It’s been at least a year, possibly two, since I last published a list of the most tuned Internet radio stations by Como Audio owners around the world. As many of you know, I worked for Como for over 7 years as Vice President of Product Development, and more recently, General Manager. I found it fascinating to learn what stations our customers were listening to and enjoyed bringing these lists to you on a semi-regular basis. With the company shutting its doors literally just a couple of days ago, I thought I’d author one final article on the most popular stations amongst Como Audio users and also amongst the millions of people using the Frontier Silicone platform.
Accordingly, here are the top 50 Internet radio stations ranked from the most to least listened to by Como Audio listeners:
Radio Swiss Jazz
WQXR 105.9 FM
BBC World Service
NPO Radio 1
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 6 Music
VRT Radio 1
WNYC 93.9 FM
WDNA 88.9 FM
Radio Swiss Classic
BBC Radio 3
NPO Radio 5
SomaFM – Left Coast 70s
NPO Radio 2
WBGO Jazz 88.3FM
WGBH Boston Public Radio
KEXP 90.3 FM
WBUR 90.9 FM
La Première RTBF
VRT Klara Continuo
Classical California KUSC
BBC Radio 2
Classical California KDFC
VRT Studio Brussel
Radio 10 – 60s & 70s Hits
VRT Radio 2 Oost-Vlaanderen
In scanning through the above list, it’s not surprising to find Radio Swiss Jazz in the top spot. Anytime I’ve published this list it’s always been number one, and for good reason. Radio Swiss Jazz was stored in preset #1 in every radio we made and it was our go-to station whenever we performed product demonstrations. Streaming in the superior AAC audio codec at 100 kbps and playing a great selection of mainstream jazz, the station always sounded fantastic.
Now, here’s the list of the 50 most tuned stations by everyone using a Frontier Silicon platform-based radio of which there are millions around the world.
BBC Radio 4
Radio Nowy Świat
RadioMv – Slavic
NDR 1 Niedersachsen Hannover
NDR 2 Niedersachsen
BBC Radio 2
BAYERN 1 Oberbayern
NPO Radio 1
RTÉ Radio 1
WDR 2 Rheinland
NPO Radio 2
NPO Radio 5
OLDIE ANTENNE – Oldies but Goldies
HIT RADIO FFH
BBC Radio 3
Radio U1 Tirol
MDR THÜRINGEN Erfurt
Radio Swiss Jazz
The thing that stands out immediately to me with this list is there’s only 1 or 2 stations from the USA. That’s because the majority of these listeners reside outside the USA. Surprisingly, unlike the Como Audio list, Radio Swiss Jazz ranks almost at the very bottom.
It never fails to surprise me how many people have no idea Internet radio exists or even understand what it is. So, I get very excited when people discover it and the wealth of free entertainment it offers, regardless of what brand radio they use. Unfortunately, many users are discouraged by the amount of effort it sometimes can take to search through almost 70,000 Internet stations. That’s why I launched Recommended Stations via Patreon. With Recommended Stations, I do the searching for you and recommend a different radio station every month in addition to uncovering a bizarre station you never thought would exist. This month’s Recommended Station is unique in that it mixes two different music genres. Most radio stations are dedicated to a single genre, but not this station. Last month’s Hitchhiker Station (the name I give strange stations) is dedicated to the oral orifice. If this sounds interesting, sign up for a free trial using the link at the bottom of this article. And if you’re a Como Audio customer, join at the Elite level and I’ll be available to address any Como Audio tech support questions you might have about your music system.
I get very excited when people discover it and the wealth of free entertainment it offers, regardless of what brand radio they use.
Farewell Como Audio
As we started to wind down Como Audio last month, I personally received emails from many people thanking me for their music system(s) and for my assistance over the years. It was a lot of work developing and voicing every model while keeping to a totally unrealistic schedule. We also provided over- the-top customer service, especially for a very small company with limited resources. There were many instances where we took care of customers who were very clearly in the wrong or were downright unreasonable, but CEO Tom DeVesto always placed a very high value on customer support. We made our share of mistakes as well, but we always did our best to admit to them and to try to make them right.
