Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer

December 3, 2019

A Christmas Classic?


We know that the Christmas season is upon us when the calendar flips to December and those wonderful holiday songs waft nostalgic from the radio. And no song quite embraces the joyful Noel spirit more than… Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.

It all began in December 1978 when songwriter/performer Randy Brooks sang the song during a live show at the Hyatt Lake Tahoe with the husband and wife duo of Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire. The pair asked for – and received – a tape recording of the song from Brooks after the show. The next year the duo recorded the song and began selling the record during their performances.
As much as we can hope this 1979 novelty song will go away it has actually increased in popularity over the years.

From there things spiraled out of control.

Elmo and patsy

Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire

By the early 1980’s the song was being played on radio stations during the holiday season. Its popularity on the rise and the records sold out, it has been re-pressed and re-released several times.

The public continues to be split on whether the song is loved or hated. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Edison Media Research and Pinnacle Media Worldwide independently survey radio listeners on which Christmas songs they like and dislike. In both surveys, results of which were reported in 2007, the only song that reached the top of both liked and disliked lists was ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.’ Its ‘loved’ ratings in the Edison and Pinnacle polls were relatively high—47 and 32 percent, respectively—but so were the ‘hate’ or ‘dislike’ ratings—17 and 22 percent.

A major Washington, D.C. radio station, WASH (97.1 FM), dropped the song from its playlist. ‘It was too polarizing,’ says Bill Hess, program director. ‘It wasn’t strong, except with a few people, and it had a lot of negatives.’ The song also gained notoriety at Davenport, Iowa radio station WLLR in 1985 when a disc jockey played the song 27 times back-to-back during the morning show before station management was able to stop him. The disc jockey, who was suspended, was reportedly depressed and upset that a co-worker had left employment at the station to work out-of-state.

Shropshire claims it is ‘a beloved holiday favorite.’ The video of the song was ‘a holiday staple on MTV for many seasons.’ It has been ‘incorporated into talking toys and a musical greeting card.’ ‘My royalties are four or five times what they were’ 20 years ago, claims Elmo, who performs the song with his bluegrass group year-round. ‘A lot of younger people say it’s not really Christmas until they hear it.’”


Songwriter Randy Brooks with Santa

When I first heard it – sometime in the early 80’s – I was amused. It did have a catchy tune and unusual premise. But upon listening to the lyrics I was appalled by the macabre theme wrapped up in a happy sounding jingle. For me, the song lands firmly in the dislike category and I will switch radio stations whenever it comes on.

For today’s Tuesday Newsday, however, I am taking one for the team so that my loyal readers can know the story behind the worst ‘holiday’ song ever.

Normally, I would put a link to a video up so you can experience the song first hand. Not doing that. Instead, here are the lyrics which do support my supposition that this is NOT a joyful Christmas classic:

Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and grandpa we believe
She’d been drinking too much eggnog
And we begged her not to go
But she forgot her medication
And she staggered out the door into the snow
When we found her Christmas morning
At the scene of the attack
She had hoof-prints on her forehead
And incriminating Claus marks on her back
Chorus: Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and grandpa we believe
Now we’re all so proud of grandpa
He’s been taking this so well
See him in there watching football
Drinking beer and playing cards with cousin Mel
It’s not Christmas without Grandma
All the family’s dressed in black
And we just can’t help but wonder
Should we open up her gifts
Or send them back (send them back)
Now the goose is on the table
And the pudding made of fig
And the blue and silver candles
That would just have matched the hair on grandma’s wig
I’ve warned all my friends and neighbors
Better watch out for yourselves
They should never give a license
To a man who drives a sleigh
And plays with elves

For those of you who ARE glutton’s for punishment and want this ear worm in your head for weeks, here’s the video and, of course, a link to the Infallible Wikipedia article. I’ve also included one about Randy Brooks, the songwriter, as his tales from his childhood and how his family inspired the song is worth a read.

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