An El Paso Christmas Tradition: Dominick the Donkey
Every holiday season, the Buzz Adams Morning Show starts getting requests for Christmas songs.
No song gets MORE requests than an obscure 1960 tune called “Dominick the Donkey”.
How did a little-known novelty song with an Italian flair become the number one most requested song on a rock radio station in El Paso, Texas? Well, it’s a funny story. And, it all began in early December 1995…
Prior to 1995, there were definitely some Christmas songs that made the KLAQ seasonal playlist.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra was, and still is, a holiday mainstay. Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” got played every year as did “Father Christmas” by the Kinks.
In terms of novelty records, “Santa Claus and His Old Lady” by Cheech and Chong was probably the song we’d get the most requests for annually.
One problem with that song was that A.) it WASN’T a song, and B.) it was almost 7 minutes long. As for the Springsteen song, we’d get as many people calling to ask us NOT to play that song as we got requests FOR it.
I felt it was time to freshen things up. Pump some new blood into the Christmas playlist. I decided to do that with a 35-year-old Christmas song that no one had ever heard of before.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Where did you find “Dominick the Donkey”?
I used to work at a radio station that aired the weekly Dr. Demento show. Back then, the shows would arrive at the station weekly in the form of 4 LPs. You were just supposed to discard the albums after they aired and a new set of albums would arrive the next week. Since I was at the radio station on a Sunday night all by myself…I just kept the albums. It was on one of these old Dr. Demento Show records that I heard “Dominick” for the first time.
I decided to play it during the morning show and, for some reason, it was a hit with the listeners.
Why Do You Think People Liked it So Much?
Honestly, I think it’s the group participation aspect. In the chorus, Lou Monte sings “It’s Dominick the Donkey!” Another voice responds with, “HEE HAW! HEE HAW!” When we play Dominick, I usually cut the audio on the “HEE HAWS” and invite people to do that part. I don’t think Dominick would have become such a phenomenon on El Paso airwaves if we just played it straight through without letting people do the “HEE HAWS”.
So, Buzz, are You Saying You’re Single-Handedly Responsible for the Resurgent Popularity of “Dominick the Donkey”?
100% that is ABSOLUTELY what I’m saying.
In El Paso, anyway. I had never heard it played anywhere other than Dr. Demento before I started playing it in 1995. I’ve since learned that the song was fairly well-known, especially in areas with large Italian American populations, before I’d ever heard of it. It’s also found new popularity elsewhere, probably independent of the annual airings on KLAQ.
In 2011, there was apparently a big push on the BBC to get the record to Christmas Number One spot in the U.K. Honestly, except for being a big plot point in “Love, Actually” I didn’t know there WAS such a thing as the Christmas Number One in the U.K.
But, in El Paso at least, I can take credit for being the first to play Dominick the Donkey at Christmas time.
Do You Have a Favorite Celebrity Version of Dominick?
Hands down, without question…the late Gilbert Gottfried’s version. Gilbert had never heard the song before but his “Hee-Haws” was vintage Gilbert. It was like having Iago, the Aflac duck, and Mr. Mxyzptik doing the song all at once. According to legend, a recording of this epic version exists somewhere in the KLAQ archives.