ANOTHER ARCHIVAL HILLBILLY AT HARVARD
UPDATE 24DEC21: REMEMBER PART TWO OF THIS EXTRAVAGANZA FROM 1986 TOMORROW AT 9 AM. TUNE IN EARLY!
The sticker on the tape reads, ‘DHSh/HAH—20Dec86—Christmas Show (Cast of Thousands)’. That’s ‘Down Home Show / Hillbilly at Harvard’. We’ll meet a few of the cast: fellow disk jockeys Ed Muller (‘Ed the Detective’), then at WDLW, doing his country oldies show on Sunday evenings, who brings one of my Christmas favorites, ‘Up on the Housetops’; Mark Burns, golden-voiced radio man and musician (sadly killed in an auto crash a couple of years later), who brings the new answer song to ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’; Jim Murphy, then at WOKQ in New Hampshire, who was out Christmas shopping and turns up at the very end, And we’ve a studio full of musicians for the Country Chorale at the end of the show, including John Lincoln Wright, Larry Flint, Jimmy Allen, and Mike Walker, a genuine Texan, who would be hosting an 11-hour Toys for Tots Jamboree at the Blue Star in Saugus. We were also joined by one of Larry and Miss Jean‘s dogs, named Muffin, who barks along with the Singing Dogs version of ‘Jingle Bells’.
The Christmas Extravaganza (which we were sometimes calling a ‘Spectacular’), ‘Four Hours of the Best and Worst of Country Christmas Music’, evolved over the years. Back in the ’70s only one record out of three were Christmas records, but by the ’80s the hillbillies had begun to gather with goodies and libations (Sinc and Miss Helen provided Mimosas), and the show became wall-to-wall Christmas. For a while after Sinc’s death in 2001, we continued the tradition, but like all good things, the party petered out—all but the music, which I continued. The last live Christmas Extravaganza was in 2019.
Back in 1979 or so I had been hosting a show on WDLW Sunday mornings, called ‘Down Home Sunday’, which I eventually carried over to WHRB on Saturdays. ‘The Down Home Show’ ran from 8-10 AM, when Old Sinc joined me for Hillbilly at Harvard. December 20th, 1986 WHRB was scheduled to broadcast Harvard Basketball at about 2 PM, so we had an extra hour, making an (almost) four-hour show. Since I’m now limited to two, I’ll present this Christmas Extravaganza in two parts: Part One tomorrow (Dec 18) and Part Two next Saturday, which happens to be Christmas Day. Be sure and tune in for both.
Note that a couple of times we mention that WHRB would be taking a vacation “next week.” That’s for 1986, not for 2021! Note, too, that there won’t be a Toys for Tots jamboree at the Blue Star—indeed, the Blue Star, a fixture along with the Hilltop Steakhouse and the Orange Dinosaur on Route 1 in Saugus, has passed into Hillbilly History. But of course, the Marines continue their Toys for Tots campaigns, so look for events in your neighborhood. I wonder what happened to Mike Walker and Durango.
Oh, and you’ll note that the 1986 show ends with Sinc talking over the Country Chorale, not with our traditional three-song Christmas close (the Stanleys, Elvis, and the Moms and Dads). My guess is that we miscalculated, and basketball started at 1:50 or so. To make up for this grievous omission, I have taken the three-song close from the last live Christmas show I did, in 2019. That’ll be on Part II, on Christmas Day. Have a Merry one! /CL
PS WHRB PDs tell me they won’t have Hillbilly Jamboree from 11 to 12:45, so they’ll run an HAH extra (not the second half of the Extravaganza, as I don’t want to lose the last 15 minutes). A little extra for HAH fans.