Hobbies Playing Music How the 'Little Drummer Boy' Christmas Carol Came to Be Share PINTEREST Email Print PeopleImages / Getty Images Playing Music Music Education Music History Basics Music Lessons Music Theory Playing Guitar Playing Piano Home Recording By Espie Estrella Espie Estrella is a lyricist, songwriter, and member of the Nashville Songwriters Association International. our editorial process Espie Estrella Updated February 08, 2019 Just because the song "Little Drummer Boy" is beloved by people around the world doesn't mean its backstory is very well known to the public. In this overview, learn about the holiday song's origins, including the controversy around its authorship and where its roots are. The lyrics and some chart history are also here. Who Wrote 'The Little Drummer Boy?' Before it became world famous as the "Little Drummer Boy," the song was originally titled "Carol of the Drums" because of the repeating line "pa rum pum pum pum," which imitates the sound of a drum. It's not certain who wrote the song, but the "Little Drummer Boy" is believed to have been written by Katherine K. Davis in 1941. The song lyrics are said to be based on an old Czech carol. It was recorded for Decca as "Carol of the Drum" by the Trapp Family Singers in 1951 and credited to Davis. But Davis isn't the only person credited with writing the song. According to some reports, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone penned the lyrics to the song. Just as it's not entirely certain who deserves lyrical songwriting credit for the "Little Drummer Boy," questions surround the music composition credits for the song as well. Jack Halloran recorded it in 1957. His daughter, Dawn, stated in a letter to famous music collector Jerry Osborne that her father "did the original choral arrangement and recorded it for Dot Records in 1957." She added, "Dot, unfortunately, didn't put the single out for the 1957 Christmas season, and Simeone succeeded in getting composing credit (along with Henry Onorati and Davis) for a piece he had nothing to do with." Chart Highlights Over the years, it's been recorded by many artists, some of whom have even charted with it on Billboard's singles charts. Pentatonix hit No. 1 with it in the winter of 2013–2014, and David Bowie and Bing Crosby's beloved version peaked at No. 3 in the United Kingdom (Official Singles Chart), spending 10 weeks on the chart in 1982–1983. The Harry Simeone Chorale hit No. 13 on Billboard's Hot 100 with it in 1959–60, No. 24 in 1960–61, No. 22 in 1961–62, and No. 28 in 62–63. The Jack Halloran Singers' version made it only to No. 96 in January 1961. There have been hundreds of recorded versions of the song, and even actors Jack Black & Jason Segel, believe it or not, reached No. 45 with it in 2010 on Billboard's holiday digital sales chart. Fun Fact Decades ago, stop-motion animation was all the rage in television ("Rudolph," anyone?), so a version of "Little Drummer Boy" was produced by Rankin-Bass for television in 1968 with the voice of Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson narrating. If you're of a certain age, you may have seen this version when it debuted. "Little Drummer Boy" Lyrics Although the "Little Drummer Boy" is often remembered for the lines that famously imitate a drum, a review of the song's lyrics reveal why it is indeed a Christmas carol. It is about the birth of Jesus Christ and the gifts presented to the newborn king on this momentous day. Come they told me pa rum pum pum pumA new born King to seepa rum pum pum pum Our finest gifts we bringpa rum pum pum pumTo lay before the Kingpa rum pum pum pumrum pum pum pumrum pum pum pum So to honor Himpa rum pum pum pumWhen we come Pum pum pum pumPa rum pum pumPum pum pum pumPa rum pum pumPum pum pum pumPa rum pum pumPum pum pum pum pa rum Little babyPa rum pum pum pumI am a poor boy tooPa rum pum pum pum I have no gift to bringPa rum pum pum pumThat's fit to give our kingPa rum pum pum pumRum pum pum pumRum pum pum pum Shall I play for youPa rum pum pum pumPa rum pum pumPum pum pum pum Mary noddedPa rum pum pum pumThe ox and lamb kept timePa rum pum pum pum I played my best for Himpa rum pum pum pumrum pum pum pumrum pum pum pum Then He smiled at mepa rum pum pum pumMe and my drum. Versions Want a music sample of the song? Listen to a clip of the music from the album "The Little Drummer Boy." If you'd like a music sheet of the song, check out a website such as Musicnotes.com for digital downloads.