The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 12, 2013

Shared traditions: Mannheim Steamroller has become Christmas ubiquitous

Mannheim Steamroller has become Christmas ubiquitous

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"I heard constantly, 'I really like this. Can I buy a box of 50 for my friends?'" Davis said. "But then, they'd tell me: 'There's no place for this in retail.'"

During the next eight years, Davis released five more Fresh Aire albums on his own label, many of them ruminating on the seasons and featuring eclectic instrumentation. It wasn't until 1984 that Davis released "Mannheim Steamroller Christmas," the composition that has now been certified platinum six times.

But even then, Davis was told the idea wouldn't sell.

"When I started saying that I wanted to make a Christmas album, people kept telling me, 'Everybody will think you're career is ending,'" he said, adding that it wasn't long before the album cracked the Billboard charts and began its trek toward becoming one of the best-selling Christmas albums of all time. "I didn't have many more arguments after that."

Today, Mannheim Steamroller is a musical and entrepreneurial machine with dozens of albums to its credit and one of the industry's most robust selections of merchandise.

In addition to standard fare, fans can purchase Mannheim Steamroller candles and fragrances, Christmas decorations, cookie cutters, food seasoning and cinnamon hot chocolate. Then, when they've exhausted Mannheim's 12 separate Christmas albums, they can kick back and listen to 2007's riff on space exploration, "The Music of the Spheres," or any of the group's other equally quirky, non-holiday selections (the next of which, Davis said, will include a duet between Mannheim and a pod of whales recorded off the coast of Oregon).

"It's all so exciting," Davis said. "I never thought it would turn into this."

If You Go What Mannheim Steamroller concert When 7:30 p.m. today Where Verizon Wireless Center More info www.verizonwirelesscentermn.com

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