderful Grand Band in 1978 has resurfaced.

Sandy Morris has had tape in basement for decades, after song was rejected by CBC producer in 1978

Sandy Morris had the tape of Christmas in the Harbour digitized at CBC Studios this week. (Gavin Simms/CBC)

An unreleased Christmas song written by Ron Hynes and recorded by the Wonderful Grand Band in 1978 has resurfaced, almost four decades after it was rejected for being "too depressing." 

Hynes wrote Christmas in the Harbour around the time the Wonderful Grand Band formed and was recorded at Echo Music on Long's Hill, the only commercial recording studio in St. John's at the time.

Singer-songwriter Ron Hynes, who passed away in November 2015, wrote a Christmas song in 1978 that was unreleased but has finally resurfaced. (Kent Nason)

According to guitarist Sandy Morris, who has kept the tape reel in his basement all these years, it was the first thing the band recorded in St. John's.

"The interesting thing is that when we got the tape finished I took it to CBC Radio to a producer who doesn't work there anymore and suggested it might be a good thing to play," Morris told the St. John's Morning Show.

"So she took it and listened to it and called me back and said, 'Sure he can't sing' and, 'It's too depressing."

While Hynes had performed the song on the WGB television show that CBC produced in St. John's, Morris said the song was more or less forgotten because the band didn't have a physical copy it could sell.

'Slice of outport life'

Dropping the song was frustrating for Hynes, who at the time was a burgeoning songwriter. Hynes, who died at 64 in 2015, would eventually find fame around the world for his often poignant songs, particularly Sonny's Dream. 


Morris said even more frustrating was the fact that the band had been recording all night, and then came in the next morning to discover all its music had been erased and they had to start all over again.

This quarter inch reel tape of the Wonderful grand Band's recording of Christmas in the Harbour has been sitting in Sandy Morris's basement since 1978. (Gavin Simms/CBC)

"We didn't take it to any of the commercial radio stations, because usually they would only play something that was commercially available," Morris said.

"We all loved the song. You didn't have recorders on your phone or in your bedrooms like you do this day, so it was our first time getting hands on really and was a very mind-expanding process."

The Wonderful Grand Band in the late 70s. The band was Ron Hynes, Kelly Russell, Sandy Morris, Bryan Hennessey, Glenn Simmons and Rocky Wiseman. (Submitted by Sandy Morris)

The song deals with what Morris called a "slice of outport life" in 1978, when older men would often drink and reminisce about the Second World War. 

Morris said he thinks the song still stands up, and now that the tape has been digitized by CBC, people can finally listen to Christmas in the Harbour.

"I think he would be very happy to have that old song from that many years ago resurrected again," he said. "I've always thought it was a great song."

If you'd like to see the performance from the Wonderful Grand Band's television show, click on the video below.



With files from Gavin Simms