Sunday, December 21, 2014


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Sunday, December 21, 2014 
KSFR, Santa Fe, N.M. 
10 p.m. to midnight Sundays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrell(at)

Here's the playlist below

Check out some of my recently archived radio shows at Radio Free America
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Friday, December 19, 2014


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Friday, December 19, 2014 
KSFR, Santa Fe, NM 
10 p.m. to midnight Fridays Mountain Time 
Host: Steve Terrell 
101.1 FM
email me during the show! terrel(at)

Here's my playlist below:

Check out some of my recently archived radio shows at Radio Free America
Like the Santa Fe Opry Facebook page 

Subscribe to The Big Enchilada Podcast! CLICK HERE
Steve Terrell is proud to report to the monthly Freeform American Roots Radio list

Thursday, December 18, 2014

TERRELL'S TUNE-UP: Top 10 Country Christmas Songs

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
December 19, 2014

Trucks, trains, prison, Mama. And Christmas. These are some of the things that make a great country song. Indeed, some of my favorite Christmas songs happen to be by country or alternative country (whatever that is) artists. Country singers have loved singing about the holiday season for longer than I’ve been around. Some folks don’t realize that “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” started out as a hillbilly tune, written and first performed by a singing cowboy named Gene Autry.

Here is a list of my personal top 10 country Christmas songs, in no particular order. (Warning: As noted above, some are probably considered “alternative.”) Though none are as famous as “Rudolph,” in my book, they deserve to be.

1. “Old Toy Trains” by Roger Miller. The multi- talented musician wrote this back in the late 1960s for his son Dean, a toddler at the time, and it became a holiday hit. When it first came out, I was too old to believe in Santa Claus. But it made me wish I wasn’t. While Miller is known for his clever, hillbilly hepcat lyrics, “Old Toy Trains” was a rare public glimpse into his sweet side.

2. “Lonely Christmas Call” by George Jones. There is something about Christmas that makes happiness happier and misery more miserable. George Jones, who had perhaps the most soulful voice in country, nailed the misery in this holiday heartacher. It’s about a guy whose wife abandoned him and their children on (you guessed it) Christmas Day. “The kids are lonely here without you/Even wrote ol’ Santa about you,” Jones laments. “If you could see their little faces/As round the tree they take their places.”

3. “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy” by Buck Owens. This one’s not that deep. Just good holiday fun. Buck and the Buckaroos were at the peak of their power about this time, and this new take on “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” made the season even jollier. Here's a version with Susan Raye.

4. “Santa Can’t Stay” by Dwight Yoakam. A darker version of “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy”: On one level, it’s hilarious. A drunken father dons a Santa suit and barges in on Mama and her new beau, Ray, as the shocked and mystified children look on. But any divorced guy who can remember his first Christmas after the split-up can’t help but feel pangs of horror listening to it. “Mama said Santa can’t stay/Said he might just beat the crap out of Ray.”

5. “If We Make It Through December” by Merle Haggard. Written during a recession in the early ’70s, this song helped cement Merle Haggard’s reputation as a workingman’s troubadour. It’s the story of a guy who got laid off from his factory job right before Christmas. “Now I don’t mean to hate December, it’s meant to be the happy time of year/And my little girl don’t understand why Daddy can’t afford no Christmas here.” His situation, of course, doesn’t get resolved by the end of the song. But there’s hope that the family will be “in a warmer town come summertime.”

6. “Nothing But a Child” by Steve Earle. The late-1980s duet with Maria McKee of Lone Justice starts out by telling the story of the three wise men following the star to the manger in Bethlehem: “They scarce believed their eyes, they’d come so many miles/And the miracle they prized was nothing but a child.” But this isn’t really a song about the baby Jesus. It’s about the miracle of all babies. “Now all around the world, in every Iittle town/Every day is heard a precious little sound/And every mother kind and every father proud/Looks down in awe to find another chance allowed.”

7. “No Vacancy” by Marlee McLeod. One of my favorite tunes by the Alabama-born songwriter (who retired from the music biz way too early) tells the story of someone, a truck driver perhaps, who drives for a living. “Is that the star of Bethlehem?/No, that’s the Holiday Inn/Is that the light from a stable I see?/No, it’s a sign that says `No Vacancy.’ ” The guitar break is based on “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

8. “Six Bullets for Christmas” by Angry Johnny and the Killbillies. Even murderous cretins love Christmas, and from the deepest backwoods of Massachusetts comes Angry Johnny, with this twisted holiday tale. Angry knows all those things that make Christmas the most wonderful time of the year: Santa Claus, drinking, snow, depression, gunplay, jingle bells, and homicide. In other words, all the elements of a good Angry Johnny song — plus all the Christmas trimmings. “Six Bullets” is on Angry Johnny’s 2010 Christmas album, Bang Bang Baby Bang Bang Merry Christmas, which is full of similar Yuletide musical mayhem.