The lats 2 years were difficult ones. You have no idea how hard we worked to try to keep the company going and the sacrifices that were made. As part of the cost saving measures my hours were gradually reduced to the point where I was only working 1 day per week. In November of 2022, I was forced to sell my home because I could no longer afford it. As was my luck, the red hot housing market had cooled off by then and I didn’t get the price I should have. I’ll put my violin back in it’s case now.
We were all hoping things would turn around for Como Audio but they never did. In the end, we had to face the reality that the business just wasn’t sustainable. Our most popular model, Musica, proved to be our chief downfall because we couldn’t get them in a timely manner due to parts shortages, high required order quantities, and price increases.
I may not have been a doctor saving lives or a scientist curing diseases, but it was very gratifying to bring music into people’s lives, especially during the pandemic when we were all isolated. Sadly, Como Audio is now history, but Internet radio lives on. As we were fond of saying to our customers- enjoy the music.
Trivia:Como Audio was founded 7 years ago last month and was named after beautiful Lake Como in Italy. It’s the third largest lake in Italy. Actor George Clooney owns an 18th century, 25 room mansion on Lake Como which he bought after falling in love with the area while on holiday. He was made an honorary citizen and often spends the summer months there.
Trivia: That’s Como Audio General Manager Peter Skiera’s voice speaking the confirmations from the Como Blu Stereo system.
Trivia: The default preset Internet stations in presets #7 & 8 on Musica were hand picked by Peter Skiera.
Trivia: While brainstorming names for our first two models, Peter Skiera proposed naming them Musica 1 & Musica 2.This was rejected in favor of Solo and Duetto, but our top of the line model was named Musica. Skiera also introduced the hickory finish.
Trivia:Peter Skiera started with Como Audio before the company had an office. He would meet with Tom DeVesto at DeVesto’s home on Cape Cod or at a cafe in Hingham, MA.
Enjoyed this article? Please help support my website blog and Internet radio stations:
Any Elite Supporter of Recommended Stations has the option of being the subject of a profile article which allows fellow supporters an opportunity to get to know them a little better. We’re like a family supporting the same cause so why not get to know each other? In this, my first Patreon Profile, I introduce you to Chris Cromwell, founder of WJST, my Recommended Station nearly 1 year ago.
As a reminder, WJST, “Jet Set Radio” out of Lexington, Kentucky plays “easy listening” reel-to-reel analog tapes as originally played over airline entertainment systems in the 1970’s. Other related reel-to-reel tapes of the same vintage are also featured. Cromwell adds occasional “announcements” from his “crew” to reinforce the in-flight experience.
Cromwell was a big rig truck driver and was frequently out on the road, but he’s currently recovering at home from a health issue so it was an opportune time for me to present him with some questions for this profile.
Peter: Where were you born?
Chris: I was born at the Vandenberg Air Force Base Hospital in California; near Santa Barbara. My dad was in the Air Force at the time.
Peter: Was music a part of your childhood?
Chris: Yes! Definitely! An interesting story behind that! Around late 1967, early 1968, my mom grew more weary of the turning tides of rock music she once liked. First it was the Beatles using drugs and claiming they were more popular than Jesus. She frowned hard on that. Then it was The Rolling Stones’ deeper use of hard drugs, she really didn’t like that! Finally, when she heard Jim Morrison of the Doors on the stereo, that pretty much drove the last nail into the coffin. She was DONE with rock music. So, she started tuning around the FM dial for better music she would enjoy. She stumbled onto Beautiful Easy Listening station KSBY, among several others located around the area; like KPMJ. She quickly fell In love with Beautiful Easy Listening and soon got my dad to love it, too! They always found a Beautiful Easy Listening station no matter where we lived. So when I was born in December 1970, I was born directly into Beautiful Easy Listening Stereo Music and of course Reel To Reel Tapes! My folks had two Sonys back then! I kind of liked Easy Listening, but soon got into the more mellowed out rock music of the mid-late 1970’s. My mom gave Rock music another chance in the mid-late 70’s; especially with disco. But as time went on, she was listening to more Beautiful Music with my dad, and I eventually grew more to like it too, especially as I got further into my 40’s. Now Beautiful Easy Listening music is all I listen to.
Peter: Who are some of the artists in your personal CD/LP/download collection?
