WASHINGTON — What if Santa Claus didn’t have his sleigh to deliver toys to children? A Soldier explored the idea of Santa taking alternative transportation on Christmas Eve in an original song.
In less than a week, the song became a viral hit.
“Go, Santa, Go, beep, beep. You gotta hit that open road while the kiddos sleep,” the song chimes. “Put the pedal to the metal, get your boots on the shingles, tell ‘em, ‘Breaker one nine, it’s your buddy Kris Kringle’ in his 18-wheel chrome and steel sleigh.”
The holiday song tells the story of Santa driving a semi-trailer truck to make his annual Christmas deliveries.
Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Boron and his Six-String Soldiers, part of the U.S. Army Field Band in Washington D.C., officially released the song, called “18-Wheel Chrome and Steel Sleigh,” in music video form on Nov. 25. The video received more than one million views in less than five days on Facebook.
The band performed earlier versions of the Christmas melody the past few years during live performances and recently collaborated on an update to the song.
“I had the idea of something happening to Santa’s sleigh or the reindeer, so he ends up having to take a big rig to deliver the toys. The song poured out pretty quickly,” he said. “It was a lot of fun to write. We’re all very happy it’s so well received by the public.”
The music video release of the song marks the latest venture of the Six String Soldiers, which quickly become the most followed military music group in the world. Formed in 2015, group members play acoustic covers of classic rock bands such as Creedence Clearwater Revival but they create their own original music and perform Americana and patriotic music.
Boron said he drew inspiration for the Christmas song from the truck driving music genre that was popular during the 1960s.
“When I was a kid, ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ was one of my favorite movies,” Boron said. “It was the same for our drummer, Sergeant [1st Class] Glenn Robertson. He wanted to drive the truck, and I wanted to drive the trans am.”
Boron’s uncle drove a truck in the movie, “Convoy.” “You never saw his face; I loved that film,” he said and laughed.
The Soldier said country music artist Kris Kristofferson is a huge inspiration of his. Kristofferson also served in the Army and before going on to writing and performing music and acting.
During the pandemic, the members of Six-String Soldiers built makeshift studios in their homes and performed live on social media. They also met in the studio once a week using COVID protocols and posted performances on social media to reach a worldwide audience. The other members are Master Sgt. Peter Krasulski, element leader, Staff Sgt. Joseph Bennett, guitar, mandolin and vocals, Staff Sgt. Renee Bennett, fiddle and vocals, and Staff Sgt. Jonathan Pusztai, audio engineer.
“During the pandemic, we put on a new show with a theme, whether it was women in music or Vietnam, like we had a salute to our veterans where we played music from the Vietnam era. It was a very successful show,” Boron said. “We had tremendous positive feedback from the audience, all over the world. It gave people something positive to look forward to during the pandemic. We’d do cover songs but in our own unique way with acoustic instruments with different arrangements.”
On some days, he said the band would play a few songs virtually on social media so fans could watch from their homes.
“It was just amazing. Thousands of people would get online and were anticipating us getting online,” he said. “They were so jazzed about it. You’re playing the song, and you’re looking at the people, ‘Hey, Janice in Idaho, how’s it going?’ ‘Here’s Billy from Australia.’ It was just amazing. The sheer volume of music we covered, playing music I never would’ve sought out to play myself. It was pretty cool.”
Because of the band’s success, they’ve played on “Conan” and “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert. “We’ve done all of these high profile, exciting and amazing events that have allowed us to reach a huge audience,” Boron said. “We like to reflect the Army by being professional and being the best at what we do. The Army is made up of people from all professions, and everybody works so hard and does such an amazing job. We just want to connect with people and be the face for the Army. We love seeing the positive reaction to it.”
Boron, who has a bachelor’s degree in sound recording technology and music performance from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, toured Europe with the U.S. Army Europe Band and then deployed to Iraq with the 1st Armor Division as a military musician in 2010.
