This is the second installment in my “Have A Strange Christmas” series where I highlight a different strange Christmas record every week through the end of December.
Just about everyone has heard of Waffle House if not eaten at one, or passed their iconic school bus-colored signs. What a lot of people don’t know is that they used to regularly record Waffle House related songs and include them in the jukeboxes in their restaurants for their patrons to enjoy while chowing down. Some of those songs include There Are Raisins in My Toast, 844,739 Ways to Eat a Hamburger, Waffle Do Wop, and I’m Going Back to The Waffle House. These were not short commercial jingles but full length, professionally recorded songs. Originally, the songs were shipped to the establishments on 45 RPM records under the Waffle Records label to be loaded into the jukeboxes alongside regular music. Jukeboxes are still in each restaurant today but they’ve all gone digital. The records weren’t sold to the public, but in 1999, the chain released their first CD, Waffle House Jukebox Favorites Volume 1, whichcollected many of these musical culinary classics. The 10 track CD has been out of print for over 20 years, but you can download the complete digital album from Bandcamp.com for a mere $1,000!
Believe it or not, there’s an actual Waffle Records and they recognize the top Waffle songs played in their restaurants’ jukeboxes with their annual “Waffle House Tunies”. This year’s winner will be announced on their Instagram page in mid-December.
According to Kelly Thrasher Bruner from WH’s Marketing and Communications Department, there are no new Waffle House recordings planned but they hope to be soliciting new songs soon. Their jukeboxes getting updated with new songs via the Internet.
Bacon Spirits Bright
In 2001, Waffle House released a Christmas CD called It’s A Waffle House Christmas. Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia, best known for their 1982 hit Pac Man Fever, Waffle-ized numerous Christmas songs for this 16-track title. There are several tracks credited to “The Waffle House Carolers”, whoever they are, but that’s just the syrup on the waffles. Some of the other songs include a Frankie Valley-like version of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town performed by “The Four Seasonings”, a humorous Elvis inspired ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas reading, and Heading Home For The Holidays done in distinct Dolly Parton style by Mary Welch Rogers, the wife of one of Waffle House’s co-founders. Rogers also lends her vocal talents to Heading Home for The Holidays.
Rogers didn’t get to sing just because, at the time, she was the wife of one of the co-founders, although that didn’t hurt. She’s a professional singer who recorded songs with 20th Century Fox Records in the late 1970’s, plus, she was the one who came up with the Waffle House song idea in the first place back in 1984. I emailed Rogers, now 73, asking her about It’s A Waffle House Christmas, but she declined to comment beyond, “I enjoyed recording and writing some of the WH songs”.
Mistletoe And Maple Syrup
Without a doubt, the standout track on the CD is The Waffle House 12 Days of Christmas: “At the Waffle House on Christmas, my true love gave to me, 6 different omelets, 5 pork chops grilled, 4 eggs a frying, 3 sausage patties, 2 waffles baking, and a bowl of delicious, hot grits.” I figured I’d spare you the lethal caloric intake from the last 6 dishes. Five of the songs are repeated at the end in instrumental form for Christmas karaoke purposes. Apparently, karaoke is a thing for some families on Christmas day. Mercifully, that was never a tradition I was exposed to.
Christmas, The Waffle House Way
If you’re of that age then you know big name companies releasing Christmas albums was hardly unusual back in the day. Goodyear, JC Penny, A & P Supermarkets, BF Goodrich, Avon, True Value, Firestone, and even KFC put out their own Christmas records every year and they were very popular. Those albums, however, were compilations of standard holiday hits. In the case of It’s A Waffle House Christmas, some of the songs were originals and most of those that weren’t had their lyrics “modified” to promote the brand. As to why Waffle House would put out their own Christmas CD in the first place, they explain on the CD’s rear insert: “At Waffle House, the holidays are always a favorite time for good cheer and happiness. This year we decided to capture that same spirit in a special CD collection of holiday songs, all served up with fun and tradition the Waffle House way.”
Like the Jukebox Favorites CD, It’s a Waffle House Christmas was only sold on the chain’s website and is hard to come by. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit I spent many, many (many) months scouring eBay to score my original copy. I finally ended up buying one from Jerry Buckner himself, the guy who wrote or co-wrote many of the WH songs. He even signed the cover for me.
