This should be of interest to all of us who make electronic Christmas music with an orchestral bent.
I remember when Steamroller recorded their "Carol of the Bells" and Chip Davis decided to construct his own set of handbell samples for the Emulator II to record the song. Must have been 1989?
On the GPO Christmas 2005 album, I fingered Dan Estes' "Good King Wenceslas" as a Steamroller tribute--whether he intended it that way or not. The point is, Mannheim Steamroller has been hugely influential.
Can anybody say "Trans-Siberian Orchestra"?
Here are some quotes from the article with my observations:
"Lutes + Synthesizers +Rock Beats = America's Most Popular Christmas Music?"
In addition to being a perennial arena-filling concert act (6-member band and 22-piece backing orchestra), Davis has sold 27 million albums on his own indie label.
"He is one of the most successful recording artists in the history of American music. Mannheim Steamroller has sold more than 27 million albums, more than Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, R.E.M. or Eminem, according to the Recording Industry Association of America."
"This year, more than 160 radio stations around the country have switched to an all-Christmas music format during the holiday season... Mannheim Steamroller dominates those radio playlists, with as many as 15 songs in regular rotation on some stations."
"The music is strange: a hodgepodge of rock rhythms, blipping synthesizers, Renaissance instrumentation and orchestral extravagance - a big, bright and, even by Christmas standards, fearlessly schlocky sound that Davis has called "18th-century classical rock." In Davis's reworked carols, the showy time-signature changes and keyboard passages of 70's progressive rock rub up against lutes, cornemuses and other 15th-century instruments; classical piano filigrees and gusty Muzak strings rise over a thudding backbeat."
Love it or hate it, Mannheim Steamroller has been hugely influential and lucrative. And prog.
It's interesting, I personally find the Steamroller music to run the complete range of "brilliant" to "extremely annoying" for me. I absolutely love the versions of things like "Stille, Stille" and "Silent Night" (with the nice violin solo), while the covers of things like "Carol of the Bells" and "Deck the Halls", which get the most airplay, really give me the willies. Certainly an eclectic mix of things!
But I probably feel the same way about the TransSiberian stuff too...
Yes. Chip Davis of Mannheim Steamroller and Fresh Aire was the songwriter and lead vocalist on the 1975 hit song about truckers and citizens band radio called "Convoy." His pseudonym was C. W. McCall.
He was named the Country Music Association's Songwriter of the Year for that song.
From what I can read in Chip Davis' bio, it implies that he sold over 10 million albums as C. W. McCall--in that he sold 37-40 million albums in his career, but only 27 million of those were Mannheim Steamroller albums and only 20 million of those were Christmas albums.
Even before the 1970s, Chip Davis started out as a bass singer and assistant arranger in Norman Luboff's professional touring choir. Luboff wrote and/or arranged and published a large repertoire of hit pop Christmas songs that are still widely performed. This was where Davis' predilection for Christmas music no doubt started.