By Anita Garner
I’ve spent much of my life on the radio, playing music. Every year when the Christmas songs started, the radio station staff revolted. Here’s a scene from a typical radio programming meeting, where on-air people wrestled with the Program Director (in the days before a computer picked the music – and before every city had a radio station that plays continuous holiday music starting at Thanksgiving.)
PD: So guys – and Anita – you’ll notice on your playlist that we’re rotating one Christmas song each hour starting…
ME: …Couldn’t we play more than one per hour?
EVERYONE ELSE: No!
PD: And then by week three of the season, we’ll play four an hour.
ME: Couldn’t we play more than that?
EVERYONE ELSE: Shut up!
ME: Could I have more Christmas music on my show?
ON-AIR PERSON: I’ll be calling in sick.
ANOTHER ON-AIR PERSON: You can’t call in sick, because I’m scheduling all my dental work now. I’ll be gone for a month.
The foregoing is only slightly exaggerated. I haven’t met many radio people who like Christmas music as much as I do. For me, it can’t start too soon. Give me a couple of songs and three lights that twinkle and I’m happy.
After years of being on the air, I had the opportunity to host a nationally syndicated show. Something Special aired on stations around the U.S. I was also writer and producer for this weekly four-hour radio magazine and we began making our Christmas show while the weather said it was still summer.
Show prep (a rather unimaginative term that means exactly what it sounds like) included knowing a lot about the music we’d be playing. No problem here. I love Christmas music and in addition to the music sent over by the record companies, I also have a big personal collection. We knew many of the artists who performed the music and had been pre-recording their holiday greetings all year when they were in our studio.
John Schneider was the guest co-host for this Christmas extravaganza. He’d become a friend through my daily radio show in Los Angeles. Generally the new show featured a celebrity guest for only the first hour of each week, but at Christmas John would be with us for all four hours.
John arrived with one of his ever-present dogs – maybe it was Smudge or, God rest her soul, Gracie. Cathleen (my daughter worked on the show) baked Christmas cookies and brought in a small Christmas tree. John contributed warm apple fritters he picked up at that place he knew in Burbank. We took our positions at the microphones.
We sailed right along. I don’t remember any re-takes. It’s one of my favorite radio shows ever. I play it again every year by the light of my plug-in-desktop tree with the twinkle lights. Sometimes I play it in the middle of summer, or whenever in the words of a favorite song, I “need a little Christmas.”
Anita Garner 2008