We often think that new classical music is no longer being created because we hear other genre more often, nevertheless, it is, for some composers, going strong. The composer I want to highlight today is Chip Davis, better known as Mannheim Steamroller. His Christmas music is standard fare these days as a necessary part of the Christmas season. It wasn’t always the case.
Chip Davis was born in Sylvania, Ohio as Louis Davis, Jr. , but his nickname “Chip” stuck and he has been Chip ever since. He came from a musical family. He was taught piano by his grandmother, his dad was a high school music teacher and his mother was in Phil Spitainy’s All Girl Orchestra. Chip Davis graduated from the University of Michigan as a classical musician, with mastery in Bassoon and Percussion.
After graduation he worked as a jingle writer for a Nebraska advertising agency where he and a colleague came up with the character CW McCall, a truck driver, to use in commercials for The Old Home Bread Company. The character was such a hit that Nashville came calling. Chip and his colleague got a recording contract to produce recordings under that name. “Convoy” was a huge success and helped fuel the CB radio crazy. He sold 10 million records in 2 months! Who knew!
Using the money he got from the CW McCall recordings and the movie rights starring Kris Kristofferson, he recorded the first of his Fresh Aire albums. He called his style “18th Century Classical Rock”. He and his one man band Mannheim Steamroller were not accepted by the record companies and he ended up forming his own called American Gramaphone.
He still faced an uphill battle, but through persistence and clever marketing he is now one of the 50 top selling artists of all time and the top selling Christmas artist ever. He has sold more than 40 million records! He has sold out concerts all over the world and his music company is one of the most successful independent music franchises in the world.
He introduced his first Christmas Album in 1984. At the time Christmas music was not popular, but once his“Deck the Halls” hit the Top 40 he sold 5 million copies! Last year marked the 25th anniversary of his Christmas Mannheim Steamroller tour, one of the best selling tours in the music business each year.
In keeping with the season here is a sample of one of my favorites... Silent Night. Chip Davis is well loved in our home. My intermediate and older pianists love to play his music. One of their favorites is Chocolate Fudge. Another favorite is Sara’s Band. They also love all of his Christmas music.
You can purchase his sheet music either through amazon.com or on Mannheim Steamroller's web site. When you order the music you can order it as piano solo, 4 hands, or a full orchestra. Make sure you know which one you are purchasing!
Here is an interview Chip Davis did with Kim Komando just before Thanksgiving you might enjoy.
In closing, when it comes to introducing classical music or just a love of music in general, Chip Davis and Mannheim Steamroller Christmas music is a great place to start. Here is one of my favorites. Enjoy!
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