Robert Earl Keen's irreverent Christmas song 'Merry Christmas from the Family' is easily his most popular. Shame he can't play it year-round.

Robert Earl Keen's irreverent Christmas song 'Merry Christmas from the Family' is easily his most popular. Shame he can't play it year-round.

/Jonathan Zizzo/Special contributor

Texas troubadour Robert Earl Keen sings at venues big and small all year long. But, like Santa Claus, he's busiest at the holidays.

That's because of Keen's most popular song, the irreverent "Merry Christmas from the Family," which describes the good, bad and drunken family holiday drama most of us can relate to. The hilarious song has been covered by many artists, the Dixie Chicks included, and has even inspired a book and a sequel tune.

Without the song's success, Keen says he'd be "stumbling around Wal-Mart like everyone else" each winter. (Instead, he's rushing from city to city to bring his tacky, tinseled show to fans.)

Instead of shunning the novelty tune, Keen appreciates what the song has done for his 32-year career. His annual Christmas tour involves elaborate sets and costumes that are as prominent as Keen classics "Gringo Honeymoon" and "Corpus Christi Bay."

Looking back, it was rather blunt logic that led Keen to follow a tinsel-lined path each December:

"We had become the Jimmy Buffett of Christmas," Keen explains, laughing.

"Year after year, we'd be booked up through December, and we'd play our non-Christmas songs while people sat with their arms folded. But when we'd finally play 'Merry Christmas from the Family,' everyone would get happy all of a sudden, so we started developing a Christmas show with new sets and new songs and different themes."

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