DJ Jon Solomon Celebrates 25th Anniversary of His Holiday Radio Show

Jon Solomon
Jon Solomon hosts an annual holiday radio marathon on WPRB in Princeton, NJ

Christmas and Hanukkah music has no better friend than Jon Solomon. For twenty-five years, Princeton, NJ’s WPRB FM DJ Jon Solomon has made his name nationally by staying up for 24 hours each Christmas Eve (starting at 5 PM on December 24) and spinning non-traditional holiday music. Solomon’s marathon time on the radio – 103.3 on the FM dial and streaming online – includes tales of holiday cheer and woe submitted by his faithful listeners. To celebrate his quarter-century anniversary, Solomon will add 60 minutes to his usual 24-hour marathon, and host a 25-Hour Holiday Radio Show.

A.D. Amorosi: Do you remember what the first conversation with your station manager regarding your 24-hour Christmas song marathon sounded like?
Jon Solomon: I wish there was a better story than a 15-year-old me simply filling out a paper sign-up sheet in 1988 with a big opening on Christmas Eve into Christmas day. I stayed on-air all night until the next DJ showed, and the following year when I asked if I could do 24 hours, I think the Station Manager was delighted they didn't have to worry about filling so much time while the students were on break.

A.D. Amorosi: Do you remember what the first song on the first marathon was and why you played that particular tune?
Jon Solomon: All I know is that the show was originally a mix of Christmas songs in WPRB's library and the longest songs I could think of.

A.D. Amorosi: Did it all run smoothly? Did your set seem as if it went OK?
Jon Solomon: Someone in recent years sent me a mic break from that program and I was really happy to discover I didn't sound half bad. I wish I had a recording of the whole thing. There was also a talking alarm clock a friend received for Christmas that I would use on-air to update the time.

A.D. Amorosi: When does the marathon process start for you each year? Do you have to finish all holiday shopping early just to concentrate on it?
Jon Solomon: I think we were done shopping by the first night of Hanukkah. I've been previewing submissions all year, but the Christmas records came out of the basement the day after Thanksgiving.

A.D. Amorosi: How will you start the marathon set this year?
Jon Solomon: The first two songs are always "Jon Solomon's Christmas Eve Marathon" by Noah Vail and then "Santa Claus" by The Sonics, without fail. I'll follow that up with a couple hours of material I've never played on the program before. This year there has been an especially great assortment of new and new-to-me recordings.

A.D. Amorosi: Are you religious in any which way? Do listeners gripe if you play sacred holiday songs?
Jon Solomon: I try to gingerly toe the line so that things don't get sacrilegious. The show is about finding the right balance of sentiment mixed with other emotions of the season. I hope the marathon will make people legitimately laugh sometimes, but I don't want it to be a novelty. If anything, I want folks to be amazed so many great songs exist that also happen to be about the season.

A.D. Amorosi: Do you have many Kwanzaa songs? Do you get many requests for Kwanzaa songs?
Jon Solomon: I have a couple, but nobody seems to request them. Alas.

A.D. Amorosi: What do you think about the recent uproar over Festivus, the fact that Rand Paul now sends out Festivus greetings to his constituents?
Jon Solomon: There's an uproar over Festivus? That's really still a thing?

A.D. Amorosi: How is it looking in regard to getting personal holiday stories from your listenership? Any juicy ones you can give me hints about?
Jon Solomon: This year's "Christmas Stories" recorded exclusively for the show include multiple members of The Feelies, one Major League Baseball organist, and a tale of being a teenage magician with a twist at the end so amazing I gasped out loud when I heard it. How's that for a tease? I have enough of these incredible pieces to debut one an hour. This has been the best part of the show since I started soliciting them from folks I respect and admire three years ago.

A.D. Amorosi: Have you ever done one of the marathons under the influence of too much holiday cheer?
Jon Solomon: I don't drink, so no. Giving up iced coffee and sweets in December pre-show so I am at my healthiest is the hardest part of the marathon.

A.D. Amorosi: What is the newest holiday song – or the most recent acquisition – that you are dying to play?
Jon Solomon: I'm presently listening to the just-released Arbor Records Christmas collection. Their pageant, which I went to last night and was amazing, is easily my second-favorite annual New Jersey holiday tradition.

A.D. Amorosi: What, in as full detail as you know, will you do with the extra hour? How do you intend to fill that time?
Jon Solomon: It is an extra opportunity to fit in all the amazing material I've collected. One "problem" I've had is there not being enough show for everything I want to share on-air. Thankfully I was able to do a three-hour all-Hanukkah show last month as an additional outlet, and spun several hours of Xmas hip hop at Boot & Saddle a couple Saturdays ago. I've got a (pre-recorded) New Year's Eve idea for 2015 already, but as someone who could easily do a 48-hour show without quality drop-off, I'm open to other ideas of how leftover music can reach people's ears.

A.D. Amorosi: One quarter century doing this, 25 is a real landmark. What’s been the weirdest, wonkiest moment of your Christmas music set? And what has been the most gentle, happy and most wonderful moment?
Jon Solomon: The weirdest moment that immediately comes to mind: a caller verbally abused me ("you're a dirty Jew c---sucker") on the request line, then waited a year to call back and apologize. As soon as they started talking I knew exactly who it was, and in the spirit of the season and the honesty of their contriteness, I accepted. The most wonderful moments: getting engaged on-air in 2003 and singing Christmas songs with my daughter in the studio the last few years. I am a lucky guy some of the time.

Photo: Robert Solomon

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Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013