Ho ho and happy happy! It’s getting to be that time of year (if you know what I mean). While I don’t hate Christmas and all the accompanying festivities– the absurd shopping rituals, the ripe holiday cliches and all immature spirituality of the season have always been not just problematic, but almost tragic to me every year. Even after having a kid a few years ago it didn’t completely quell the queasy feelings of the season. The coming of the winter holidays still feels more like a saccharine onslaught every year rather than something… sublime (Okay, I kinda like the dead tree thing. And all the lights…) But what really gets my gut churning is ALL that old-fashioned Christmas music.
So, with this post I wrestle against my better judgment and go beyond my personal limits of good taste and present you– Christmas music. And before I say anything else– I am sorry. But I won’t apologize for great radio. And that’s what you always got when John Parker was bumping around in the dark.
One of the most popular posts here at the Radio Kitchen has been “Trucking Radio As It Used To Was,” which included a few hours of the great John Parker as the weekend host of the Road Gang on WWL. Just look at the comments on this post and feel the love. Not for me (of course), but for Mr. Parker. And that makes me happy. While getting a web obit on an obscure radio blog isn’t exactly a star on the walk of fame, it’s better than nothing. When I went to write the piece I was saddened (and almost shocked that) there was almost no web presence representing John Parker and his legacy of great overnight radio across America.
If you’re not familiar with John Parker or the Road Gang, let me briefly explain. From the 1970’s into the 1990’s or so, there were three or so all-night radio shows that ran on clear channel AM stations in the south, with programming that specifically catered to cross country truck drivers. And while advertising from obscure trucker gear and services made them exotic and fun for kooky night owls like me and others, what made these shows truly wonderful was the music– lots of classic country and western music. And plenty of songs about trucking life.
These days, what’s left of that trucking and country music radio legacy has been compressed into one XM (now Sirius-XM) satellite radio station, known as “Open Road.” But sadly, old John Parker didn’t make the move up to the new technology, and has since passed on. And if you want to read more, check out my original post on the man and his music (and especially the comments).
While I’ve planned to put together another post (or maybe more) of Parker’s airchecks, the other day I recalled that I probably still had these particular tapes at the bottom of a closet here at headquarters.– a couple of Road Gang programs hosted by Parker from the 1988 Christmas season. And now they’re yours too (If you want ‘em).
WWL – The Road Gang w-John Parker 12-23-88 pt 1 47:14
This first tape is actually not so painful, as far as holiday nausea potential. It’s still a couple days before Christmas, so the seasonal stuff is just part of the mix anyway. In fact there’s some deliciously weird stuff that I’d forgotten, like a Red Sovine holiday melodrama I haven’t heard in years. And lots of trucker-style corn (And I do mean corn).
WWL – The Road Gang w-John Parker 12-23-88 pt 2 45:34
However, tape number two is full pedal to the metal Christmas carol baby Jesus birthday from end to end. After all, it is Christmas Eve 1988. I think even I might have been a little less seasonally cynical way back then. Maybe.
WWL – The Road Gang w-John Parker 12-25-88 pt 1 44:10
So, if you like your holiday sounds maudlin and religious and soupy, you’re gonna have a good time with this hour and a half of the Road Gang. However, this Christmas Eve fell on a Saturday night, when Honest John offered his weekly music history lesson (AKA “Country Music The Way It Used To Was”) for the last two hours of the Road Gang. So the tunes may be hard for a Christmas curmudgeon such as myself to bear, but the second part of this aircheck does offer some the rarities, as well as Parker’s insights and historical perspective.
Unlike just about any other audio I might post here, when I encoded this deep Christmas aircheck I had to turn down the volume. Sorry. I couldn’t do it. But I hope you enjoy it, if you’ve got the stomach (or the spirit) for a big dose of xmas audio, you’ll probably have a good time.
WWL – The Road Gang w-John Parker 12-25-88 pt 2 46:49
Meanwhile, I’m off to finish up some preparations. And to gather a little fortitude. I do wish you well, and hope you get and give all the jolly and joy and jingle that you can handle during these trying times. And thanks again to John Parker, for plenty of inspired overnight radio, and for sharing the love and lore of country music. Which reminds me, I have a New Years Eve tape of Parker on the Road Gang around here somewhere. When I get a chance, I’ll root though those boxes in the closet again soon and see if I can dig it up.
I do hope you have fun, however you interact with the solstice and the coming new year. And good luck to you (and yours)!