Artist Interview: Randy Brooks [Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer]

Back in Febuary we took a deep dive into the hugely popular novelty song "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. A song that had a huge impression on me a kid growing up and helped to cement my love for the genre. If you haven't already please go read that article [You can find it here.] and then come back to this one! In the process of researching the history of the song, I learned that it was written by a man named Randy Brooks who although has spent much of his life out of state, was a fellow native of Louisville KY! I also learned that he has written several other songs including a song about the arguement for not starting Christmas until after thanksgiving. Which is what I will focus on for most of the interview. But I also asked him about some advice for young song writers. Let's jump into our interview with Mr.Brooks

How did you get into music?

My dad was a pianist with his own dance band, playing the country club circuit. On Sundays, he morphed into a church organist and choir director. My mom, who had studied voice in New York, was the soprano soloist. They put me in piano lessons early on…and I was a terrible student. But then one Christmas, I found a plastic ukulele under the tree, and that clicked. My brother, a friend, and I formed a folk trio when I was still 14. We started appearing on a weekend TV show on WHAS in Louisville, and worked our way up to an appearance on CBS’s Ted Mack Amateur Hour in New York.

Who would you consider your biggest Musical Influence?

I was hooked on early Top 40, which at one time was only broadcast four hours a night in Louisville. My first musical hero was Pat Boone. (I realize that sounds weird today, but he was a teen idol second only to Elvis at the time.) Then I moved into my Kingston Trio/Peter, Paul & Mary phase. And when the Beatles crossed the pond, I was obsessed.

In terms of Musical taste, what songs or type of holiday songs do you find yourself listening to the most during the season?

We play a lot of instrumental carols at our house, especially guitar versions of the traditional carols. As for modern music, I still think Mariah’s “All I Want For Christmas” is a masterful, joy-filled homage to the old Phil Spector-produced girl group Christmas hits.

Do you have any fun holiday memories or stories to share?

Christmas Eve is the most special night of the year to me. I used to watch “A Christmas Carol” every year at midnight. I also loved the candlelight service at a small church in Anchorage, outside Louisville.

What is Christmas to you? What makes the holiday special?

It’s unfortunate that we (by which I mean my wife) works so hard preparing and trying to make everything perfect, that it’s almost a relief when it’s over. But I love singing in the church choir at the candlelight Christmas Eve service – and then being with family on Christmas day.

On the topic of Christmas I'd like to talk about your new original song, “Its Halloween”

What made you decide to create the song?

I was outside one November 5th. The temperature in Dallas was in the mid-80s. I was picking up discarded Halloween candy wrappers off the lawn, and then came inside to hear “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” on the radio. The all-Christmas station had already kicked in. This annoyed me all month, right up to Thanksgiving Eve, when I went to the mall. The whole mall was totally decked out for Christmas…except for Nordstrom. Their windows were covered in brown paper, with paintings of turkeys, horns-of-plenty, etc. They had a framed sign by the door that said, “Our store will be decorated for Christmas on Friday, Novemeber 27th. We believe in celebrating one holiday at a time. Seeing that, I ran right home and wrote “It’s Halloween (A Christmas Song).”

What did you enjoy most about the process, what do you enjoy about creating Christmas songs?

Coming up with punch lines to make people chuckle…even if the song isn’t totally a novelty song.

On the topic of the song most people will know you for. Could you speak to how writing "Grandma got run over by a reindeer" changed your life?

"Grandma" didn't just impact my life - it changed it forever. Obviously the commercial impact has been significant. It afforded my family a better quality of life than my day job alone would have. But everywhere I've gone ever since, I've been introduced as "the man who wrote...." It's given me a minor celebrity status that's sometimes embarrassing.

But I also get invited to various songwriter festivals and other venues like Nashville's Bluebird Cafe, solely on the strength of that one song - which then gives me the opportunity to sing some of my other tunes and try to get the word out that I'm more than one song. Along the way, I've gotten to make the acquaintance of other writers I admire.

I also get an awful lot of Christmas party invitations!

What advice could you give to a young songwriter?

I'm short on advice. I was extremely lucky. If I knew any secrets, I'd have more than one big hit! And the lucky break I got would never happen today; independent labels don't get played on today's corporate radio.

About the only advice I have for writers - short of moving to Nashville - is to get out and play your songs whenever you can. You never know who might be in the audience. And if you just sit home on a stack of songs, nothing is ever going to happen for you.

Where can people find your work

My music is also available through, or wherever questionable music is sold online.