Actor/singer Barry Gordon entertained kids (and adults) as a child star with his million-selling hit record "Nuttin' for Christmas" in the '50s, and in the '90s as the voice of Donatello in the phenomenally successful TV cartoon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
It seems kismet that Gordon was born December 21, 1948, as a holiday favorite would prove to be his biggest hit. The Brookline, MA, native made his TV debut at three years old on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour. He also appeared on The Jackie Gleason Show and Star Time with Benny Goodman.
Recording for MGM Records, seven-year old Gordon was picked to sing the kids' song "Nuttin' for Christmas," written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett. The duo also wrote "Bagel and Lox," "Bullfighter Was a Lady," "The Angel in the Fountain," and music for the Elvis Presley movies Jailhouse Rock, Flaming Star, G.I. Blues, and Blue Hawaii. "Nuttin' for Christmas" b/w "Santa Claus Looks Just Like Daddy" went to number six pop on Billboard's charts on December 31, 1955. His follow-up single, "Rock Around Mother Goose" b/w "Seven" was his only other charting release (number 52 pop, early 1956), though he continued recording until he was in his thirties.
Gordon appeared as a leering paperboy in the 1956 Jayne Mansfield movie The Girl Can't Help It and on such '50s/'60s TV shows as The Jack Benny Show, The Danny Thomas Show, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. At 14, he received a Tony nomination for the role of Nick in the Broadway hit A Thousand Clowns, a role he reprised in the 1965 film version of the play that starred Jason Robards and Sandy Denis.
In 1967, he starred in Out of It as a super-smart high school nerd. Donning a nebbish Woody Allen-like persona, Gordon appeared in TV sitcoms The New Dick Van Dyke Show, The Don Rickles Show, A Family for Joe, the Barney Miller spin-off Fish, and Archie Bunker's Place. During the '90s, Gordon became an in-demand voice-over actor in TV animation and commercials, and was the voice of the scholarly, blue bandanna-wearing Donatello on the incredibly successful animated cartoon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which first aired in syndication and later ran for several seasons as a part of CBS-TV's Saturday morning line-up. Gordon served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. Gordon's other releases are the MGM Records singles "Girl I Left Behind," "Rock Little Chillun" b/w "Pretty Lil Girl Next Door," "Santa Claus Looks Just Like Daddy" b/w "3," "Yes We Have No Bananas" b/w "Thief," the Dunhill singles "Ramshackle Guy" b/w "Days of Pearly Spencer," "Take Off the Veil" b/w "You Can't Love a Child," the United Artists Records singles "Talk, Talk, Talk" b/w "Sealed With a Kiss," "They" b/w "Katy" for the Era label, "You Can't Lie to a Liar" b/w "You Can't See the Trees" on Cadence, and "Zoomah Santa From Mars." His LPs are the MGM album Rock Little Children and the Telarc CD Distant Songs.
"Nuttin' for Christmas" can be found on the 1989 compilation Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits: 1955-Present from Rhino and Oldies Radio K-Earth 101 FM: Vol. 2-Ultimate Christmas Album from Collectables Records. ~ Ed Hogan