The first song Chip Davis wrote was about his dog Stormy.
He was six years old at the time, and the ditty was written as a four-part church hymn.
"I hand-wrote it in ink at the keyboard," Davis said in an email interview. "And my first audiences were my grandparents and parents."
That was back in the early 1950s. As he got older, he decided to study the bassoon at college, but he also plays drums, hammered dulcimer, cornamus and a crumhorn.
And though he loves to play those old instruments, his Grammy-winning music is packed with the new sounds only Mannheim Steamroller can perform.
The best part is that Tri-Citians will have the chance to celebrate the holidays with Davis and his Mannheim Steamroller instrumental group Dec. 21 in the Windermere Theatre at Toyota Center in Kennewick. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
Davis has arranged and recorded 35 albums during his career. But there's more to this multitalented musician. He has also written five children's books and created a line of food and bath products using the Mannheim Steamroller trademark.
Davis' music style has been called century classical rock, which is really a type of New Age sound.
When he put together his Mannheim Steamroller group, he couldn't get a record company to sign him, so he started his own, the American Gramaphone label in 1974. But he still had trouble catching a break.
"In the beginning, no one would book us," Davis said. "So, I borrowed $385,000 from a local bank in Omaha. I even had to rent the theaters myself. We did a five-city tour including Omaha and Kansas City, and that was the beginning of our success."
He was also a co-creator for the fictional truck driver C.W. McCall, who recorded the hit Convoy in 1975. That earned him the Country Music Awards' Best County Music Songwriter of the Year in 1976.
He has been making beautiful music ever since, selling nearly 40 million albums, which is more than Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel.
Though Davis used to perform with his ensemble of musicians, he had to give it up several years ago after a car accident that injured his neck and right arm.
"Until recently, I had overwhelming pain because of many pinched nerves," he said. "During one of the tours we did a few years ago, I played the drums, but never let the audience know how much pain I was in.
"I had surgery to fix my neck, and while I'm pain-free now, I have almost no feeling in my right arm and very little mobility. That's why I don't perform on tour anymore."
Davis prefers to perform his concerts at more intimate venues like the Windermere Theatre.
"We have two bands on the road playing to 2,500-seat theaters, and it's much more intimate and makes the audiences feel really into the show," he said.
He took the Mannheim Steamroller name from the German city Mannheim because of his love of classical music -- and that's where Mozart lived.
"When it came time to start selling my band, I had to come up with a name to market," he said. "At the time, the big rock groups had interesting names like Jefferson Airplane or Iron Butterfly. So I came up with Mannheim Steamroller."
Davis might have all the musical sophistication needed to become a renowned composer/musician, but he claims he's still a country boy at heart.
He grew up on a Ohio farm but makes his home in Omaha these days on a 140-acre farm where he lives with his wife and three children.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org