'Grandma got run over' catchy tune was no reindeer game for writer

DALLAS (Reuters) - The man behind the Christmas song, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” either the most loved or most loathed of the season and certainly one of its most memorable, has no problems being a one-hit wonder and says the song has been both “my blessing and my albatross.”

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Randy Brooks, 67, a song writer and son of a church organist, told Reuters Wednesday he may not have left his mark on pop culture had it not been for car trouble in Lake Tahoe.

He was stuck in the resort town in the ‘70s with his band when he was invited up onstage by headliners Elmo and Patsy Shropshire and played the novelty tune he had written about the senior’s improbable death.

Elmo Shropshire immediately asked to record it for the Elmo & Patsy act, Brooks said. Shropshire created copies of the song on 45-rpm records that he sold at his shows until radio DJs began playing it on air.

The rest is history, and for Brooks, a cash cow was born.

“It’s paid the college tuition for my two kids,” said Brooks, a man much in demand for shows at clubs, nursing homes and parties in December.

He wrote “Grandma” in the 1970s as a satirical response to country star Merle Haggard’s sentimental song, “Grandma’s Homemade Christmas Card.”

There was also a holiday-tune trend at the time of sentimental songs about a person who winds up dead - but only in the final verse.

Because of that, Brooks said he killed Grandma as quickly as he could in his tune.

Brooks grew up in Kentucky with a passion for music, instilled by his father, a choir director. After graduating from Vanderbilt University, he moved to Dallas where he earned money as a songwriter.

He also performed with local lounge and party bands, where he combined his love of music with a knack for comedy.

As Shropshire’s recording gained fame worldwide, Brooks continued writing songs and performing with other musicians. He took a day job with American Airlines that turned into a 30-year gig.

“I was the voice on the phone that said, ‘thank you for calling American Airlines customer service.’”

A few years ago, Brooks made his own recording of “Grandma,” which he titled, “Randy Brooks’ Greatest Hit.”

Some of his other ditties, such as ”The Dumpster Took My Love Away,” never gained much traction.

Still, Brooks has no problem having just the one hit since the song has become his legacy and even earned him a few awards.

Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bernadette Baum