Feel Festive and Get Merry with Radio Bristol Sleigh Ride’s Perfect Holiday Playlist! - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Feel Festive and Get Merry with Radio Bristol Sleigh Ride’s Perfect Holiday Playlist!

Two photographs of records: "Happy Magic Christmas" and "Red Lights (Merry Christmas)"

Tired of the same old holiday playlist? Need an extra shot of eggnog in the morning to get through the monotonous, overplayed holiday muzak? Well, we at Radio Bristol understand your holiday blues. That same old holiday playlist could put even the most diligent of elves to sleep. But don’t fret! Radio Bristol has you covered.

With the holidays quickly approaching, we thought it might be useful and fun to have our eclectic group of Radio Bristol DJs pick out some of their favorite holiday tunes to add some variety to your festive playlist. After you’ve been inspired by these picks, don’t forget to tune into the Radio Bristol Sleigh Ride show – “Holiday music the Radio Bristol way” – with holiday rarities, oddities, and more to help spice up your season and add some holiday cheer every evening from 5pm to 7pm through December 22 and all day December 23—25. You can find us on 100.1 FM or listen to us here on the BCM website or the WBCM Radio Bristol app.

And last but not least, happy holidays from all of us at Radio Bristol and the Birthplace of Country Music!

Two photographs of records: "Happy Magic Christmas" and "Red Lights (Merry Christmas)"
A preview – in record form – of a couple of the holiday tunes our Radio Bristol DJs have picked for you! “Red Lights (Merry Christmas)” is appropriately green and festive looking! Photographs courtesy of Brody Hunt and Lonnie Salyer

Brody Hunt, DJ on Land of the Sky

“Here’s a great one for kiddies of all ages, courtesy of Leonard Clark & Land of Sky Boys from Asheville, North Carolina. Leonard Clark is legendary in rockabilly circles for his recording ‘Come to Your Tommy Now,’ also on the Klub label out of Greenville, South Carolina. If I had to guess, I’d say the holiday tune shared here – ‘Happy Magic Christmas’ – was from 1963 or 1964.”

Marshall Ballew, DJ on Off the Beaten Track

“My pick is The Staple Singer’s original version of ‘Last Month of the Year’ (also known as ‘When Was Jesus Born’), which has been covered by folks like 5 Blind Boys and the Fairfield Four, but was written by Pops Staples. Seeing them live at Bele Chere in Asheville years ago is a treasured musical memory, and Mavis continues to amaze with her continuing stellar output!”

Lee Bidgood, DJ on Over the Waves

“Here is the East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Mandolin Orchestra doing an abbreviated version of The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky. I grew up in Florida hearing these pieces at my sisters’ dance recitals, and when CDs came out, on our stereo at home. Working the Nutcracker up with the ETSU Mandolin Orchestra this semester has been a challenge, since it turns out these are pretty complicated pieces! The students put in a lot of effort over the last three months and made it work on the mandolin family instruments. We had a lot of fun swinging the first movement and finding ways to make the other pieces work expressively. Now my 3-year-old son is singing these pieces as he putters around the house!”

Martha Spencer, DJ on Hillbilly Wonderland

“One of my favorite Christmas songs is  ‘The Christmas Guest’ by Grandpa Jones. I used to hear it played on Galax radio as a kid and always thought it had a touching story, making it a good one for those maybe feeling lonely around the holidays.”

C. J. Lewandowski, DJ on Grass Cuttin’ Time

“I have two holiday favorite picks! First a song written by Aubrey Holt of Boys from Indiana Fame – ‘Santa Git Picked up for a DUI.’ It’s pretty rare to find the original 45, but here’s Feller & Hill’s version. How could you not laugh?!

And the second pick comes from Jimmy Martin, my first big introduction to bluegrass music, who sucked me in. Jimmy was a king at recitations, and this one is pretty special with his children singing with him. ‘Old Fashioned Christmas,’ just how I remember!”


Roy Andrade, DJ on Whup the Devil

“Bob Dylan’s sense of humor is often overlooked, as is just how great a singer he is. ‘Must Be Santa’ was first done in 1960 by Mitch Miller, but Dylan’s interpretation outshines the original – the weird accordion parts played by someone who doesn’t play that much accordion is reminiscent of some of the ragtag playing on his mid-1960s records. And I mean that in the best way. Dylan has never let virtuosic playing trump what a song is saying. That’s another thing Dylan is under-appreciated for, his interpretations of others’ songs. One thing is for sure, I always believe Dylan’s singing, though I don’t believe this one makes me want to do much but sip whiskey by the fire!”