Chris: In my 20’s-40’s I was into New Wave Music, (Pet Shop Boys, Til Tuesday, The Ramones, Art Of Noise, New Order, etc.). I was also into Classic Rock, (Eric Clapton, Moody Blues, Heart, Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, etc.). I also had a good decent collection of Disco Music from the Bee Gees and many others. A good variety from almost everybody. But I no longer have my CD/LP collection any longer. I gave away 5 big cases filled with CDs for free. Same thing for my cassette tapes. Everything except my Reel-to-Reel tapes are gone now.
Peter: What was the best concert you’ve ever been to? Did you ever meet a famous music star?
Chris: The only concerts I could go to was Christian music concerts during the 1990’s. Mostly because they were free for me to go to, or really cheap price; working at the Christian AM Radio station back then. There were several, I long forgotten who they were. I think one was Eddie Degarmo & Key, also Rachel Rachel? Or Amy Grant was another maybe.
I did meet Eddie DeGarmo personally for a few minutes to say hello.
There was one Christian music concert I went to, I forgot who the artist was, but she pointed me out to everyone that I was totally rocking out with her! That was pretty cool!
Peter: When did you first discover Internet radio as a listener and what about it appealed to you?
Chris: Perhaps the very first time I discovered Internet Radio was in 1998-1999. The dial-up connection of 32-56k was laggy at best, but I was quite surprised to hear different kinds of streaming music playing! At that time, I thought how cool it was to hear any kind of station or music from anywhere, not heard before. A free glimpse into everything!
Peter: How do you usually listen…a computer, an Internet radio, a smartphone app, an Alexa device?
Chris: Most usually I listen through my iPhone 12Pro. I use GetMeRadio or MyTuner Apps; maybe Live365 app. In the car the iPhone will connect through Bluetooth, and I can listen to the apps that way. I do have an Alexa device, but it’s only turned on for testing the WJST Jet Set Skill. Other times I might listen through my PC computer.
Peter: How often do you listen and what stations do you listen to (not including your own)?
Chris: I listen to Internet Radio pretty often, especially to the LoFi Music Stations, such as LoFi Girl.
Peter: Is there anything about Internet radio as a listener you wish you could change or improve upon?
Chris: I wish Internet Radio could just sound better, instead of the compressed sound all the time. Unfortunately, most legal streaming platforms only give you a low compressed signal for too high a price.
Peter: For anyone interested in listening to Internet radio or starting their own Internet station but afraid to take the plunge thinking it’s too complicated, what would your advice be?
Chris: I would say, if you have the serious passion and drive, go for it! Only the most passionate and creative broadcasters can be successful thinking outside the box.
But if you don’t have much passion or creativity for internet radio, you won’t see much use for it.
In reality, having your own internet station isn’t really all that complicated at all. It’s more about trying to build an audience over time.
Peter: Do you think Internet radio makes a difference in people’s everyday lives?
Chris: I would say it does! I have seen multitudes of positive comments from listeners. They all mention how healing and beneficial the music or programming is. Goes for me too!! Unfortunately, not many people are into sharing a station they like with others. So, nobody knows what they are not told.
Peter: You used to be a truck driver. How did you listen to Internet radio when you were out on the road?
Chris: From 2000-2017 I used XM Satellite Radio, or my USB Sticks to listen to my favorite music out over the road. My cellphones didn’t have unlimited data streaming capabilities back then. Eventually in 2018 I began listening to internet radio over the road using my Samsung Android phone. I was able to connect to the truck stereo using [the] Bluetooth connection. The Live365 app being the only one I knew of at the time. I would eventually discover other streaming apps.
Peter: I see from your Facebook photos that you own a motorcycle.
Chris: Yes! I still own (currently buying) a used 2011 Harley Davidson Nightster Sportster 1200. Fuel injected with Tachometer, Vance & Hanes exhaust pipes, plenty loud to be noticed with a car horn installed. It’s a pretty nice bike! Good mixture of blue, black and chrome.
It only has a 3.25-gallon tank, so I mostly ride it around locally near the house. Sometimes I might take it down to Richmond, Kentucky or down by Lancaster, Kentucky where my folks live. So not too many interesting places recently.
However, back in 2006, I had a brand new 2006 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Low dark metallic red, with all kinds of extra options, chrome, gauges, and goodies! It had a 4.5-gallon tank, so I enjoyed riding it down to Knoxville, Tennessee, around parts of Colorado, and of course, different places in Kentucky. I probably should have just kept the loud Harley instead of trading it in for a 2011 Chevy Camaro. That didn’t turn out too well.