“I’ve traveled all over the world in the military, and the music from this country, it’s revered all over the world,” said Boron, who’s served in the Army for 15 years. “You can be in Siberia and play, ‘Country Roads’ and whatever room setting you’re in, people will be singing along and know all the words. Britain had the Beatles and the Rolling Stones but we’ve got them beat in just the sheer volume of amazing music that’s come out of this country over the decades.”
He said that when he was in Iraq, he would be in an area, and the Iraqi citizens and soldiers, along with the Americans would all be staring at each other because of the language barrier. “But when you play music, everybody is smiling, you’re relating. We’re just human beings, enjoying each other’s company,” Boron said. “It’s the universal language. When we were touring around Europe, the people were so grateful for us. They just loved us.”
How it all began
When Boron first joined the group back in 2015, it was more of a show band. They toured around and played cover tunes and performed public outreach.
“A couple of us saw a void and gap in the group so we would go into veterans’ homes and walk around and play acoustic instruments so we could get closer to the audience. It would be more intimate than the tractor trailer trucks with the full stage productions,” Boron said.
They went on a small tour, and later named themselves Six-Strings Soldiers. During a trip to New England, a snowy blizzard, one of the area's worst storms, blanketed the area.
“We literally had to shovel our van out of the parking lot out onto the street,” he said.
When they returned to their hotel, they decided to film a video of their rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles for social media. It gained nine million views in a few days.
“Everybody was like, holy cow, there’s something magical to this that people really like," Boron said. “We became an official group in the Army.”
Inspiration from a music legend
The Six-String Soldiers will be featured in “Stories of Service” on CBS after the Army-Navy game on Dec. 11. It includes a music video with CCR Revival frontman John Fogerty.
“John Fogerty was playing a gig in Las Vegas, so we went out there," Boron said. "He was gracious enough to get together with us one afternoon before one of his shows. We played all the music. John played guitar, Renee played the fiddle, we were his backing band and back up singers. We did a music video for, ‘Fortunate Son.’”
Having played CCR cover songs for years, Boron was pretty excited to play with the actual singer.
“It was awesome. I can’t wait to see it,” he said, his voice raising in excitement. “When we started doing the Six-String Soldiers gigs, a lot of stuff we were playing was CCR at Fort Meade or on that back of a truck.”
He said Fogerty’s wife asked them if they wanted to perform live on stage with him during his show in Vegas.
“John was so sweet," Boron said. "He was like, ‘I don’t want to impose on them.’ We went out on stage and played it with him that night. We got to watch the show and then when it came time for us to get up on stage, we hustled backstage, threw our uniforms on, went out and did it with him and of course, the crowd went crazy. They thought it was amazing."
Boron’s dad, John, served in the Air Force for 22 years, lives in Las Vegas and was there to see the taping.
“He was tickled,” Boron said. “He is so proud and happy to see what I’ve done. He thinks it’s pretty neat. He always wanted my brother and I to join the Air Force but more than anything, he wanted us to join the military. He’s very happy. I was a musician kid growing up with long hair in high school. They were a little concerned where I would end up. He’s very happy.”
Boron’s wife, Thordis, performs in a duo acoustic group with him in his rare spare time and is proud of his band’s success as well.
“We have an acoustic duo and that’s a lot of fun too. She’s very proud of us. She’s been with me since the beginning of it, since we formed the group. She’s seen it all happen and evolve,” he said.
No matter the season or reason, there is an initiative to find songwriters from servicemen and women, whether they are active duty, guard, reserve or veterans.
“There are some very talented people out there in the military, not only at their jobs but in their hobbies too. We’d certainly be happy to give anybody out there that’s interested an opportunity to share their music with us,” Boron said. “Who knows, maybe someday, we could do a viral video of one of their tunes, either as Six-String Soldier or Six-String Soldier with them in it.”
Soldiers interested in submitted song ideas to the Six-String Soldiers, can email the group at firstname.lastname@example.org
The music video of "18-Wheel Chrome and Steel Sleigh" can be downloaded at: https://app.frame.io/f/74e7b9a2-9310-4378-8fb4-167e410120ca