Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
|"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"|
Picture sleeve of 1984 release by Epic Records (34-04703)
|Single by Elmo & Patsy|
|from the album Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer|
|B-side||"Christmas" (Elmo 'n' Patsy; Oink; Soundwaves)
"Percy, The Puny Poinsettia" (Epic)
|Released||1979 (Elmo 'n' Patsy)
1982 (Oink; Soundwaves)
|Genre||Christmas, Country, Novelty, Pop|
|Length||3:30 (Elmo 'n' Patsy; Oink; Soundwaves)
|Label||Elmo 'n' Patsy 2984
Written by Randy Brooks, the song was originally performed by the husband and wife duo of Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire in 1979. In the lyrics, the grandmother of the family gets drunk from drinking too much eggnog, and, due to having forgotten to take her medication and despite warnings from the family, staggers outside into a snowstorm. In the course of her walk, she is run over by Santa Claus and his reindeer and killed. The second and third verses describe the Christmas party the next day: "all the family's dressed in black" while the widower acts as if nothing's happened, drinks beer, watches football and plays cards with "cousin Mel." The song closes with a warning that Santa, "a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves" is unfit to carry a driver's license, and that the listener should beware.
According to Brooks, he played the song while sitting in with Elmo and Patsy at the Hyatt Lake Tahoe in December 1978, and after the show they had him make a cassette of the song for them to learn. A year later, they were selling 45s of the song from the stage, with Elmo himself appearing in drag on the album cover as the titular Grandma.
The song was originally self-released in the San Francisco area by the Shropshires in 1979 on their own record label ("Elmo 'n' Patsy"), with the B-side called "Christmas". By the early 1980s, the song was becoming a seasonal hit, first on country stations and then on Top 40 stations. In 1982, the "Elmo 'n' Patsy" record label changed its name to "Oink" when the song was re-recorded. Oink Records, still based in Windsor, California, continued distribution of the 45 rpm record in the western U.S., with "Nationwide Sound Distributors" of Nashville, Tennessee pressing and distributing the song on its Soundwaves Records in the eastern U.S., peaking at #92 on the country singles charts. In 1984, with the song now a big hit nationally, CBS Records was interested and signed Elmo and Patsy to Epic Records. A new recording was made with a new B-side ("Percy, the Puny Poinsettia"). By the end of 1984, it was reported that sales of "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" were, by record label: Oink: 50,000 45s sold; Soundwaves: 175,000 45s sold; Epic: 150,000 45s sold and 90,000 LPs sold. The Epic Records version charted at #64 on the country charts in 1998 and #48 in 1999.
Other releases by the original artist(s) would follow:
- Following the Shropshires' divorce, Elmo re-recorded it solo in 1992 and again in 2000.
- Madacy Records released a Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer gift tin (CD/DVD/Xmas stocking) by Dr. Elmo in 2007.
- Time Life Records released "Dr. Elmo's Bluegrass Christmas" in 2010, which featured a bluegrass instrumental of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."
A sequel, "Grandpa's Gonna Sue the Pants Off of Santa," was released by Elmo Shropshire on his album, Dr. Elmo's Twisted Christmas (1992). Grandpa gets lawyers to fight Santa in court.
The song has been recorded by other acts.
- The song's entry onto the charts was in Canada in 1982 with The Irish Rovers album "It Was A Night Like This" (Attic Records). Jack Richardson produced the single which rose to #20 on the RPM charts within a week of its release and today remains a 'seasonal holiday anthem'.
- It has also been covered by Family Force 5 (in the song, the word "beer" was edited out and replaced with root beer), and in 1996 by Poe.
- A rock cover version is on the album We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year.
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 "most-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."
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."
The 2000 animated television program Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer portrays the events depicted in the song — though being made for children, the cartoon is toned down a bit, so that Grandma does not die, and Santa is actually innocent of the crime, which was instead masterminded by a scheming relative (Cousin Mel, who is mentioned briefly in the song but made into a gold-digging villainness in the special). Elmo Shropshire reads for the voice of Grandpa (as well as being the narrator of the special). The special is a staple of Cartoon Network's holiday programming.
Music video 
The promotional music video for Elmo & Patsy's "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" was released in the mid-1980s, and aired on MTV for at least eighteen years. The video could also be seen on VH1, CMT, TNN, GAC, and VH1 Classic during the holiday season, as well as being on Spike's official website and on YouTube. Elmo Shropshire played Grandpa and Patsy played Cousin Mel.
- Lisi, Michael (December 10, 2000). "The novelty never wears off for some clever songs written for the season". The Daily Gazette. p. G01. Retrieved February 26, 2010.
- RPM Album Charts (Dec. 1982). "Adult Contemporary - Volume 37, No. 19, December 25 1982". Archives Canada.
- Anningston, Brett (Thurs. Feb. 25, 2010). "After four decades, group still loves to entertain". Times & Transcript.
- Farhi, Paul (December 14, 2007). "All I Want for Christmas Is Not To Hear That Song". The Washington Post.
- 2012 Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer #1 on the billboard charts - 1st time in 27 years.
- 2009/2010 Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer promotion on TV and radio
- 2001 The Balladeers, It Was A Night Like This
- Dr. Elmo/Grandma Official WebSite
- Grannies Learn to Love 'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer' Monica Garske AOL NEWS
- 2010 article by Phyllis Stark
- Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer Songfacts
- 2012 Novelty reindeer song still has legs