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24 Hours of Christmas Music: DJs Jon Solomon and Robert Drake share their experience with holiday marathons

Marathon Holiday DJs Jon Solomon of WPRB (left) and Robert Drake of WXPN | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordophotography.com
Marathon Holiday DJs Jon Solomon of WPRB (left) and Robert Drake of WXPN | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordophotography.com

Holiday music is everywhere this time of year. It blares through every store in the mall and every car radio stuck in that 9 to 5 bumper-to-bumper, all in hopes of keeping the mood cheery and festive. But where does that cheer go when the same songs play in an incessant loop to the point where insanity may very well ensue? Simply turn the dial to either 103.3 or 88.5, where two marathon DJs that will be taking over the airwaves for 24 non-stop hours on Christmas Eve.

Jon Solomon and Robert Drake have been doing it for years and it seems there is no end in sight. Solomon, a radio personality for Princeton’s student-run station WPRB, began his holiday marathon twenty-six years ago when he was fifteen years old and hasn’t missed a year since. This year, he even upped the ante to a 25-hour special.

Inspired by Solomon, Robert Drake began his 12-hour holiday show at WXPN 22 years ago, and it eventually turned into a 24-hour marathon. The Key got the chance to speak with both of the DJs about the perks of the marathons, their favorite non-traditional holiday tunes, their shared love for the Dr. Who Christmas special and just how they manage to make it through all those hours without a nap. Continue reading →

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Robert Drake’s Christmas Countdown: cozy up with Louis Armstrong and Twas the Night Before Christmas

Louis Armstrong

It’s the day before The Night Before on XPN … and to help get us prepared for 24 hours of yours truly, I present to you a unique holiday song each day!

There is really only one way to end this Twelve Days until The Night Before musical countdown – and that is with a story. Not just any story, but a Christmas classic: Twas The Night Before Christmas – as told by the incredible Louis Armstrong. This was recorded just four months before Armstrong died in his sleep of a heart attack at age 69.

With all the joy that this man brought to millions, it’s fitting that his final recording would be one for the children … in all of us.

Be sure to join me starting at midnight tonight for my 22nd annual edition of The Night Before on XPN; 24 hours of me and my eclectic collection of seasonal sounds – midnight to midnight on the 24th day of December … only on WXPN.

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Robert Drake’s Christmas Countdown: Soak in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special

Pee-Wee Herman

It’s just 2 days ‘til The Night Before on XPN … and to help get us prepared for 24 hours of yours truly, I present to you a unique holiday song each day!

One of the coolest things about this time of year is the avalanche of Christmas specials on TV … from the tried and true to the sappy and silly, there is something for just about everyone. But you haven’t experienced a true Christmas miracle until you soak in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special!! Here, the opening number gives you an idea of the over-the-top camp that followed! Ho Ho Ho!

Be sure to join me for my 22nd annual edition of The Night Before on XPN; 24 hours of me and my eclectic collection of seasonal sounds – midnight to midnight on the 24th day of December … only on WXPN.

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Robert Drake’s Christmas Countdown: Dar Williams performs “The Christians and The Pagans” live

Dar Williams

It’s just 3 days ‘til The Night Before on XPN … and to help get us prepared for 24 hours of yours truly, I present to you a unique holiday song each day!

Another highly-requested song each year comes from an XPN-fave, Dar Williams. By now many of you already know the song “The Christians And The Pagans” – but what you might not know is how close to home that song is to Dar and her family. Here, in a 2011 recording, she explains the creation of this holiday staple before performing the song live.

Be sure to join me for my 22nd annual edition of The Night Before on XPN; 24 hours of me and my eclectic collection of seasonal sounds – midnight to midnight on the 24th day of December … only on WXPN.

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Robert Drake’s Christmas Countdown: It’s a white trash holiday with Robert Earl Keen

Robert Earl Keen

It’s just 4 days ‘til The Night Before on XPN … and to help get us prepared for 24 hours of yours truly, I present to you a unique holiday song each day!

Nothing says Christmas than a box of tampons and some Marlboro Lights – at least that’s the story from Robert Earl Keen. This white trash Christmas tale has become a staple on The Night Before … easily one of my most-requested songs every year. So, in case you miss it next Wednesday, here ya go, complete with wishes of “Merry Christmas, From The Family.”

Be sure to join me for my 22nd annual edition of The Night Before on XPN; 24 hours of me and my eclectic collection of seasonal sounds – midnight to midnight on the 24th day of December … only on WXPN.

