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Family Tradition: A Merry Little Christmas with Ricki Derek and the Ho Ho Ho Orchestra

Updated: Dec 27, 2021

In 2007, engaged to my now-husband, I attended a Christmas Tree Lighting at The Parks at Legacy in Plano, TX, where Ricki Derek and band performed. As a grown up band nerd (yours truly was a saxaphone player 6th-10th grade; percussion 10th-12th), there's one thing I know: a great band when I hear one. Ricki Derek had it. He was the vocal performer and his band was "next level." At the time, I was the Fitness Director at Southern Methodist University and also served as the chair of the Student Affairs' Social Committee. I had been hard at work, planning the annual SMU Student Affairs' holiday party. A hole that remained was the entertainment. As of the night I witnessed Ricki Derek and band, live and in concert, I knew- this was the ensemble for the job. I hired Ricki and a small backup of jazz orchestra musicians to perform at the party. SMU's Division of Student Affairs staff members don't agree on a lot, but they'll all agree that that '07 holiday party knocked the socks (hooves) right off the mustang! ("Pony Up!")

Knowing my dad's love of jazz music- he, himself, the lead vocalist of a band in his youth- I had to get my folks to Dallas to hear Ricki Derek perform. Ricki was putting on a show, "A Merry Little Christmas" at the Lakewood Theater. My fiance and I invited my folks to visit us in Dallas and watch the show. They agreed and we secured the tickets. It was... a perfect "10."

Since then, with the exception of 2008 and 2009, we have been attending Ricki Derek's A Merry Little Christmas ever since. We attend with my brothers and their girlfriends- one of whom has turned into a wife... and they've had two children. As it comes time for A Merry Little Christmas, which we casually call "Ring-a-Ding," we scramble around to arrange childcare and make a way to make it to the show. And every year, it happens. It has become my family's favorite holiday tradition. We raised a glass to our 12th year this year.

Ricki Derek and the Ho Ho Ho Orchestra perform "A Merry Little Christmas" at a couple venues around the DFW metroplex. You can first catch the ditty at Palace Theatre in Grapevine. There's no booze and the show is very "G" rated. It tends to go long, and includes an intermission. You can go to Fort Worth to the Scat Jazz Lounge, which is a speakeasy jazz bar that Ricki co-owns. That's typically our venue of choice. We like to reserve the full bar so the family has easy access to a stiff drink as we watch Ricki do his thing, and often a guest appearance by a boozie Frosty the Snowman. We'll call this one "PG." Ricki and band also perform at the Granada Theatre in Dallas on Greenville. That one gets a little raunchier and can be qualified as a heavy PG-13. If you do make it to the Greenville production, I'd highly recommend dinner before the show and my absolute favorite Dallas restaurant- Terilli's. It's located on Lower Greenville, about a half mile from Granada.

What we love about A Merry Little Christmas is the talent of the full orchestra, performing sing-along songs with a Frank Sinatra flare. We've come to expect "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm," "Deck the Halls," and usually a cheeky comment about Texas weather leading into "Baby It's Cold Outside." Ricki customarily has an opera singer perform "Oh, Holy Night." He tends to follow that with self-deprecating humor (like any good joke, it's funny because it's kind of true- rarely will anything match the talent of the opera singer). He'll also welcome a female soloist to perform a couple of songs. In years past, he has flown in a NYC vocalist. This year, he had a 2021 University of North Texas vocal grad. She brought the house down. In 12 years of witnessing the show, I'd say the female talent this year was the best.

As Scat Jazz Lounge, expect the production to last 60-minutes. They have two back-to-back evening performances, so the earlier show (my pref) is sure to end on time.

After the show, my family tends to say goodnight to one another and hit the hay. This year, my husband and I found the energy of our younger years and stayed up for a night cap at Sidesaddle Saloon. It's located in the Fort Worth Stockyards, which is an Uber drive away from Sundance Square, where Scat Jazz Lounge is located. But I'll bet the best margarita I've ever had on it (the Flores Ladue margarita- the most requested drink at Sidesaddle Saloon), it's worth ponying up the dough for an Ubs.

Until 2022, here's bidding adieu to Ring-a-Ding Ricki and the Ho Ho Ho Orchestra. May this blog post inspire you and yours to join my family for A Merry Little Christmas 2022. Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, all 8 of my (adult) family members will be monopolizing the bar seating at Scat Jazz Lounge around this time next year at this special show.

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