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4 R ANCESTORS LIVE SHAKORI HILLS GRASSROOTS FEST

NAMA HALL OF FAME

SAY YOUR NAME

CHRISTMAS TIME

I was with my kola (friend), Elwin Braveheart from Kyle, SD. We were throwing rocks into the night. One of the rocks I threw kissed some barbed wire on its downward flight. It flashed brilliantly in the distant darkness. It was magic on an enchanting evening. It took me years to understand that songs can travel on a flash of light. 

It was Christmas, Christmas morning, it was early in the morning, it was below freezing, here comes the Santa Claus, Ho, ho, ho, ho, hey, heyda. 

I heard this song in Laguna, NM in 1983. Todd Jiron sang it on a hand drum— an ancient beat with a contemporary figure. It was the kind of song that needed to be shared with children.

Christmas Time has two parts, one slow and one fast. I wrote the music on the piano in the key of the C (the people’s key). It is one of the best instruments to have. It teaches pitch to singers, passing chords to musicians, melody to songwriters, and harmony to choirboys. I play it like I do guitar. The piano has been a major inspiration for me. I have written a number of songs on it, including those from the Rock Opera, Seeds. 

Christmas Time needed some chords, a storyline and a melody. I filled the lyrics with as many metaphors that bring about positive thoughts as possible. The symbol of Santa Claus is the spirit of Love, a dream of angels, peace on Earth, being good all year long, singing in a church mouse’s choir band. 

We recorded Christmas Time in two evenings at recording engineer Christian Leefeldt’s studio in Tempe, AZ. Our former drummer lived in the space before and we had been practicing there for years, so we were very comfortable. 

The night before, we practiced the song with a slow tempo all the way through, but the next day, I heard something different and suggested we speed up the second part. It took a couple hours of trying to communicate my wishes with the drummer. You can hear us disagreeing on the outtakes. It’s hilarious. “Well, tell me what you want me to play Paul, or I won’t play at all,” kind of thing. We eventually did get it together. We tracked the instruments, bass and drum the first night. 

On the next evening we recorded the vocals for Christmas Time. You can hear two fantastic female vocalists on it. Martha Redbone, an accomplished studio vocalist and live performer from Brooklyn, NY, who just happened to be in AZ. Martha and her husband Aaron came down from Sedona to Tempe for the recording. Aaron laid down a track, as well. He’s a jazz pianist. Happy Frejo is the other female vocalist. She was living in Arizona at the time.

Even though the song has Native crossroads influences, the sound of the band is all Tempe, AZ. Jangly guitars, melancholy melodies, and tight rhythms are trademarks of the bands that came out of the Mill Ave (Tempe) scene in the 90’s. 

Tempe is a college town and one popular band to come from it was the Gin Blossoms. Doug Hopkins was a songwriter in the band and he was a friend of mine. Sadly, he committed suicide. One time he jumped a train in Tempe and couldn’t jump off until Tucson, one hundred miles later. He got off right next to the Congress Hotel and Bar, a haunted site, but that’s another story. 

I remember sharing songs with him and others after hours at the Hollywood Alley. One good thing about some of the music spots in Tempe is that they only want original music. You couldn’t get a gig playing just covers. When a town supports songwriters like that, it creates a more artistic local music scene and that is what was happening, we were writing our own songs. Jason Kay (drums), Charles Bond (Guitar/vocals) and Jimmy Vickers (Bass) are all Arizona musicians on the track.

When we finished recording Christmas Time, I took a break from the studio to catch some air. I remembered the song in its original form. I liked how the two came together to create a new song. Transformation took place and alchemy ran its course. The muse works in mysterious ways. When spirits enter a room they sing, Ho, ho, ho, ho, hey, heyda. Now I understand the flash of light. 

To all the Children of the Earth, 
Merry Christmas!
We Love You!