It's hardly a nostalgic tune, and it certainly doesn't present the ideal formula for a wonderful family holiday, but "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is pretty much unavoidable this time of year. The song itself, which details Grandma's abuse of eggnog and untimely demise under the runners of Santa's sleigh, was written by Randy Brooks, originally tracked by the husband-and-wife duo of Elmo Shropshire and Patsy Trigg
in 1979 (Trigg neither sang nor played an instrument at the session and is actually not on the record at all), and independently released in the San Francisco area on the hastily-created Elmo & Patsy imprint with a song simply called "Christmas" as the B-side. The song was re-recorded in the early 1980s and privately released again, this time on Oink Records, which was really just the Elmo & Patsy label restructured and renamed. The song was re-recorded yet again in 1984 when Elmo & Patsy signed to Epic Records along with a new B-side, "Percy, the Puny Pointsettia." Unfortunately the couple divorced shortly after the Epic deal, and Elmo, an interesting character in his own right, having been a veterinarian, horse trainer, jockey, and long-distance runner, recorded a fourth and "solo" (but Patsy was never actually on the song in any of its incarnations in the first place) version of the song in 1992 and then did yet a fifth (and second "solo") rendition in 2000.
- Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer
Two years later in 2002 Elmo tried his hand at a sequel to Grandma's story called "Grandpa's Gonna Sue the Pants Off Santa," but holiday lightning didn't really strike a second time (perhaps because Christmas litigation is even less nostalgic than Grandma's intoxicated passing). Along the way "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" was turned into an animated kids show that gets played annually during the holiday season (Grandma doesn't die in the animated version of the story but staggers off into the woods instead).
What often gets lost in the shuffle of all of this is that the song as performed is actually presented as evidence in the debate about whether Santa really exists or not. Santa does exist, Elmo proclaims, because he killed Grandma, and thatâ€™s the end of the matter. Neither nostalgic nor sentimental, "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" persists as a holiday favorite simply because it is so absurd. Everyone knows Grandma can hold her eggnog better than that.