John Frederick Coots was born May 2, 1897 in Brooklyn, New York.
Coots was taught to play the piano as a child by his mother.
At the age of 17, while working in a bank on Wall Street, he met a professional songwriter in a music shop and decided to change careers.
Coots became a stock boy in a music shop, began playing music as a pianist and writing songs.
In 1917, at the age of 20, he had his first song published.
Coots then went into vaudeville, writing songs tailored to specific performers, including Sophie Tucker.
Then in 1922, Coots wrote music for a Broadway show called “Sally, Irene, and Mary.”
Soon he signed a contract with producers Lee and J.J. Shubert, composing music for many Broadway shows.
In 1929, Coots wrote the hit “Sons o’ Guns” before giving in to his dream of writing songs for movies.
So, at the age of 32, he moved to Hollywood, California.
Before long, Coots got his chance to write the music for the 1929 film “The Shopworn Angel.” The result was the successful song “Precious Little Thing Called Love” with lyrics by Lou Davis.
He then wrote “I Still Get a Thrill (Thinking of You) in 1930 with lyrics by Benny Davis.
In 1931, he wrote the music for “Love Letters in the Sand” with lyrics by Nick and Charles Kenny.
Then in 1934, lyricist Haven Gillespie brought Coots the lyrics for a Christmas carol.
Coots came up with the skeleton of the music in just 10 minutes.
The two brought “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” to their publisher Leo Feist Inc.
Their publisher thought the tune was a kid’s song and didn’t expect too much from it.
Coots then offered the song to Eddie Cantor who used it on his radio show that November.
The morning after Cantor’s radio show, there were orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music, and, by Christmas of 1934, sales had passed 400,000.
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town became an instant hit, selling over 4 million copies of the sheet music alone.
The song became one of the biggest hits in American music history.
Coots went on to write music for over 700 songs, including the 1940 victory song for the New York Rangers hockey team.
J. Fred Coots died in New York City on April 8, 1985 at the age of 89.
Now WE know em