(Originally posted in 2010, the show date has been updated below for the 2014 broadcast.)
I’ve been driving back and forth between Philly and the Jersey Shore for over twenty years, many times on Christmas Eve. That’s how I discovered Jon Solomon way back in the early 90s. I flipped on WPRB-FM (Princeton University) and was immediately impressed with the wonderful assortment of rarely-heard holiday tunes being spun while I sat in traffic on the NJ Turnpike. It was a welcomed break from Bruce, Burl and that little creep who was watching his mom make out with Santa.
Back in the late 80s, a young Jon Solomon decided it was his calling to help spread holiday cheer. On that Christmas eve, he locked himself in a cramped radio studio and dispensed musical merriment to all the good little girls and boys throughout the land. Santa approved. The media embraced him. A sandwich was named after him. History was made and he’s still at!
So let’s give back and listen on Wednesday, December 24th at 5:00 pm ET as Jon Solomon hosts his 26th Annual 24-Hour Holiday Radio Show, which airs exclusively on 103.3 fm WPRB. RSVP for the show on Facebook and follow along on Twitter.
Tune in when you can, it’s the perfect musical accompaniment to wrap gifts, open gifts, and re-gift gifts.
Until then, let’s learn a little more…
Jon, you do a lot chair swiveling, mike adjusting and CD pulling during the 24 hour period. How do prepare for these physical demands?
My biggest issues are (usually) not tweaking my back loading crates of records into the WPRB studios or having my handcart tip over sadly between my car’s trunk and the station elevator. From that point forward, things usually work out OK.
I give up most sugar for December and cut out my traditional morning iced coffee with soy milk for tea (hello, chai!). Trying to avoid getting sick and/or the caffeine highs/lows that can really wreck a marathon like this.
Last night I realized that I need to be doing more situps (be glad you can’t see the half of me positioned beneath the broadcast board) so perhaps I’ll add that to my regimen.
How old were you when you did your first 24-Hour Holiday Show and was your motivation strictly to impress the ladies?
It was 1988 and I was 15. Like all things I did then and all things I continue to do now, it was strictly to impress the ladies.
If present-day Jon Solomon could hop in a British police box and travel back in time to that first show, what advice would he give young Jon Solomon?
I would present younger me with a list of records I should buy in a format other than cassette.
There would also be a list attached of girls to make a point of kissing and a list of girls you really shouldn’t kiss.
We would then accidentally touch and melt into each other like a couple of Ron Silvers. Oof.
Technology-wise, how much easier is it to program and run a show now than back in the day. Is there any aspect of the old technology you miss?
It is and it isn’t. I still burn all of my digital files to CDR (will be doing that monster task tonight) and play everything from LP, CD, and 45 live. When WPRB had three CD players, that was a brief luxury!
Having access to all sorts of out-of-print titles that people have digitized and shared has improved the overall depth, sound, and uniqueness of the show several-fold. I really enjoy trading files/links with some other Xmas music friends I’ve met through this program. I’m glad people think of me with holiday songs if they find one in July.
What was the very first song you played on the first show?
I wish I knew! The oldest paper playlist I can find today is from 1991, and the oldest page from that marathon appears to kick off with Santa Claus by the Sonics.
Sean Murphy and Jon Solomon in the WPRB studios, some time last century.
Worst song you ever played and will not play again?
Hmmmm. There was some goth nonsense I played in the middle of the night last year that I thought was the only song I played on the 2009 show I wasn’t crazy about in some respect.
When I first started the show I had to play everything the station had regardless of quality, because I didn’t have a library of my own and I wanted to fill the time with holiday cheer.
Now I have too much great music to hope to squeeze into the 24 hour window. It sounds like a long time, but it divides down to around 300 songs when all is said and done.
What song or comedy bit do you look toward to playing the most every year?
Jeez. I don’t have a specific favorite, but what I really look forward to are requests for songs I forgot were in the collection or didn’t recall off the top of my head as amazing. I like being surprised by listeners with things in my library that I know I’ve flagged as great but can’t completely remember why I like them.
Ever have a live musical guest play during the show?
Not yet (would be a bear to engineer while doing everything else) but people have certainly recorded songs live to be played on the show. I hope to get my 2.5-year-old daughter to sing a few holiday songs on-air towards the end of this year’s show. She’s currently obsessed with Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman.
When David Bowie pops in during the holidays, we all know yuletide magic happens. Please name three people/groups you’d love to have drop in and maybe belt out a tune.
The great 1960s garage rock band the Sonics are the first that come to mind. It would be very fun to have a bunch of musical friends on-call in the back of the studios to perform Hootenanny-style on-demand, but the time of year doesn’t lend itself to this grand idea.
I’ve notice a glaring lack of wacky sound effects played during your show. Will this be remedied any time soon?
What, jingle bells aren’t wacky enough for you?
One of the first years I did the show I had a clock radio that “spoke” the time and weather in a robot voice. Oh, how I regret not having that trusty friend by my side anymore.
Better bad radio movie, FM or Pump Up the Volume?
I enjoy the video element of the show where we get to see you do your thing and also become tired. Will you be doing anything special for the camera this year?
Every year fellow WPRB DJ Julia Factorial says she’s going to set up a full manger backdrop behind where I sit in Studio A. Every year this does not happen.
Perhaps this will be the year? Cross your fingers.
During the show, what is your preferred method of receiving user feedback/requests, online chat or phone?
In the first third of the show, email/chat (if I was allowed to pick). Things are nuts then and I’m never completely ready for how overwhelming the start can be.
Overnight and if you can accept that I may say “I’m sorry I have to go” at any moment, by all means telephone. It will be nice to hear from you.
What are you looking for in the next person who will inevitably take over the role of “Jon Solomon, 24-Hour Holiday Radio Show Host”?
While I am not currently looking to recast this part, hopefully someone who will keep seeking things out and adding to the library I’ve already collected.
As you may or may not know, I have optioned the rights to your story and I need to change a couple teensy weensy things. First off, which setting would you prefer and why: You’re an intergalactic DJ alone in a spaceship who must play holiday music non-stop to keep nefarious holiday-hating aliens away from your home planet … OR you are the last human DJ on earth stuck in a studio while non-threatening, vegetarian Zombies pester you with Phish and RatDog requests.
I would choose the latter. I think you have a better chance of getting that one in under budget.
Let’s say listeners wanted to send you nourishment during the show, what is your favorite type of pizza and from what local Princeton area establishment should he or she order?
While I always appreciate the sentiment of people I don’t know wanting to stop by, please don’t. I hope you take this the right way, listeners. It is far less glamorous and far more chaotic at WPRB than you might imagine. I always feel bad when folks come to the studios unannounced and:
– Have coffee to offer I can’t drink.
– Have cookies to share I can’t eat.
That being said, on any regularly-scheduled Wednesday night radio show between 7-10 pm ET, I would not turn down a large pie with peppers from Conte’s on Witherspoon Street.
Lastly, what is your favorite album of this past year?
Right now I’m saying Majesty Shredding, but that’s subject to a full review of records I’ve played in 2010 come January.