You can’t believe a word that people say,
And I woke up still not dead again today.

Willie Nelson, 2017 single

Merry Christmas to Willie. And Merry Christmas to me. I woke up still not dead again today.

Instead of talking about state or federal bureaucrats this week, let us rejoice in the Christmas season and the wonderful music that reminds us of the arrival of the holiday season and the birth of Baby Jesus.

To be honest, this year’s Christmas season has caught me by surprise. It seems like the Festival of the Bells was no more than a month or two ago, and the Highland County Fair was just last week. How did it get to be December so soon?

Time and tide wait for no man, of course.

I first realized that the Christmas season was upon us when I drove my wife’s car home from some repair work last week. I typically drive an old van for newspaper deliveries or an even older Chevy Silverado pickup. Neither has a computer screen where the radio ought to be.

Pam’s car does. I know how to turn the radio on and off, but I’m not much good at touching the screen in order to change stations. As luck would have it, after getting her car from West Main Auto and heading home, the radio station was tuned to one of those 24/7 Christmas music stations. It
was playing an annoying carol by Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Not wanting to cause an accident by way of distracted driving, I turned the radio off and continued south.

I shared this anecdote with a good friend on Sunday morning. That’s when we started talking about some of the more ridiculous songs played during the Christmas season.

My friend was particularly offended by Burl Ives’ rendition of “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

I agree. Frankly, Burl Ives probably should have retired after his Academy Award-winning role in “The Big Country” with Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston. That was a signature career moment. Holly Jolly was not.

When I mentioned the Chipmunks’ song, my friend said he’d like to set a few mousetraps for Alvin, Simon and Theodore. I’d set one for Dave, too. Ready, Dave?

Now, before I ramble on too far and forget, let me explain this lead-in from Willie Nelson: You can’t believe a word that people say, And I woke up still not dead again today.

As a longtime Willie Nelson fan, I was surprised when I heard this song for the first time while on the road again (really) Saturday morning, Dec. 2. As usual, I was listening to Chubby Howard and Wyatt McCubbin on 1090 AM, when Wyatt played Willie’s new song. I thought it was an immediate classic
for the Red-Headed Stranger.

Years ago, Willie had a song that I don’t think was intended to be played at Christmas time. But for years, it has been. It’s called “Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning.”

The last thing I needed the first thing this morning
Was to have you walk out on me
Last night you came home late and I knew you’d been drinkin’
By that old mellow look on your face
But I thought it don’t matter cause it’s holiday season
And you fill such a big empty space.


Willie has more uplifting music, to be sure. But many of his songs reflect what the poor and downtrodden often feel, especially during the holidays. To be sure, his songs speak more to them than to any well-heeled politician.

As my workday conversation about the best and worst of Christmas songs spilled over to the evening dinner table, here are a few of what I consider the five or six least enjoyable songs associated with Christmas.

• “Santa Baby.” That’s just wrong, even by Madonna’s standards.

• “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” All right then. See you at the ER.

• “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Gayla Peevey probably was cute the first time she sang this annoying song.

• “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Elvis had bigger hits that this one, singing about his big black Cadillac. (Got no sleigh with reindeer, no sack on my back, You’re gonna see me comin’ in a big black Cadillac.)

• “Santa Claus is Coming to Town, II.” Bruce Springsteen’s version was equally intolerable.

• “Please, Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk on Christmas).” John Denver should have stuck with singing about Annie or being on a Rocky Mountain High. Some of these songs are enough to drive one to a little Christmas cheer.

To be fair, there are many wonderful Christmas classics as well.

My personal favorites include: “Silent Night” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles) as 1 and 1A entries (in horse track parlance).

Other favorites are: “White Christmas,” “Joy To The World” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas from the Family” is not for the faint-hearted, but it does speak to those among us who think their families may be somewhat dysfunctional on occasion. Guess what? No one’s family is any more or less dysfunctional than anyone else’s.

“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is one of those songs that often hits home due to all the times my work (and Pam’s) have interfered with our family Christmas. We always make do, though, even during the Christmas Ice Storm of 2004. We’ll always remember how that one played out.

Perhaps Willie Nelson’s most popular Christmas song was the one he wrote about Frankie Brierton, a disabled street vendor who sold “pretty paper, pretty ribbons” for pennies while crawling along a downtown Fort Worth, Texas sidewalk.

We’ll let Willie close this one out:

Crowded street, busy feet, hustle by him,
Downtown shoppers, Christmas is nigh,
There he sits all alone on the sidewalk,
Hoping that you won't pass him by.
Should you stop? Better not, much too busy.
You're in a hurry, my how time does fly.
In the distance the ringing of laughter,
And in the midst of the laughter, he cries.


Merry Christmas, and feel comfortable in playing whatever songs fit your pistol. Meanwhile, squirrels are in season until Jan. 31. ALVINNNN!

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.