If you need your Waffle House Christmas fix and can’t find the CD, don’t fret. You can listen to the entire album for free on YouTube (link provided at the end of my article) like 2,200 other Waffle Heads (I just made that name up) have. Some of the comments people left on YouTube about the Waffle House Christmas CD include, “If your party’s not this lit, don’t bother inviting me”, and “could this be the worst Christmas album ever?”
The House That Waffles Built
Waffle House started in 1955, 68 years ago, in Avondale Estates, Georgia by two neighbors who wanted a 24-hour, 7 days a week, sit down restaurant, with an emphasis on treating customers like family. It’s now in 25 (mostly mid-west and southern) states with almost 2,000 restaurants, employing over 40,000 people. As their website states, “Waffle House was founded on the principals of providing the friendliest service in town…” Co-founder Joe Rogers, a former short order cook himself, said, “We aren’t in the food business. We’re in the people business.” Incidentally, he named his restaurant “Waffle House” because the waffles were the most popular item on the menu. Waffle House says their restaurants collectively serve over 300,000 waffles every day. Now that’s a lot of waffles.
Waffles And Chow Mein
Waffle House as a company bought back the very first Waffle House restaurant at 2719 East College Avenue in Avondale Estates, Georgia which changed hands back in 1973. The two founders, Joe Rogers and Tom Forkner, had built the original property for $14,000 but the company hasn’t disclosed what it paid to buy back the building which had been a Chinese restaurant for the previous 20 years. In 2008 it was restored to its original 1955 stainless steel glory and turned into a museum.
The small section of the eatery has been outfitted with a period counter, 13 stools, cooking equipment, lighting, condiments, wood paneling, and even plates and mugs. There’s also a small memorabilia room featuring old menus, uniforms, hats, t-shirts, and lots of slogan buttons. For the perfect photo souvenir, there’s an opportunity to stick your head into holes of life size cut outs of vintage servers. And yes, there’s a working jukebox so you can play your favorite Waffle House song. If you’re thinking of visiting it’s by appointment only and you can’t eat there, but admission is free.
“Could this be the worst Christmas album ever?”
Christmas is a special time to spend with family and friends, to exchange gifts, to hope for peace in the world, and to play strange holiday music. If you think It’s A Waffle House Christmas is odd, come back here every week for the next 3 weeks and be amazed at even stranger holiday recordings. Have A Strange Christmas.
Trivia: When the first Waffle House opened in 1955, per their menu, a bottle of Coca-Cola cost 10 cents, hashbrowns cost 20 cents, waffles were 40 cents each as were eggs, 0.65 for a cheese omelet, a hamburger cost 30 cents, filet mignon was a whopping $1.50, and slice of fresh pie set you back 20 cents.
Trivia: Waffle House claims there are 1.5 million possible hashbrown combinations including cheese, onions, and sausage gravy.
Trivia (from WaffleHouse.com): “In 2015, Waffle House proudly served its billionth waffle.”
Trivia (from Wikipedia): “The founders of the Waffle House brand died in 2017 within less than two months of each other: Joe Rogers Sr. died on March 3 and Tom Forkner on April 26.”
Trivia (from Wikipedia): “In the 1960s, S. Truett Cathy, the owner of a local diner called the Dwarf House, contracted with Waffle House to sell his proprietary chicken sandwich, the Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich. However, the Chick-fil-A sandwich quickly overtook Waffle House’s own items in sales and Waffle House ended the deal, prompting Cathy to spin off Chick-fil-A into its own chain.”
Trivia: August 24th is National Waffle Day.
Trivia: In 2018, legendary country music star Bill Anderson released the single, “Waffle House Christmas”, after having spent a Thanksgiving at a Waffle House.
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Jerry Buckner wrote or co-wrote many of the Waffle House songs including The Waffle House 12 Days of Christmas and scored a hit with Pac-Man Fever. Read my 10 Q&As with Buckner only on Patreon along with more interesting details about Waffle House.
Did you miss last week’s strange Christmas Album?
See more Waffle House pics on my Instagram page.