Gave us “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”
Prolofic Broadway composer in 1920s and 30s
J. Fred Coots was a prolific songwriter. In the course of his long career he wrote over 700 songs, including “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.
John Frederick Coots was born in New York City, where he was taught to play the piano by his mother. After leaving high school, he got a job working in a bank on Wall Street, but, in 1914, he heard a professional music plugger in a music shop selling new songs, and decided to change careers.
His first job in music was as a pianist and stock boy in a music shop and by 1917 he had his first song published. He then went into vaudeville, playing the piano and writing songs tailored to specific performers, including Sophie Tucker. In 1922 he wrote the music for a Broadway show called Sally, Irene, and Mary with lyrics by Raymond Klages. Under contract with producers Lee and J.J. Shubert, he composed music for many Broadway shows, including Artists and Models of 1924 and 1925. His last Broadway score was Sons o' Guns, a hit in 1929 and Coots left New York for Hollywood.
Among his successful songs were "Precious Little Thing Called Love" (lyrics by Lou Davis) from the 1929 film The Shopworn Angel), "I Still Get A Thrill. (Thinking Of You)" (1930, lyric by Benny Davis), "Love Letters In the Sand" (1931, lyric by Nick and Charles Kenny), "Two Tickets To Georgia" (lyric by Charles Tobias), and "Beautiful Lady In Blue" (1935, lyric by Sam Lewis). The classic Christmas carol, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”, a collaboration with lyricist Haven Gillespie, was written in 1934 and a second colloboration with Gillespie in 1938, created “You Go To My Head”.
Throughout his career, Coots wrote songs for the Cotton Club revues of 1936, 1938 and 1939, primarily working with lyricist Benny Davis. He also wrote children's songs for a recording by Rosemary Clooney. Coots continued to perform, first in vaudeville and later in nightclubs.
J. Fred Coots died in New York City on April 8, 1985.