Nearly 3 decades after gaining the rights, Dr. Elmo is still cashing in with the quirky Christmas tune 'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer'

  • Dr. Elmo (Shropshire) plays his banjo as deers make their way up to his Novato ranch, Thursday December 14, 2006. Dr. Elmo popularized the song "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer back in 1979. (The Press Democrat) / Crista Jeremiason) 12/14/06

Talk about a one-hit wonder.

"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," the quirky Christmas standby that surfaces each holiday season, is still going strong 27 years and 10 million copies after it was released.

The song about the grandma who drank too much eggnog and succumbed to the hooves of Santa's animal seems permanently entrenched in the holiday season, thanks to former Windsor resident Elmo Shropshire, who now lives in Novato.

Dr. Elmo, as he's known from his former career as a veterinarian, is the singer whose hillbilly twang made the song a Christmas classic, vaulting it simultaneously onto lists of all-time favorite and all-time worst Christmas songs.

It's been turned into a cartoon-animated Christmas movie and is one of the most downloaded cell-phone ring tones of the holiday season. And it plays inside plush toys -- including a reindeer on a Harley, or in a rocking chair -- more than 2 million of which have been sold over the past five years.

Not bad for a guy who first recorded the song as a gag gift for friends and considered music more of a pastime than a career.

"I thought I would never make a dime in the music business and expected to just do it as a hobby," Shropshire said this week from his Novato home.

The song made him "a millionaire five times over," according to a 2005 article in Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, something the ebullient Shropshire does not dispute.

He feels like he won the music lottery with the right song and the right voice. "The royalties from all these directions are enough that I can live comfortably in Marin County," he said.

The playing of the song around Christmas time persists. It's been featured on countless TV shows, including Saturday Night Live, and on movie soundtracks from "Jarhead" in 2005, to the current "Deck the Halls" with Danny DeVito.

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