Before Taylor Swift was inspired to rerecord her master catalog, there was Elmo Shropshire — better known as Dr. Elmo, the man who sang “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.”
The Christmas song hitmaker chatted with Billboard about the similarities between him and Taylor. He recorded his holiday staple with ex-wife Patsy Trigg under the name Elmo and Patsy in 1979, but he signed a distribution deal years later that gave Sony’s Epic Records ownership of the master recording.
Shropshire admits, “It was a pretty onerous contract … They owned everything.”
Unhappy with the deal, he jumped back into the studio to record his own version. “We used all the same personnel. Even I can’t tell the difference,” he said, adding he went on an aggressive campaign to have radio stations and other media use his offering instead of Sony’s.
“Sometimes we’d have to talk ’em out of [using the Sony version]. They’d say, ‘Who’s Dr. Elmo?’ We’d get them to listen to it and they couldn’t tell the difference. And we’d say, ‘We can give you a better deal,'” Shropshire continued.
His persistence paid off, and it’s estimated he’s added over $7 million to his coffers since rerecording the song.
Shropshire, who is 86, knows this story is repeating itself in real time with Taylor. He explained why rerecording songs is the smartest move.
“Let’s say somebody wants to use the song in a movie. It’s a one-time payoff,” he explained. “… If they use the Sony version, Sony just gives me a pittance. But if they use my version, I get the whole $25,000. This is the same with Taylor Swift.”
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