Songs of Christmas…Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer


This is part 3 of a Advent/Christmas series titled “Songs of Christmas.” For other parts of the series see the index. The index also contains the introduction for the series.

Before anyone says anything, I know, I said at the end of yesterday’s post that today we would be looking at “There’s a Song in the Air.” I wrote yesterday’s post at the end of a very long day on Thursday. I didn’t think about the day after that post being Saturday and I always try to do something fun and light on Saturday. So, I am pushing, “There’s a Song in the Air” back another day and we will look at it tomorrow. Leaving us “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” to talk about today. This is going to be fun!!!

This song, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” only happened because of a series of unfortunate events, but because of those events we have a fun song that people really enjoy.

The song’s composer, Randy Brooks, had a band that played a week long engagement in Lake Tahoe in 1978. Brooks had heard before that there had never been a song that began with someone dying to become a hit. Brooks took it as a challenge. And, what better time to work on the song than when stuck during a Lake Tahoe snow storm.

Brooks decided that the death would anchor the first verse and the form of death would be shocking. The finished product was funny. Brooks taught the lyrics and the easy to sing melody to his band. Audiences laughed but record companies weren’t interested (that is unfortunate circumstance number 2).

On the stage that snowy night in Lake Tahoe was a Blue Grass group that dabbled in comedy named Elmo and Patsy. After the show Brooks went back stage and talked with Elmo Shropshire. After talking shop for about an hour Brooks presented Shropshire with “Grandma….”

The snow finally cleared and Brooks and his band went back on their tour. Shropshire and his crew returned to their home in San Francisco. He had a vision for the song. Because the record labels weren’t interested Shropshire formed his own label, bought studio time and Elmo and Patsy recorded “Grandma…”

Shropshire then went from radio station to radio station in his area and begged disc jokey’s to play the song. Some did and before long phone lines were lighting up requesting stations play the song. It became a regional hit. But, for Elmo and Brooks another unfortunate event came their way. The Gray Panthers felt the song cast the elderly in a bad light because Grandma had gotten drunk on too much eggnog. Teachers and preachers got involved feeling a drunken grandma wasn’t good for children. Under mounting public pressure, radio stations quit playing the song and record stores quit carrying it.

Then came the news stories. They got people interested in the song outside of San Francisco. Because CDs weren’t available, radio stations obtained and started playing bootleg copies of the song. “Grandma…” slowly moved across the country by radio stations picking up and playing the song.

Shropshire was finally able to get a record distribution deal in place. Next, he, after raiding his bank account of its entire contents, with a wacky script and family and friends playing various roles, with Shropshire himself dressed in drag, playing the part of Grandma, a video was made. The Nashville Network and MTV got behind the song with video air time and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the end, Brooks became an air traffic controller in the DFW area. Shropshire and his band still play the hilarious song about Grandma.

For me, the moral of this story is, challenge yourself and have a vision. That is what I am doing with this blog. I challenge myself to write these posts every day. I have a vision with some of these series of posts becoming books one day. It is a goal. It is something to work toward.

We all need challenges. We all need vision. I think more often than not these come from God. Many think God doesn’t give them a challenge or a vision. I think that is untrue. Perhaps when we think God is silent, it is because we are not listening. Listen for God’s challenge and God’s vision in your life.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,

Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Tomorrow: “There’s a Song in the Air”


Collins, Ace. Stories Behind the Greatest Hits of Christmas. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010, pp. 192-196).

One thought on “Songs of Christmas…Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

  1. Pingback: Songs of Christmas… – Pastor's Ponderings

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