9. “Merry Christmas From the Family” by Robert Earl Keen. This song, from Robert Earl Keen’s 1994 album, Gringo Honeymoon, deals with a lovable, if severely dysfunctional, Texas family that sits down for a hilarious holiday feast. There’s the brother with various kids from various marriages and a new wife who’s a 12-step zealot; the sister who brings a new boyfriend, whose ethnicity provokes suspicion (until he sings “Feliz Navidad,” which apparently redeems him in the eyes of the family); and Fred and Rita from Harlingen (“I don’t remember how I’m kin to them”). Keen actually wrote a sequel to this called “Happy Holidays, Ya’ll.” He shouldn’t have. The original never will be matched.

10. “Blue Christmas Lights” by Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen. Buck Owens co-wrote this sad Yuletide honky-tonk weeper with Red Simpson back in the 1960s. But I actually like this version, from the mid-1990s, better. Chris Hillman, a former Byrd and Flying Burrito Brother, and Herb Pedersen make it haunting with their harmonies. As far as I can determine, this song was solely released by Sugar Hill Records, on a mostly unremarkable Christmas compilation called Tinsel Tunes. (The only other track worth noting is a live version of Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas From the Family.”)

Enchiladas roasting on an open fire: More music to ruin any Christmas party! Hear my podcast special at

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Getting Ready For Christmas with Rev. J.M. Gates

For today's Throwback Thursday, let's enjoy a little Christmas cheer with the Rev. J.M. Gates, a preacher from Atlanta. Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Rock Dale Park was his church.

Gates recorded a number of short sermons between 1926 (when he was 42 years old) and 1941, the year he died. He cut more than 200 sides for a variety of labels.

As is typical with many old time African American preachers of his time, Gates' sermons usually start out as spoken, but gradually shift to singing. With call-and-response action from members of his congregation, Gates' best tracks are musical as well as rhythmic.

According to Bil Carpenter in his book Uncloudy Days: The Gospel Music Encyclopedia , Gates was responsible for introducing the gospel music of Thomas Dorsey to the black church market. Gates' first record was his biggest hit. That was one called "Death's Black Train." Carpenter said it sold more than 35,000 copies.

Gates' Christmas records are just as light-hearted and cheerful in tone. "We celebrate Christmas wrong, by the way I look at this matter," he declared in one of these records. Indeed, Gateswas a true hell-fire evangelist. His passion was unrestrained. He really did not want you to go to Hell.

For the first jolly bit of Christmas spirit, here's a message titled "Death May Be Your Santa Claus."

Here's one for "you midnight walkers," "you liquor drinkers," "you bootleggers" and "you slick-fingered gamblers" called "Did You Spend Christmas Day in Jail"

And this one is simply titled "Getting Ready For Christmas Day." Are you getting ready? Well, according to Rev. Gates, the undertaker, the jailer and the police force are getting ready for YOU!

Apparently Paul Simon is a fan of Rev. Gates and the above song. He sampled it -- and borrowed the title for this 2010 song. Simon talks about the song HERE.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

WACKY WEDNESDAY: A Musical Battle Royal

Last week's Wacky Wednesday, where I toasted Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, whose hilarious repertoir incudes several tunes dealing with pro wrestling, got me thinking about other odes to the grunt-and-groan biz.

So this week I present several of my favorites about wrestlers and, in many cases, by wrestlers.

Let's just call it a loser-leave-town musical battle royal. Watch out for flying chairs!

Let's start with one of my favorite rasslers, the late Sputnik Monroe, who I saw wrestle many times at Stockyards Coliseum in Oklahoma City in the early '60s when I was but a lad. Sputnik was the Heavenly Body from Outer Space, The Body Men Fear and Women Love. In 1959  released one of the first, maybe the very first record by a professional wrestler, "Sputnik Hires a Band." WKNO, a Memphis NPR station, did a story on the song a few years ago, 

Unfortunately there's no Youtube of his lone single, "Sputnik Hire a Band." But thanks to a blog called Gemini Spacecraft, there is embed-able audio of the record. Play it below:

Here's a 1960s garage-rock classic, "The Crusher" by The Novas. (As the intro explains, this is not Johnny Cash.)

Tampa rocker Ronny Elliot does this heartfelt tribute to one of the titans of the field, Gorgeous George,

I apologize for the awful visual quality of this next one, and come to think of it, the audio ain't great either. But I love seeing a young NRBQ performing with their "manager," the great Capt. Lou Albano.

Thanks to Dr. Demento, this tune by Fred Blassie probably is the most famous wrestling song of all. Sell it to the circus, what the heck?

Former Main Event magazine editor Mike Edison shares his thoughts on the sport.

Here's perhaps the worst wrestling song ever recorded.

And, yes, I'll let Rev. Billy C. have the last word.