In 1939, Robert May was assigned by Montgomery Ward to create a Christmas story they could give away during the holiday shopping season. He wrote a poem about a reindeer with a red nose. He tried the names, "Rollo" and "Reginald" before settling on Rudolph.
May's brother-in-law happened to be Johnny Marks--a composer who had already composed several Christmas songs. He decided to turn Rudolph's story into a song.
It was recorded by Gene Autry, a singing cowboy/actor and has been a hit ever since.
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