Chip Davis likes to create. He also likes a challenge, and he's learned over the years that he is a little dyslexic when it comes to the word no.
"I learned that no is a pretty familiar word when you are trying something new, but anytime anyone says no, I take it as a yes," he said from his 150-acre farm outside of Omaha.
It might be hard to imagine today -- now that the Mannheimer Streamroller brand is as much a part of the holiday season as eggnog -- but back in 1984, no one in the music business thought it would sell. To date, it has sold about 30 million copies, and there are two touring bands "selling out shows left and right," Davis said.
One of those bands will perform Sunday at Memorial Auditorium. Because of neck surgery, Davis himself no longer performs, but he occasionally makes surprise appearances during Mannheim shows.
"Years before, people like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope made Christmas records, but they were perceived as cheap things," Davis said. "They sold for a buck or two. I came through with this high-tech record that was priced at $18.98. (Industry) people said no way."
Fans, however, liked the music, and Davis began touring it relentlessly, playing it anywhere people would let him.
"I've done in-stores at grocery stores," he said. "I remember sitting at a meat department signing hams. I knew it was the right thing at the right time."
The Mannheim Steamroller Christmas album was not Davis' first experience with good timing. Earlier in his career, he released a novelty song called "Convoy" under the name C.W. McCall. That song became an anthem for CB enthusiasts and truckers and was a huge hit.
"People don't realize that the backup band for C.W. McCall is the backup band for Mannheim Steamroller," Davis said.
Davis recently released the "Christmas 25th Anniversary Collection," which is No. 7 this week on Billboard's Holiday Albums chart.
Davis said he believes his performing days are over. He busies himself these days traveling with a warlander horse named Stormshadow that he shows and working on a project involving music as a healing agent.
"I'm also building a waterfall in my front yard," he said.
IF YOU GO
* What: The Christmas Music of Mannheim Steamroller by Chip Davis
* When: 7 p.m. Sunday.
* Where: Memorial Auditorium, 399 McCallie Ave.
* Admission: $29-$59.
* Phone: 642-TIXS.
* Web site: www.Chattanooga OnStage.com.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Mannheim Steamroller name comes from an 18th-century musical technique. A Mannheim crescendo, pioneered by Johann Stamitz and the Mannheim Orchestra, builds intensity by adding layers of sound, color, texture, other instruments and, especially, volume. To Mannheim Steamroller originator Chip Davis, the technique was like a steamroller.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...