The band's popularity was helped along through the tremendous support of big time radio personalities like conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh played Mannheim's early Christmas music on his radio show and helped introduce the band to a national audience.
Mannheim Steamroller takes a unique approach to Christmas music. They will perform classic Christmas songs using synthesizers and other electronic instruments or they will perform traditional carols using instruments from the period in which the song was composed.
Mannheim Steamroller was formed in 1974 by Chip Davis and keyboard virtuoso Jackson Berkey. Before making it big with Mannheim Steamroller, Davis was primarily known for writing C.W. McCall's 1975 hit, "Convoy." The duo's first album featured classical music scored for an electric bass and synthesizers. Since no one would release such an unusual collection Davis started his own record label, American Gramaphone.
Mannheim Steamroller's first album was released in 1975. It was called Fresh Aire. There would eventually be eight albums in the Fresh Aire series. The first four were about the four seasons, the fifth was subtitled "To the Moon," the sixth was about Greek mythology, the seventh was based on the number seven, and eighth explored the concept of infinity. The first seven albums of the series have been certified Gold. The music of Fresh Aire is a blend of baroque classical, light jazz, and Davis' whimsical sense of humor.
Besides Christmas music and the Fresh Aire series, Mannheim Steamroller has released dozens of other albums. The most important of which are 1986's Saving the Wildlife, a work they did for a PBS special; 1987's Classical Gas with Mason Williams; 1989's Yellowstone: The Music of Nature; and 1998's Mannheim Steamroller Meets the Mouse, a tribute to the music of Disney. In 2003, Mannheim Steamroller tackled another holiday when they released the album Halloween. The band has also released a half-dozen ambience albums.
In their first 35 years of existence, Mannheim Steamroller has sold more than 28 million albums in the United States. They've charted 11 number one albums on the Billboard New Age album chart and five number one albums on the Holiday album chart.