Peter: In 2018 you started your own Internet radio station, WJST. What do you enjoy most about having your own station?
Chris: What I enjoy most is, knowing that me and several others that work with me, are making a positive difference with other listeners.
I’m told frequently how healing and melancholy the programming is. They think of their past relatives, loved ones, memories, childhood, etc. They appreciate the Easy Listening Relaxing music, compared to the anxiety filled Rock Music of today.
Peter: What changes have you made to WJST since it was named a Recommended Station?
Chris: I have made quite a few new changes since winning the award! It was a motivating factor to introduce a lot of new Easy Listening, Lounge, Exotica & Christmas music! I also introduced a bunch of new poetry that airs overnight during Music Till Dawn! Some of the Poetry is read by Chief Stewardess Something Blue! Late night drink recipes are read by Koop Kooper! Just recently, I added two new weekly shows to WJST!
“The Tiki Lounge Happy Hour” from D. Argyle Vermouth airs Wednesday at 6PM Eastern Time. Followed by “The Atomic Age Cocktail Party” with Jason Croft! Wednesdays at 8PM Eastern Time. Both programs are one hour long and feature music built around a central theme.
I have also included many new singing jingles. You will often hear a British girl singing about WJST!
Last and certainly not least, I introduced a new Captain to the Jet Set Plane to replace Gary Miles. She is known as “Captain Martha”, and turns out to be my spouse as well! Several listeners told me they really like her sound on WJST.
I recently signed up an account with Strimm and uploaded a good handful of my videos from YouTube to try it out. On January 20th, 2023 at 1:15AM, I launched WJST Jet Set TV 65 on Strimm! Channel 65, meaning the year 1965, when Jet Setting was in full swing, playing popular music reel tapes on Astrostereo. Of course, I had no viewers at all, as nobody knows about it, but it gave me time to learn how everything still works. I am still figuring stuff out…There isn’t a lot of content yet and I have much left to upload in the coming weeks and months.
Last night, I placed WJST Jet Set TV 65 on the WJST Jet Set Website! Everyone is familiar with that, so it should be easy to find and view! You can head over to https://wjstjetset.com, scroll down some, and you will see the large video player; TV Guide included! Eventually I will get it set up for Ad’s, and even for Roku! I will produce promos for the TV station, too. Otherwise, nobody would know where to find my TV station on the Stremm site, even with a link, few people would know of.
The Strimm website came around in 2012, so they aren’t going anywhere that I know of. They claim to have multiple Internet TV stations around the world. It’s https://strimm.com if you want to take a look, pronounced Stream. This is what I have been working on the past few days.
Peter: This might be an odd question, but I have to ask…Who is the young boy wearing a WJST T-Shirt on WJST’s Facebook page?
Chris: LOL! It’s easy to think it’s a boy with such short hair and cute face! But that’s actually a 23 year old woman named Jonah Tojo. She lives in Chiba Prefecture Japan, not too far away from Tokyo. Jonah is a popular former JPop Star singer! Her short blue hair is her trademark look. I aired a few of her songs sung in English and Japanese on WJST! I also sent her some WJST T-Shirts to wear. One large WJST shirt I gave her is worn as a nightie! So that is who you see on the FB Page.
Peter: Why did you become an Elite Supporter of Recommended Stations via Patreon?
Chris: After such a glowing article was written for WJST, I soon had a large increase of new listeners! More people are listening longer than ever! Even more so after winning Runner Up to Station Of The Year! Everyone wants to find out why! So, it’s the least I could do to return the favor, to become an Elite Supporter of Recommended Stations. To say Thank You so very much for listening and for your support!
Peter: What do you enjoy most about the monthly Recommended and Hitchhiker Station articles?
Chris: As I began early in this article, I was amazed to hear new music and stations on dial up internet! So, what I enjoy most is reading about those new or obscure stations anywhere in the world, I wouldn’t have known about earlier. Kind of like stumbling into an unknown dialup BBS site no one else knows of.
Peter: Anything else you’d like to add, Chris?
Chris: Since October 30th, 2022, I have been at home on medical leave; currently not working. I probably won’t return to truck driving, not knowing what other job I can do with my physical limitations.