Lonnie Salyer, DJ on Diggin’ with Big Lon

“My favorite Christmas song is ‘Red Lights (Merry Christmas)’ by Dreams So Real. This was a Christmas promo record sent as a gift to the band’s fan club members in December 1988. Dreams So Real was a pivotal band in the Athens, Georgia, scene along with bands like The B-52s, Pylon, R.E.M., Guadalcanal Diary, and Love Tractor, all of whom helped define a genre and usher in alternative/college rock. This record reminds me of college and good times with friends, some of whom are no longer with us.”

Larry Gorley, DJ on Pick One with Larry and Alexandra

“One of my favorites is Tony Holt & The Wildwood Valley Boys with the song ‘When It’s Snowin’ in the Mountains.’ I remember years ago, traveling for my job and being away right up to Christmas day. Traveling in the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina with the snow flying, and everywhere you looked the Christmas decorations and folks shopping for that special day. Being away from family and friends and all I wanted was to be home with them.”

Bailey George, DJ on Honky Tonk Hit Parade

“My favorite song this time of year is Mahalia Jackson’s ‘Sweet Little Jesus Boy.’ My grandmother bought this album way back in 1953, and it has been a staple of my family’s celebration ever since. I have many fond memories of my family and this selection.”

Ryan Bernard, DJ on The Ramblin’ Ryan Show

“Robert Earl Keene’s ‘Merry Christmas from the Family’ has a whole lot of imagery that reminds me of living in Austin, Texas. Everyone has a family member who is a little eccentric or odd, and this song captures the beauty of oddball Christmas fun! Kind of a drunken hybrid Christmas carol! HA!”

Brett Davis, DJ on Bristol Rhythm

“When I think back through my years of listening to Christmas music, some of the classics from cartoons like Rudolph or Charlie Brown probably stand out the most to me. Being subjected to mainstream Christmas radio (which is a must in the retail world where I used to dwell), the old-school cartoon songs can be a refreshing break because, let’s face it, there is some truly terrible Christmas music out there. At least ‘Frosty the Snowman’ has a nice melody and can remind you of being a kid, even if it gets stuck in your head for eight hours. However, before the Radio Bristol Sleigh Ride was around to make Christmas music cool again, the one Christmas song that would make me reach out and turn up the volume is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ ‘Christmas All Over Again.’  There’s just something about the drums, I think…”

Josh Littleton, DJ on Early Morning Americana

“While I enjoy the holiday music we hear every December, I also find that it seems to all run together. Not so in the case of the Squirrel Nut Zippers with ‘Hanging Up My Stockings.’ It stands out while still evoking the seasonal nostalgia we expect from a good Christmas tune.”

Paul Brown, DJ on Across the Blue Ridge

“I don’t know that I have a single favorite holiday song, but I certainly am very fond of several. This 1977 TV performance of ‘Beautiful Star of Bethlehem’ by Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys presents a wonderful song put across by a truly great band in top form. The hair-raising triple harmonies of Keith Whitley, Jack Cook, and Ralph Stanley remind us of Dr. Ralph’s outstanding ability to galvanize performers working with him into a brilliant whole and present what he described as ‘the old-time style of what they call bluegrass music’ with stark power.”


Nathan Sykes, DJ on The Crooked Road Radio Hour

“It is a tradition in my family to play Don Reno and Red Smiley’s The True Meaning of Christmas heavily during the holiday season. ‘Christmas Reunion’ captures what the holiday season means to me, as Christmas is a time for families to gather and celebrate together. Though faces may no longer be around the Christmas table, they are not forgotten.”

Kris Truelsen, DJ on On the Sunny Side

“The first time I heard this song, I about fell out of my chair. Frankie ‘Halfpint’ Jaxon and the Cotton Top Sanctified Singers deliver an unforgettable holiday performance with ‘Christ Was Born on Christmas Morn.’ Raw, emotive and celebratory. I don’t think holiday music gets much better than this.”

We hope you enjoy this selection of Christmas tunes, and once again, from all of us at Radio Bristol have a safe and happy holiday season!

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