As the holiday season approached in 1980, Americans were getting ready to usher in a new era with Republican President-Elect Ronald Reagan. Throughout the holiday season, the CBS network would become synonymous with Christmas specials, with annual airings of the animated A Charlie Brown Christmas and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. With the crossover success of such country artists as Dolly Parton, Crystal Gayle and Kenny Rogers, the time was right for a network spotlight on country stars and Christmas songs. Hosted by Minnie Pearl, A Country Christmas aired on CBS December 1st, 1980, and featured appearances from Loretta Lynn, the Oak Ridge Boys, Lynn Anderson, Dukes of Hazzard star Tom Wopat and Debby Boone.
Also featured on the special was a pair of major country stars who were also the new celebrity couple of the moment: Glen Campbell and Tanya Tucker. Their 23-year age difference, Campbell’s third divorce and a shared struggle with addiction made for an explosive, short-lived romance. But while the flame of love burned bright, the two took the spotlight in this Christmas special, in a performance during which the sparks were undeniable and their voices blended to create a bit of Yuletide magic. “It Must Have Been the Mistletoe (Our First Christmas),” which captures the sweetness of a burgeoning holiday-fueled love affair, wouldn’t be commercially released by the couple, but the tune would be cut by Barbara Mandrell for her 1984 Christmas at Our House LP and in 2001 by Barbra Streisand.
The vintage clip is the gift that keeps on giving as it also features Campbell and Tucker interacting in a brief comic bit with Minnie Pearl, dressed in her trademark straw hat with dangling price tag, as they tell her about the Christmas gifts they’re giving to fellow guests Debby Boone and Tom Wopat.