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All Christmas, All The Time…An Early Perspective

Its that time…even the most casual observer notices that Christmas in “radioland” comes earlier every year.

A friend in sunny California tells me that her favorite station jumped on the All-Christmas bandwagon November 15th. Not too long ago, the City Of Brotherly Cheesesteaks had 3 stations trying to out-Christmas each other. 

Don’t get me wrong. No “bah-humbug” here.  I was born on Christmas Day. I love Christmas! Its religious meaning, its goodwill for all, and the hope and promise of the new year to come.  I grew up on traditional Christmas music.  I fondly remember the Firestone Christmas Albums, with the big bow on the cover.  Ah, the days of vinyl.  The turntable was part of a big piece of furniture, and you taped a nickel to the heavy tone arm, so the record wouldn’t skip.  The sounds of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Ray Coniff Singers, Julie Andrews, Nat “King” Cole, Mitch Miller, Andy Williams, Mahalia Jackson (and many more) filling the house!

I love playing these classics on the air! Its the only time of the year when the “Chairman Of The Board” and Bing Crosby are COOL.  And, then there are the “newer” songs.  What can I say that hasn’t already been said about “All I Want For Christmas Is You” by Mariah.  Or, a Jersey Favorite like “I Wish Every Day Could Be Like Christmas” from Bon Jovi?

Back in the ’90s, when I was in Philadelphia, each of us “jocks” went into the studio a few days ahead of December 25th, and pre-recorded our “Christmas Star.”  In our hour (broadcast on Christmas Day), we could play any Christmas music we wanted…even if it was “out of format.” In between our holiday faves, we shared stories of family Christmases past.  I remember my friend Amy telling me that she started crying during one of my more poignant stories.  This from the guy who included a Smothers Brothers comedy bit in the same “Christmas Star.”

So, All-Christmas music has been all the rage (read: big ratings) for awhile now.  But, that has not always been the case.  I was the Assistant Program Director, and Music Director, and my General Manager (who hated the fact that I was the “young guy” on “his” station) came to me one afternoon while I was on the air.  He said: “The economy is terrrible” (sound familiar?).  He continued: “So, we’re gonna give our advertisers a big Christmas present. Starting tomorrow morning, we’re going to play nothing but Christmas music.”  In a bit of a panic, I ran to the record closet (yes, vinyl), and bought a ton of Christmas CDs at Quakerbridge Mall that night.

This was late November 1987, when the conventional radio wisdom was: “Christmas music is a tune-out.” It was OK to play one an hour starting around December 18th.  You NEVER played All-Christmas music UNTIL (and ONLY on) December 25th.  Times have changed.

There’s one other wrinkle in this holiday tale. “Christmas music” meant Santa and Frosty the Snowman.  I was not allowed to play anything with “loud guitars” or (as the General Manager put it) “vocal acrobatics.” I guess it was a good thing that Mariah Carey hadn’t hit the music scene yet!  Oh yeah…and no mentions of God or Jesus in ANY songs.  But…you guessed it, we ran hours of religious programming on Sunday mornings.  It PAID.

Ho-Ho-Ho!  Merry (early) Christmas, New Jersey!

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