It's been more than three decades since poor Grandma met her maker at the blades of Santa's sleigh — and Grandpa's still watching TV, we're still wearing black, and most of all wondering if we should send the poor lady's presents back!
Some people love it; some hate it ... but regardless of your personal opinion, have you ever wondered where the origins of this enduring 1979 classic lie? Well, as you might imagine from the song's well-known twang, it comes directly from the world of country music.
Songwriter Randy Brooks, who came up with the one-hit wonder of Christmases past, present and future, explains that he got his inspiration from one of country's greats: Merle Haggard. But it's not exactly how you think!
Brooks was listening to Haggard's tune "Grandma's Homemade Christmas" one Yuletide season and found himself irritated with the lyrics, which suggest but do not explicitly state that the grandmother in the title of the song has passed on. Upon figuring out that Haggard's song was talking about a dead woman, Brooks decided to take action.
"I got angry and said, 'Merle, that's so unfair to do to people,'" he told Good Morning America. "If you were half the songwriter you think you are, you would admit in the first line of the song that grandma was dead and then if you could come up with three verses and a chorus you'd really have something. So that was my exercise, a parody of a Merle Haggard song."
Brooks added a bit of his own personal experience to the composition to create the eggnog-impaired victim ("My grandmother did like to drink herself happy on occasions") and began playing the song live with his friend, comedy singer Dr. Elmo Shropshire, who eventually decided to lay the track down with his wife Patsy.
Shropshire intended the song to be a fun gag gift — he even gamely dressed in drag for the single's cover — but when a friend passed the 45 on to a San Francisco DJ, things rapidly took off, with phones ringing off the hook requesting the novelty tune. It quickly became a hit on both the Top 40 and country charts, ultimately proving its surprising longevity and position as a true favorite of the Christmas season.
In a bit of funny irony, the song that Brooks termed a "parody" itself spawned its own host of parodies, ranging from modern-day country comedian Cledus T. Judd ("Grandma Got Runned Over by a John Deere") to a 2008 heavy-metal holiday album which featured Stephen Pearcy from Ratt putting his own, er, hooves to the task.