‘Tis the season for star-studded Christmas specials — and going down the YouTube rabbit hole to get lost in the holiday variety shows of the Sixties and Seventies. Like this one from Glen Campbell’s Goodtime Hour: a deliciously cheesy duet between Campbell and Cher on “Jingle Bells.”
In 1969, country-pop and TV star Campbell and the dynamic Cher teamed up to appear on a Christmas edition of Campbell’s series on CBS. In its first season of a three-year run on the network, the Goodtime Hour was introduced as a replacement for the controversial (and suddenly canceled) Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which pushed a late-Sixties agenda that was fairly anti-establishment. Campbell’s series was more rooted in the core values one might expect from an Arkansas-born country musician: family fun with an emphasis on wholesome and inoffensive comedy. (Interestingly enough, one of the Goodtime Hour‘s writers, Rob Reiner, would become more well-known for starring in one of the most controversial shows of its time: All in the Family.)
On December 21st, 1969, the Goodtime Hour presented its first Christmas episode. It was a family affair with Campbell’s then-wife, Billie, joining him, along with their three children, Kelli, 8, Travis, 4, and Kane, 10 months. Cher, who would soon star with husband Sonny Bono in their own hugely popular comedy-variety series for CBS, was a guest on the special episode, performing Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” and joining the entire cast for a medley of traditional Christmas tunes.
But it was the dark-haired singer’s funky duet with Campbell on “Jingle Bells” that gave the episode its outrageous Christmas cheer. The host kicks off the segment by holding mistletoe over Cher’s head and planting a kiss on her cheek. As the music starts, the two are bouncing and clapping along, with Campbell using his thighs as his personal drum kit. The unseen backing band also includes some Motown-inspired horns and background singers. It’s a toss-up whether it’s Cher or Campbell who hits the highest note, but the real pleasure in this performance is the unbridled joy the two music legends share in singing together.
This wasn’t the pair’s only TV appearance together either. In August 1971, Campbell was a musical guest of Sonny and Cher’s third episode of their series and in November of that year, Cher returned to Campbell’s show, appearing this time with her husband.