After several years away from Dodge City, the charming neoclassical concert and light spectacle returns for one night only on Thursday, December 8th at the United Wireless Arena. For those unfamiliar with the groups fame, we have put together some information supplied by founder, Chip Davis.
Q: How did Mannheim Steamroller get its start?
A: Back in the 1970s, the multi-instrumentalist Davis produced a nontraditional album of rock-infused classical music that he recorded with just two fellow musicians and several synthesizers. No major record label would distribute the album, so Davis started his own label, American Gramaphone. In 1974, he released the album, “Fresh Aire,” under the pseudonym Mannheim Steamroller. Since then Davis has sold 41 million records. Of the band’s unique music style, Davis says: “I wanted to explore new ways of expressing music and created a sound I call ‘18th century classic rock.’ I don’t believe in all acoustic or all electronic, all digital or all analog. My style is where they all meet.”
Q: How did Mannheim Steamroller get its name?
A: “When it was time to start selling my band, I had to come up with a name to market,” Davis said. “At the time the big rock groups had interesting names like Jefferson Airplane or Iron Butterfly. So I came up with the name Mannheim Steamroller. It comes from Mannheim, Germany. That’s where Mozart and composer-music theorist Joseph Stamitz both lived. Stamitz came up with the idea of the crescendo: music building and getting louder in order to excite the audience. The 18th-Century musical phrase ‘Mannheim Valse’ literally meant, ‘roller,’ and people used to joke that the loud music would roll over the crowd and flatten them.”
Q: When did the Christmas music enter the picture?
A: In 1984, the band’s fame exploded with the release of the first “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas” album, featuring contemporary twists on holiday classics. Davis is one of the top-selling Christmas music artists in history. For its tours, the six-piece Mannheim Steamroller band travels with a 20-piece live orchestra and a high-wattage light and projections show.
Q: What else is Davis known for?
A: Davis created the fictional truck driver “C.B. McCall” for the song “Convoy” during the 1970s CB radio craze. He patented the Ambient Therapy music and audio system that’s used at the Mayo Clinic as well as at the National Intrepid Center for military veterans with brain injuries. He created Mannheim Steamroller-brand children’s books, food items, housewares and clothing. And he was invited by NASA to audio-record two Space Shuttle launches at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Excerpts from those recordings are on Mannheim Steamroller’s 2013 space-themed album “Music of the Spheres.”
Q: What can audiences expect at the show they won’t hear on a record?
A: “On a CD, you cannot see the band playing live with a 20-piece orchestra,” Davis said. “Additionally, the repertoire they perform is not on one single CD. It is a compilation of Christmas classics, so a completely fresh experience. And by the way — speaking of fresh — the concert has some selected tracks of Fresh Aire music which are not on any of our Christmas CDs.”