Johnny Cash and Neil Young – Little Drummer Boy

I have to admit…I didn’t know this existed until a few days ago. I was looking for more Dylan Christmas songs and this popped up. I will be honest…Little Drummer Boy has never been my favorite Christmas song but this version is probably the best I’ve heard. 

 It comes from Seven Gates: A Christmas Album by Ben Keith and Friends, which was released in 1994. It was co-produced by Neil Young. You can hear Johnny Cash loud and clear but Neil doesn’t have his usual voice in this one. 

Ben Keith and Neil Young’s relationship began when the multi-instrumentalist Keith first worked with him in 1971 on the Harvest album. The two were introduced together by the producer Elliot Mazer, who found him in Nashville and asked him to be a last-minute session musician on the record. After that first meeting, they helped each other until Ben Keith passed away at Neil Young’s ranch in 2010. 

Remarkably, this cover is the only time that Johnny Cash and Neil Young have ever collaborated. Neil was a guest on The Johnny Cash Show in the early seventies. 

The song was written by Harry Simeone, Katherine Kennicott Davis, and Henry Onorati. First recorded in 1951 by the Trapp Family. The song was originally titled “Carol of the Drum” and was based upon a traditional Czech carol.

Neil also contributed Greensleeves on that album so I thought I would add that below. 

Neil Young on the Johnny Cash Show. 


Little Drummer Boy

Come they told me, pa rum pa pum pum
Our newborn King to see, pa rum pa pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pa pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pa pum pum,
Rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum,
So to honor Him, pa rum pa pum pum,
When we come…
Little Baby , pa rum pa pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pa pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pa pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pa pum pum,
Rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum,
Shall I play for you, pa rum pa pum pum,
On my drum?…

Mary nodded, pa rum pa pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pa pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pa pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pa pum pum
Rum pa pum pum, rum pa pum pum
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pa pum pum
Me and my drum…
Me and my drum…
Me and my drum…
Me and my drum…
Me and my drum…




Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

31 thoughts on “Johnny Cash and Neil Young – Little Drummer Boy”

  1. That version of Little Drummer Boy is lovely. I’d never heard it. I’ve dvr’ed a bunch of the old Johnny Cash Show episodes. Each one was totally unique with their guest performances. They did songs other than their well known hits.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not a big fan of the song…and I really like this version.
      I’ve watched a lot of those shows on youtube…he had such a variety of guests…the Eric Clapton one with Derek and the Dominos I love.
      How are you enjoying the book?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes….that is probably the most important decision she made… I would love to see that place. Glad you are enjoying it. I went through it again on audio in case I missed anything. I’m getting the physical book as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with you, Max, “Little Drummer Boy” isn’t my favorite Christmas tune. Yet I still like the odd pairing of Bing Crosby and David Bowie, as well as this rendition, which is entirely new to me! Frankly, if you wouldn’t have called out Neil, I wouldn’t even have noticed him!

    BTW, Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done” is one of my all-time favorites. Oftentimes, I find Neil is most compelling when he’s performing songs all stripped back with just his acoustic guitar and harmonica. Or the piano for that matter – just brilliant!

    Last but not least – “Greensleeves”. Beautiful tune! My guitar teacher showed me how to play it on the Spanish guitar. Obviously, that was many moons ago, and I no longer remember it. Great rendition by Neil!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I wouldn’t have known either… that Neil was in there.
      I agree with Neil…I love to hear him on just acoustic. When I saw him he was in his country phase and he played mostly on acoustic…the only older song he played though was Heart of Gold.
      I do like Greensleeves and yes I remember that when I was first learning also.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. *Thank*You* for the 2nd video. Time Fades Away is a criminally underrated Neil Young album. “Every junkie’s like a setting sun.” and “I will stay with you if you stay with me said the fiddler to the drum.” lyrics don’t get any more beautiful or poetic than that. About Johnny Cash duets, I’m not generally a fan of them. His voice makes any singing with him sound inadequate and puny from what I’ve heard so far.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. p.s. I like Johnny’s segue into Neil’s music at what looks like a college campus. I know that Needle and the Damage… is from Harvest, but he also sings about junkies (and Canada) in his title track on Time Fades Away, starting out with 14, then 13…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Agree with sentiments of others…better than most versions but not high on my list of Christmas songs. Johnny’s voice is great on it, though to parrot others, Neil’s pretty inconspicuous on it. Good job finding this one for us!

    Liked by 2 people

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