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The man behind multiplatinum Mannheim Steamroller

Kai Ryssdal Dec 22, 2015
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The man behind multiplatinum Mannheim Steamroller

Kai Ryssdal Dec 22, 2015
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Chip Davis is a musician who has sold more than 50 million albums, and you’ve probably never heard of him before. But you have almost definitely heard his music, which is pretty much ubiquitous in and around the holiday season.

His covers of holiday classics as the founder and leader of musical group Mannheim Steamroller have become a best-selling phenomenon that take familiar songs and modernize them with rock instrumentation and symphonic composition. We checked in with him ahead of a national tour to talk about the development of the group and what he thinks are the factors that have kept Mannheim Steamroller rolling along for decades.

On why he chose the identity of Mannheim Steamroller:

You know, I had an alter ego, I was writing all the music for C.W. McCall back in the early ’70s, and we sold about 20 million of those…. During that time, I saw once it got branded and everybody knew who it was, it’s real hard to become a chameleon and change your complexion, so I went under Mannheim Steamroller instead of Chip Davis.

On how he transforms songs:

What I do is take a Christmas carol that’s known in a certain way and I’ll change what the perception is. The most radical I did was “Jingle Bells.” I did it as a big, beautiful orchestral slow ballad.

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