A Tear In Your Holiday Beer
:: Is There Really A Santa Claus ::
:: Christmas Love Song ::
Christmas and sad-sack country music goes together like bourbon and eggnog— it’s often sickly sweet going down, sticks with you and, if done right, packs a punch. And the king of Country Christmas Tear-Jerkers is none other than the late, great Red Sovine, who isn’t afraid to dredge up every hoary cliché to provoke a reaction. “Faith In Santa” deals with a runaway scamp and a department-store Santa. “Here It Is, Christmas” features a hard-boozing divorced dad having problems wrapping presents because he’s been “wrassling with this flat martini.” Sovine even gives us a blind girl who has her father tell her about the holiday that remains out of her reach in “What Does Christmas Look Like?”
Sovine, best known for the infamous trucker anthem “Teddy Bear,” was known as the “King Of Narrations” because he rarely sung anything— nearly all of his songs are him reciting stories with a country drawl over a simple arrangement. Born in West Virginia, Sovine, born Woodrow Wilson Sovine in 1917, got his start in local radio before moving to Shreveport, Louisiana, where he gained fame on the radio program “Louisiana Hayride.” He cut a number of singles shortly thereafter, but remained under the radar until he teamed up with country great Webb Pierce on a cover of George Jones’ “Why Baby Why” in 1955. He joined the Grand Ole Opry, but it wasn’t until he helped launch the career of Charley Pride in the early ‘60’s that his own career took off, with “Giddy-Up Go,” the first of his many trucker songs, which included “Phantom 309,” “Little Joe,” “Truck-Driving Son-Of-A-Gun” and “Teddy Bear,” which hit number one on the country charts in 1976. Sovine kept crankin’ out the trucker songs until his death in 1980, when he had a massive heart attack while behind the wheel of a van (not an eighteen-wheeler).
While “Christmas Love Song” is atypical for Red Sovine in that he actually sings (and is more heartfelt than manipulative), “Is There Really A Santa Claus” is classic Sovine. It’s bad enough that the kids in the song are left motherless on Christmas Eve or that their father is despondent enough (according to Red, he’s “couldn’t find the will to try”) to tell the little boy and girl that they’re full of “nonsense” for hoping Santa brings them a fire truck, a blonde-haired dolly and “stockings filled with apples and such” on Christmas morn. But Sovine takes it one full step further by having their father, who realizes that he’s been a heel, get struck by a car and killed as he runs to the store. The kids are orphaned, but when they wake up the next morning, thoughts of an adolescence doomed to be spent in foster homes and workhouses don’t seem to matter— their presents are under the tree! “Doesn’t this make you wonder: is there REALLY a Santa Claus?” Red asks earnestly. Christmas never seemed so bleak.