I constantly worry about keeping WJST Jet Set Radio on the air. The high monthly costs are always due, and my short-term disability pay may not always be there.
I’m asking everyone to please donate to WJST, especially if it really does provide a beneficial service to you.
Otherwise, I might have to ground the Jet Set Plane for an indefinite period of time. People tell me WJST is a station like no other. I would have to say I agree! Let’s keep it flying with your support. Tomorrow is always another day.
Update: A few days after my interview with Chris he sent an email to the folks on his list which read in part: “I’m reaching out to all of you today, our most loyal Jet Set Fliers and listeners. We deeply appreciate every one of you most very much and we definitely love bringing a unique music format not found anywhere else. But we could really use your support at this time. As with the new increased costs from Live365, it may become necessary to ground the Jet Set Plane at Midnight March 1st! WJST will go dark, indefinitely! Please donate today securely to the PayPal Widgets located on the website.”
My thanks to Chris Cromwell for his time and support and I’m sure you join me in wishing him a speedy recovery and all good things for WJST.
If you’d like to make a contribution to WJST or enjoy a musical round trip flight or two, head on over to the station’s website…no need to pack a bag and no long security lines to navigate.
If you’re a Recommended Stations Elite Supporter or upgrade to that level and would like to be the subject of a future Patreon Profile, please get in touch with me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trivia (from apnews.com): “Boeing bid farewell to an icon on Tuesday [1/31/23], delivering its final 747 jumbo jet as thousands of workers who helped build the planes over the past 55 years looked on.
“Since its first flight in 1969, the giant yet graceful 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, a transport for NASA’s space shuttles, and the Air Force One presidential aircraft. It revolutionized travel, connecting international cities that had never before had direct routes and helping democratize passenger flight.”
In Happy Hee Haw New Year Part 1 I wrote about the interesting backstory to the classic country comedy show, Hee Haw, and featured an interview with original cast member Lulu Roman.
In Part 2 I conclude my series with two additional original cast member interviews…Jana Jae and Buck Trent. Sit back and relax. As Roy Clark and Buck Owens said in the opening of one episode, “it’s time for singing and it’s time for jokes, so gather ’round and join us, folks.”
Jana Jae took up the violin at age 2, albeit a miniature version. She has a degree in music and studied at the Vienna Academy of Music. Buck Owens hired her to be in his Buckaroos band which led to multiple performances on Hee Haw. Her repertoire isn’t limited to country music. Jae has played the Montreux Jazz Festival, Wembley Festival, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Known as “the first lady of country fiddle”, she’s toured Australia, Africa, Brazil, Japan, and the Philippines. In addition to Buck Owens and Roy Clark, she’s performed with Chet Atkins, Ricky Skaggs, The Oakridge Boys, Mel Tillis, Ray Stevens, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Jae has several albums under her belt and also founded her own Fiddle Camp and Music Festival which takes place in Grove, Oklahoma.
Peter: I know you have many fond memories, but can you share a specific “Hee Haw” memory?
Jana: Working alongside some of the many wonderful guest stars was a real eye-opener to me! Roy Rogers & Dave Evans, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, and so many more – I loved it! One funny thing was when Junior Samples brought his jug to our taping – his real, authentic moonshine jug thrown over his shoulder – sip, sip, sip! I think that was the first and last time on set, but it proved to me he was the real deal!!
Peter: Give me a sense of what it was like during one week of recording for “Hee Haw”. Did you rehearse beforehand?
Jana: Since I was a member of Buck’s band, we planned our time very efficiently. We had recorded some of the tracks ahead of time, and we all generally knew the songs and arrangements, at least Buck’s vocals (which he sang live on set). We would usually put in a full day in front of the cameras, doing all Buck’s songs together, then all of the cast songs together, then all the cornfields, the fence shots, whatever guests were scheduled, any solos or group fiddle numbers, etc. They had a detailed schedule for a couple weeks, then we left. It was really quite efficient – and always great fun!!!
Peter: Do you have a favorite performance from “Hee Haw” or do they all kind of blend together now? Did you perform before an audience or were applause tracks added later?
