"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is a Christmas song written by Randy Brooks in 1976. It was first recorded in 1979 as a duo by Elmo Shropshire and Patsy Trigg, a married couple, and later re-recorded by Elmo as a solo after their divorce. As you might guess from the title, the song is not your traditional Christmas song about spreading peace or holiday fun or anything like that; it's a joke song about how Santa is unfit to fly a sleigh and should have his licence revoked.
The inspiration for this song came from Merle Haggard's "Grandma's Homemade Christmas Card." I wrongly guessed that the third verse would reveal that Grandma's card failed to arrive one year, and thus the family would learn of her death. The thought occurred to me that country music could do us all a favor by admitting in the first line when a beloved figure has passed away ... and then if you can still come up with three verses and a chorus, you'd really have something. And so I did. —Randy Brooks
After a chance meeting with Brooks at Lake Tahoe, Elmo recorded the original copy of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" on a cassette in his hotel room. After pressing 45s to distribute at his shows, the song eventually made its way to San Francisco and was put on the air by Gene Nelson. From there, the song simply wouldn't stop selling, and eventually won Brooks an award for Country Songwriter of the Year from SESAC in 1983.
While this novelty song has endured over the years and sold thousands of singles, it's not without its detractors. In fact, surveys conducted by Edison Media Research and Pinnacle Media Worldwide show that the song registers as being one of people's most hated songs almost as much as one of their most loved, with very little middle ground. Apparently, it's a polarizing tune. It's cute and fun, a quick joke song to lighten up the heavier Christmas classics, but it's also undeniably kitschy and the joke can get old for some.
Regardless, Elmo's royalties from "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" have only gotten bigger and bigger over the years, as the song gets included in new collections of Christmas songs and singing Christmas toys on a regular basis. It even had a made-for-TV movie produced by SFM Entertainment, which airs on Cartoon Network every year. Love it or hate it, this song is just like that one uncle everyone has: he's going to keep telling the same joke every single year and by golly you'll just have to live with it.