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).


Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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