A visionary musician and businessman, Chip Davis is behind a remarkable body of work now spanning five decades. Since founding Mannheim Steamroller and American Gramaphone Records in 1974, Davis has written, arranged, and recorded over 35 albums, highlighted by the RIAA multi-platinum certified Mannheim Steamroller catalog. The best-selling Christmas music artist in history, Davis has achieved worldwide sales in excess of 40 million, with four multi-platinum, eight platinum, and 19 gold certifications in the US alone. Furthermore, Davis is the entrepreneur behind Mannheim Steamroller lifestyle product line, amateur astronomer, and dedicated philanthropist.
American Gramaphone recently commemorated its impact on popular culture with MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER 30/40, a multi-media celebration of Davis’ milestone works: 1974’s FRESH AIRE and 1984’s MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER CHRISTMAS. In addition, MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER 30/40 LIVE had its Public Broadcasting debut in May 2015 and fast joined the ranks of PBS’ most popular new special programming. PBS stations throughout the country have continued to renew the special every year.
2019 marked the 35th Anniversary of the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Tour, making it the longest running consecutive tour in the music industry. The hugely successful tour now requires two traveling troupes, performing concerts in an average 90 cities annually. A third troupe highlights the holiday season at Universal Orlando Resort.
The man behind Mannheim was born Louis F. Davis, Jr. in the archetypal small town of Hamler, Ohio (Pop. 500), the son of a family to whom music and “a sensitivity to nature” were integral. He graduated the University of Michigan in 1969 with mastery in bassoon and percussion before taking on a job at the Omaha, NE ad agency, Bozell & Jacobs. In 1974, Davis and fellow ad exec Bill Fries teamed up to create a fictional truck driver named “C.W. McCall” for a series of Clio Award-winning commercials. A string of hit albums and top 40 singles followed, including of course by the RIAA gold certified #1 classic, “Convoy.” The single brought Davis many accolades including SESAC Coiuntry Music Songwriter of the Year.
The success of C.W. McCall allowed Davis to focus on his own original music. He dubbed his new band Mannheim Steamroller – a play on the 18th-century musical technique known as the “Mannheim crescendo” – and in 1975 recorded FRESH AIRE, a landmark work melding elements of classical, rock, and pop into something altogether unique. Foiled by the industry’s inability to put a label on the album, Davis decided to distribute and sell FRESH AIRE on his own – American Gramaphone Records was born.
Davis employed innovative marketing techniques to spread his “18th Century Classical Rock” and FRESH AIRE eventually found its way onto record store shelves everywhere, fitted with the newly created classification “New Age.” Each consecutive installment in the FRESH AIRE series saw Mannheim Steamroller pushing their inimitable synthesis forward, earning multi-million album sales, countless fans, and, with FRESH AIRE 7, the 1991 GRAMMY® Award for “Best New Age Album.”
In 1984, Davis had the idea to reinvigorate traditional carols and Yuletide staples via Mannheim Steamroller’s always-eclectic sonic approach. MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER CHRISTMAS proved a phenomenon, the band’s first to reach the Billboard 200 album chart on its way to 6x RIAA platinum certification. A FRESH AIRE CHRISTMAS followed in 1988, achieving 6x platinum certification and ultimately surpassing its monumentally successful predecessor to be declared the sixth best-selling holiday album of the SoundScan era.