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Christmas Formatting - A bit of History
Handling so many songs with the same title
Here's as link to my Christmas Formatting article.
A long time ago, it was common for Pop music stations to not add Holiday music until Christmas week., strange as that may seem now. But then again, there wasn't much to choose from. Yes, there was that wonderful, timeless Elvis Christmas album released in '57. "Blue Christmas" was on it as was his version of "White Chrismas" that, to my kid ears completely obliterated the already-classic Bing Crosby original. What else did rock 'n roll DJ's have to play? That Bobby Helms song had the word Rock in the title, but jeeze, it was so dippy. Teen ears didn't have to suffer through a whole month of of it.
Now The Drifters had released the now-classic rendition of "White Christmas" in '54 and Chuck Berry blasted a hole in the genre with "Run Rudolph Run" in '58. But, I guess those were just a little too Black for the radio programming cadre.
Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" was released in '58. It didn't get much play that season or the next. In 1960's season, radio programmers woke up, played it a bunch and it got to #13 the the Billboard Chart. It charted again and again. In '65, it peaked at #3. The 'net says it has sold 25 million copies now. Charles Brown releasd his original version of "Please Come Home for Christmas" in '61. Producer Phil Spector was the guy who gave us the first true Rock ' Roll Christmas album in 1963. Inspired by that, The Beach Boys were the first rock group to do one. Theirs hit the shelves in the season of 1964. It had two Pop/Rock songs to use for the next few decades; "Little St. Nick" and "The Man With All The Toys." The Supremes dropped their Christmas album in '66.
The record business began to release more as the years moved ahead, but Top 40 Radio played Christmas lightly. My first radio station didn't add any until the week before the 25th and then only one an hour. Partly because there wasn't all that much of it that fit next to rock 'n rollers. I mean, think about it, Bing Crosby seguing into "Tallahassee Lassie" . The old radio term for that is: train wreck.
Moving into the 70's, I was a program director and could call the shots. I'd been taught to watch the request lines, pay attention to what listeners were asking for. Pay particular attention to what they ask for that our station was not playing. By that time, I had about two dozen Christmas songs to work with, still including Brenda Lee, naturally. I hit with one an hour the first week of Decmber, then two the second week, then three an hour. The requests went up. The sales staff reported they were getting good comments about it from advertisers. I kept it that way year after year
l was always surprised at how lightly other Top 40 stations were playing it. It started changing in the 80’s, as I remember. Partly because we now had some catalogue built up and maybe partly because of the MTV effect. Pop and Rap groups began releasing some fresh, unique new songs and some good remakes of songs like that biggie from the Eagles. It must have been the 90s when it became a thing to switch to All Christmas for the month of December. Mostly that was done by dying AM music stations, later it became the weak-rated FM’s doing it. And today, with so very much Christmas in so many format mixes, I don’t know that I’d go heavy with it at all, at least not in the Pop format.