ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Summer Shyvonne, left, is shown with "Tennessee Santa Claus" composer Mac Pendley, his wife, Betty, and Craig Driver at Breaker 17 studio in Fort Oglethorpe. (Facebook photo)

This story was updated Dec. 24, 2018, at 1 p.m.

Watch video on Youtube »

More Info

Hear the song online at: https://youtu.be/Ubk8fD2Y4M0

More Info

“Tennessee Santa Claus”

You all know Santa Claus fromt eh North Pole

Well I’ve got a Santa that’s not so cold

If you want to meet someone real sweet

Meet my Tennessee Santa Claus

He doesn’t have a beard or wear a red suit

He doesn’t even have a sleigh

He wears cowboy boots and some worn out jeans

And his truck is painted primer grey

He’s a Christmas dream and when he kisses me

Our love lights up the town

He’s a country boy

The one I adore

He brings me lots of lovin and it’s all year round

So when Christmas time rolls around at last

What do you think will make my heart beat fast

It’s mistletoe that’s where I’ll go

With my Tennessee Santa Claus

Repeat chorus

Mac Pendley knew almost right away that the phrase "Tennessee Santa Claus" would make a great song title. But he didn't know it would take 64 years to get it recorded.

Pendley, 82, who lives in East Ridge with his wife, Betty, has written two songs in his life. And now, thanks to Summer Shyvonne and Craig Driver, he can lay claim to having one of them recorded by a professional musician.

How "Tennessee Santa Claus" got recorded sounds like the makings of decent Hallmark movie.

"In 1954, I was a senior in high school [in Miami, Florida]," said Pendley, who was born and has lived in Chattanooga most of his life, but who spent of his junior year in Texas and all of his senior year of high school in Miami.

"I could take either senior English or radio speech that year, so I took radio. It was a split class and we did a radio show every other week," he said.

Just before Christmas, the teacher, Freddie Fisher, announced that the classes would be doing "A Miracle on 34th Street" and asked for volunteers to try out for the Santa role. Pendley raised his hand and announced in his Tennessee drawl that he was interested.

"You want to be a Tennessee Santa Claus?" Fisher said, according to Pendley.

"I didn't get the part, but after class he called me aside and said, 'That would be a good title for a Christmas song.'"

Pendley set about writing some lyrics and felt good about it, but he couldn't draw any interest, so they were put into a drawer. He didn't forget about it, however.

"About 30 years ago, I tried to get it recorded and hired a demo group to record it, but it didn't pan out."

After his wife of 54 years died almost nine years ago, he remarried a little over a year later.

"She is more of a music fan than I am, and she encouraged me to do something," he said.

He wrote a letter to country singer Lauren Alaina from nearby Lakeview in North Georgia, thinking the connection might interest her, but he never heard back, so the lyrics were returned to a drawer.

Then about seven weeks ago, he attended an event where Shyvonne was singing and he approached her. She happened to be deep into recording her newest CD, "The Better it Gets." Driver, who co-produced the record, happened to be at the meeting with Pendley, as well.

"We were almost finished and were not looking for any new songs, especially not a Christmas song," Driver said.

Like a lot of performers, Shyvonne is often approached by people pitching her songs, but she asked Pendley to sing the song for her.

"I said, 'OK,' but it has to be a woman singing it," Pendley said he told her at the time.

Shyvonne said the title alone made her interested.

"I have a lot of people who ask me to sing their songs and I can usually tell in a few seconds if it's worth my time," Shyvonne said.

"When he said the title, I figured at the very least we could turn that into something, but we just knew we wanted to do it right away."

Driver said the magic of the song was immediately obvious.

"I get chills thinking about it even now," Driver said. "I got chills all the way up my spine."

The song was in lyric form only, so Driver and Shyvonne set about arranging the song with the help of a few members of Travis Tritt's club band including Wendell Cox on guitar; Jimmy Fulbright on bass and keyboards; Brian Arrowood on fiddle; and Nashville and Chattanooga sessions players Scotty Sanders on steel guitar; and Michael Dillard on drums, respectively. They recorded it at Breaker 17 studio in Fort Oglethorpe and then well-known Nashville-based artist John Willis mixed it and added some guitar.

For fans of old-timey country, it has a Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys Western swing bounce to it, which Shyvonne said fits the time when it was written. The track was quietly put on YouTube on Thurday night and had 100 listens within an hour with no publicity.

For Pendley, hearing the song in completed form was an emotional experience.

"It put a few tears in my eyes," he said. "I'm an emotional guy and it made me feel good for somebody to say, 'Yeah, Let's do it.' And, I think they like the song."

And, about that movie idea mentioned above, there is already talk of a movie, and maybe a cartoon, but it's way too early for that. After all, getting it into a song only took 64 years.

"This thing has been crazy," Driver said. "It's above us."

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

This story was updated to correctly identify the musicians who played on the recording and to correct the spelling of Mac Pendley's name. The information given to the Times Free Press was incorrect. We apologize for the errors.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT