During the holidays, it is hard to turn on a radio station or watch a Christmas-themed program on television without hearing the familiar synthesized sounds of Mannheim Steamroller. The story of the groundbreaking band is one of success that grew out of rejection from the music industry as a whole. Here are five things you may not know about the group that we only tend to think about once a year.
THE NAME HAS HISTORIC ROOTS
The name of the band comes from the Mannheim Roller, which was innovative in the music of the late 18th century. It is described as an extended crescendo with a rising melodic line over a repeating bass line. This was one of the innovations of what is referred to as the Mannheim school or the court orchestra of Mannheim.
THE BAND IS THE BRAINCHILD OF CHIP DAVIS
The man behind the group (and its production company American Gramaphone,) is Chip Davis. Davis was a music teacher and jingle writer who’s talent got noticed by record execs. He was one of the producers of the hit single “Convoy.” After Convoy, he had trouble gaining traction in the industry and created his own record label to distribute his music. This is how Mannheim Steamroller was born.
IT ISN’T JUST ABOUT CHRISTMAS
Before producing the Christmas albums it is most known for, the band created a series of albums called Fresh Aire. The first four Fresh Aire offerings were dedicated to each season. The first Fresh Aire album was released in 1975. Like the Christmas music, the style is a blend of New Age, Jazz and rock. The group’s style has been called “classical-rock.”
RUSH LIMBAUGH GAVE THEM A BOOST
Love him or hate him, the conservative talk show host is credited with introducing Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas music to a wider audience. Starting in the early 90s, Limbaugh used the group’s Christmas music as bumper music during the holiday season.
MAYBE IT IS ALL ABOUT CHRISTMAS
Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas albums have become so popular that they have released a total of 27 Christmas albums and compilations. Chip Davis has released three Christmas albums of his own. Ironically, when the band tried to sell its first Christmas album in 1984, they were told it would never sell because of the style of music and because Christmas music was not popular at the time.