The Sierra Blanca border checkpoint has claimed another famous victim: Santa Claus.
Or that’s the story according to the lyrics for “Santa Got Busted by the Border Patrol,” a new Christmas song written by the Amarillo-born, Austin-based country singer Kevin Fowler.
The holiday track, which features Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson, just might take its place between Robert Earl Keen’s “Merry Christmas From the Family” and Elmo and Patsy’s “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” in the pantheon of Christmas songs involving drunk–and now stoned–people.
It finds Santa delivering toys in Juárez, only to wind up catching a secondhand buzz when he visits a cartel house (doesn’t he know those guys are naughty?!).
This proves to be a problem when he ends up “85 miles east of El Paso.”
The cops said, “Hey, what’s in that big, red sack/
“Our dogs are sniffin’; yeah, you’d better step back”/
They started high fivin’ sayin’, “Ain’t we slick/
“We got Willie, got Nelly, now we got Saint Nick”
Listen to the whole thing below, followed by a Q&A with Fowler. You can also download the song for free at his website:
So when and how did you get the idea for the song?
We were driving through Sierra Blanca, which is a little border patrol stop about 85 miles east of El Paso, and they were just diggin’, riflin’ through our stuff. We go through there all the time, but if you’re in a tour bus, you’re a sittin’ duck for a border shake. They just assume that you’re smokin’. So we always get the whole search.
And they’d made a lot of news lately at that stop because Willie was busted there, they got Nelly [editor’s note: it was actually a member of his crew], and they got Snoop Dogg and Fiona Apple. They were busting everybody at that stop. But that weekend we were coming through there, I was trying to write a Christmas song. It just came to me: “Santa Got Busted by the Border Patrol!” It kind of wrote itself almost.
So none of your people have ever found themselves in the Hudspeth County lock-up?
Never had to spend any time there. Our guys are pretty well-behaved.
Were you inspired by any other Christmas songs?
I wanted to write something corny, like “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Something funny and silly.
One of the YouTube comments says, “this is the next best Texas Christmas song,” after Robert Earl.
Oh, there’ll neve be another “Merry Christmas From the Family.” Everybody would love to have one of those. Every year you get a [royalty] check that quarter! You can’t turn on the radio in Texas in December and not hear Robert Earl. What a classic.
Did “Nelly” fit into the lyric better than Snoop, or was it just that that arrest was the most recent?
We actually sent a copy of the song to Snoop, who has the same booking agent as me, trying to get Snoop to sing along on it, but we never heard back from him. He was probably like, “Who’s this redneck sending me this stuff?”
I forget which one we used on the final version, if we used Nelly, or we used Snoop.
I think Nelly probably rhymed better.
And Fiona Apple didn’t make the cut?
“Fiona” just doesn’t roll off the tongue like “Willie” and “Nelly.”
When Willie got busted there, most people were like, “It’s Willie Nelson, forget it, you can’t prosecute him.” And that’s kind of how things go for Santa too.
Busting Willie for smoking weed is like busting the Pope for praying. It just ain’t right.
Shouldn’t everybody know to ditch their weed around those parts by now?
You’d think so. I guess word doesn’t travel on the West Coast. They don’t realize they’re going right through the drug corridor.
So why was Santa visiting a cartel house in the first place?
He didn’t know! And he didn’t know why he was getting that secondhand buzz. If he knew, that would make him a stoner. We couldn’t make Santa a stoner.
(Kevin Fowler will be all over the state during the holidays, with gigs in Katy, Stockdale, Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Cedar Park and Goliad.)