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Robert Drake’s Christmas Countdown: El Vez spices up “Little Drummer Boy”

el vez

It’s just 5 days ‘til The Night Before on XPN … and to help get us prepared for 24 hours of yours truly, I present to you a unique holiday song each day!

Every so often someone comes along and turns Christmas on its highly-decorated ear, and about a decade ago that honor went to El Vez, The Mexican Elvis and his Lovely Elvettes! If you ever get the chance to see El Vez live (especially his Merry Mex-mas show!) … GO!! He took one of the few Christmas songs I don’t like, chewed it up and spat it back to us in true El Vez fashion. Here he is – live and in color – from 2002 (being introduced to the stage by Dave Foley of Kids In The Hall fame)!  #Energy

Be sure to join me for my 22nd annual edition of The Night Before on XPN; 24 hours of me and my eclectic collection of seasonal sounds – midnight to midnight on the 24th day of December … only on WXPN.

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Robert Drake’s Christmas Countdown: Kay Starr introduces us to “The Man With the Bag”

Kay Starr

It’s just 6 days ‘til The Night Before on XPN … and to help get us prepared for 24 hours of yours truly, I present to you a unique holiday song each day!

Today we travel back to 1950, when Irving Taylor, Hal Stanley and Dudley Brooks penned this Christmas classic, “(Everybody’s Waitin’ for) The Man with the Bag”. Brooks is best known as a jazz pianist and arranger who spent years collaborated with Elvis Presley on some of his most famous albums and movies (including the Elvis’ Christmas Album!) Originally sung by Kay Starr – this song has been covered over and over … but in this case, nothing beats the original. Sadly no video of Kay singing this song exists – so this will have to do … and yes, Kay is alive and well at age 92!

Be sure to join me for my 22nd annual edition of The Night Before on XPN; 24 hours of me and my eclectic collection of seasonal sounds – midnight to midnight on the 24th day of December … only on WXPN.

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Robert Drake’s Christmas Countdown: Elvis Costello joins Stephen Colbert on “There Are Much Worse Things To Believe In”

elvis costello

It’s just 7 days ‘til The Night Before on XPN … and to help get us prepared for 24 hours of yours truly, I present to you a unique holiday song each day!

Today we keep it modern with a clip from the surprisingly funny 2008 TV Christmas special hosted by Stephen Colbert. With an impressive list of special guests, my favorite has to be a visit from Elvis Costello – together they perform a song that channels the spirit of Frank & Dean, preaching their message of holiday goodwill.  Here they are performing “There Are Much Worse Things To Believe In.”

Be sure to join me for my 22nd annual edition of The Night Before on XPN; 24 hours of me and my eclectic collection of seasonal sounds – midnight to midnight on the 24th day of December … only on WXPN.

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Robert Drake’s Christmas Countdown: Trip Shakespeare help us enjoy “Snow Days”

trip shakespeare

It’s just 8 days ‘til The Night Before on XPN … and to help get us prepared for 24 hours of yours truly, I present to you a unique holiday song each day!

Today’s song comes from a band that knows snow days, as they are from Minneapolis. Trip Shakespeare got picked up by A&M in 1990 and released Across The Universe. While a commercial flop (selling only 30,000 copies), it produced one of my favorite winter songs – period. I play it every Night Before since I started 21 years ago… it’s tradition! I give you “Snow Days” by Trip Shakespeare.

Be sure to join me for my 22nd annual edition of The Night Before on XPN; 24 hours of me and my eclectic collection of seasonal sounds – midnight to midnight on the 24th day of December … only on WXPN.

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Robert Drake’s Christmas Countdown: The Roches perform Christmas classic “Hallelujah” live

The Roaches
The Roaches

It’s just 9 days ‘til The Night Before on XPN … and to help get us prepared for 24 hours of yours truly, I present to you a unique holiday song each day! There are just a dozen or so MUST-HAVE recent Christmas CDs and one is We Three Kings by The Roches. Filled with beautiful harmonies and unique takes on classic songs – but nothing beats when The Roches perform “Hallelujah.” Fact is, they’ve been singing it for 40 years and, in 1979 at the behest of Paul Simon, The Roches were asked to perform it coast-to-coast on NBC’s Saturday Night Live … the rest is history.

Here they are just before that big break, performing the song that would put them on the radar – during the fall of 1978 at the Capitol Theare in Passaic, NJ.

Be sure to join me for my 22nd annual edition of The Night Before on XPN; 24 hours of me and my eclectic collection of seasonal sounds – midnight to midnight on the 24th day of December … only on WXPN.

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