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When I called this album Mr. Snowman, I meant it," says a grinning John Michael Montgomery, whose life-long passion for the holiday season now radiates from a new Christmas CD.
"I love the wintertime and all the elements it brings with it. As a kid growing up, every evening during the winter, I went to bed hoping there would be snow on the ground the next morning when I woke up. Christmas with snow and family - it's my favorite time of year."
Of course, it wouldn't be Christmas for John Michael without the music he came to love as a child. "At Christmas we listen to some of the old standards," he explains. "I always loved Frank Sinatra's 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' and 'White Christmas' by Bing Crosby. Those were two songs that I knew, if I ever had a Christmas album, would be on it."
And they are, along with "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Winter Wonderland," "O Holy Night," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "December 1943," a touching song about soldiers who lay aside their weapons in the middle of WWII to celebrate Christmas together.
But for John Michael, the most special song on the album is one he wrote himself.
" 'O Holy Night' was the only really spiritual song I had on here," he says, "and my wife, Crystal, said, 'You know, it's a Christmas album. You ought to have more than one.' And I thought, 'What am I gonna do?' "
But last year in the wee hours of his late father's birthday, Dec. 6, John Michael got his answer. "I was thinking about him, and I just couldn't sleep," he recalls. "And I thought, 'If I was gonna be facin' the Man Upstairs tomorrow, what would I say?'
"You know, I don't go to church every Sunday - so if I ever face Him, I've got a lot of talkin' to do! I try to make up for that by being a good person and good to people. So I wrote this little prayer kind of thing called 'A Daddy's Prayer' about what I would say to Him."
At the end of the song, children's voices sing a sweet rendition of "Jesus Loves Me," and proud papa John Michael is quick to say that daughter Madison and son Walker are the kids behind those voices.
"They were excited about gettin' in there and singin'," he says with a smile. "But I didn't know how well it was gonna turn out. My daughter knocked it out real quick. And my son was only three at the time, so it took him a few more times to get the part down. There's no editing or anything there. It's just them, how they sang it. It's just as pure as it can get."
So now John Michael's kids have become a part of the legacy of Christmas standards he intended to leave for them.
"I'm hoping that in generations to come," he notes, "my great-great-great-grandkids will be able to pull out that album, and it'll be a standard in their home, too."
-- David Scarlett