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Washington County man co-wrote Christmas song "Silver Bells"

Washington County man co-wrote Christmas song "Silver Bells"
Washington County man co-wrote Christmas song "Silver Bells" 03:07

MCDONALD, Pa. (KDKA) -- In a small Washington County borough, the name of one local son looms large thanks to a prominent historical marker in the downtown. Jacob, or "Jay" Livingston, was one of America's great composers for television and movies from the 1940s through the 1990s.

Tim Thomassy of the McDonald Historical Society says that Livingston's original last name was actually Levinson and that he and his family were a big part of this small town.

"His family was here for years," Thomassy said. "They were in the mercantile business. His mother and dad ran a shoe shop and a shoe store and on one side of the building, they had a men's clothing store. He came from a wonderful family. He was kind of quiet and shy, but apparently,  he put his personality into his music."

After studying music in both McDonald and in Pittsburgh, Jay went on to the University of Pennsylvania where he met his long-time writing partner Ray Evans. Eventually, the pair moved to Hollywood, and that's when they started writing music for film and winning multiple Academy Awards for their work, including the very famous song, "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)" from the Alfred Hitchcock classic, "The Man Who Knew Too Much," starring Doris Day and another Western Pennsylvanian, Jimmy Stewart.

While "Que Sera, Sera" was a hit for Livingston in 1956, it was a song he and Evans wrote in 1951 for a movie called the "Lemon Drop Kid" that is best remembered around Christmas time. That song is "Silver Bells."

The movie stars Bob Hope as a New York City swindler who has until Christmas to come up with the money he owes a gangster -- or else. Of course, his scamming goes into overdrive, and at one point, he and co-star Marilyn Maxwell begin to sing to help fill their coffers.

Of course, this Paramount picture has fallen out of memory for the most part, but the song would go on to be recorded by everyone from Bing Crosby to Martina McBride over the years and during the holiday season, it is the lasting legacy of one of Western Pennsylvania's great composers.

"His legacy is that he was a great musician, a great composer and songwriter," said Thomassy. "And it is just good for us that we are known to be the home of Jay Livingston."

If you would like more information on Jay Livingston and the other famous folks who came from McDonald, Pennsylvania, you can contact Tim Thomassy at the McDonald Historical Society at 724-926-4617. You can also stop by the historical society located at the intersection of the Panhandle Trail and South McDonald Street, McDonald, Pennsylvania 15057. Note, The McDonald Historical Society is only open to the public from April from October.

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