Jana: I sure enjoyed the cast songs and the group fiddle numbers, still favorites, but I really enjoyed everything we did on Hee Haw! We performed before a small audience of friends and cast members, seated on hay bales with backs to the cameras. I was so surprised when I first arrived on set – I had expected every show in an auditorium packed full! Not! They filmed, gathered all the footage, then would piece together the shows, add effects or the barnyard animals going across the screen, lots of fun things. We never knew who or what would be in a finished show – it was amazing how each show was done! Genius!!
Peter: Why do you think the show was so popular?
Jana:Hee Haw was a family show! It was a weekly family event before we had hundreds of channels to choose from, the entire family sat down to laugh and enjoy Hee Haw together – it was a fabulous show that really united families across America! It was fast-paced, full of fun, corny but funny humor, comedy sketches, and tons of great music, some clap along tunes and also current hits with stars who loved the exposure. And of course, the girls got lots of attention, but still fine for the whole family to enjoy. Everybody who was anybody wanted to be on the show!!!
Peter: Your famous blue violin was a gift (or an order!) from Buck Owens and you still use it to this day. You weren’t too keen on it at first but it must have become very special to you. Why was Owens insistent you play that specific violin?
Jana: He thought it would look good on camera and be different from Don Rich’s red-white-and-blue fiddle. And he was right!! It gets lots of attention!
Peter: You were married to Owens for a short time but you both remained friends until his passing, right?
Peter: Buck Owens left “Hee Haw” in 1986. Were you surprised by the comments in Owens’ autobiography about only being a part of “Hee Haw” for the money? He always looked to me like he was genuinely having fun.
Jana: Buck valued money because he grew up poor and really wanted to make plenty so he would never be poor again! He was always fun to be with and I know he genuinely enjoyed being on Hee Haw! We always had a great time!
Peter: What’s it like performing alongside some of the original “Hee Haw” cast members again? The Kornfield Friends came about almost by accident, right?
Jana: After I bought Roy Clark’s bus and we had such fun on the road, I had been talking for years to many managers about a Hee Haw road show. It kind of stayed on my back burner, but no real dramatic interest for a long time. It evolved right after we all were together again for producer Sam Lovullo’s memorial celebration. Sam really united us all – our Big Daddy! We all wanted to pay tribute to him and his contribution to so many of our careers, and after the memorial, where everyone either spoke or performed a song, lots of us went to dinner at Johnny A’s. They had a really good house band, and they kept asking me to play the fiddle (which was all put up and tucked away in the trunk of my car). I finally said I’d play if I could have a little help from my Hee Haw friends, and Misty immediately said, “I’ll dance if you’ll play!” We had a ball, and needless to say, we brought the house down! I talked to Misty about doing a show at one of the three summer festivals I present on Grand Lake in Oklahoma. She came and we absolutely had a hit! So, I added Buck Trent and we did several shows with that configuration, and Misty had a genuine cornfield that was a hit with the crowds. I had booked Lulu on a couple of our festivals also, so I asked Lulu to do some shows with us I formed an LLC, fronted all the initial start-up costs with my band and my bus, and Kornfield Friends was born! I probably won’t ever get my investment back because just as we were really going full steam ahead, COVID hit and wiped out our 2020 year full of bookings! Whatever evolves, it was worth it – and my dream goes on. We’ve taken a breath, but we’re still around, I still have the bus and the band and hope we’ll visit many more towns across the country. It’s a very special thing to meet in person the audiences who have watched us on tv over the years! I always felt the Hee Haw cast was like extended family. I treasure that family, including the wonderful family audiences who watched us over the years!
Peter: You’ve accomplished a great deal in your life- founded a fiddle camp and music festival, played alongside some big names, and you’re an outstanding musician in your own right. But for many people, you’ll always be Jana Jae with the blue violin from “Hee Haw”. Does that bother you?
Jana: I love it! At first, I was shocked by the blue fiddle they gave me to play on Hee Haw – I was kind of a purist with my wonderful Italian violin made in 1750 –but after receiving fan mail addressed to “the girl with the blue fiddle”, it became sort of my trademark – I always play the blue fiddle in my country concerts!
Peter: What artists/music do you listen to when you have the time? Do you prefer records, CDs, or downloads?
Jana: Whatever is handy at the time – I can barely keep up with the opportunities on all the new online music platforms. Great fun to surf a bit, and I still like YouTube for being able to pick and choose easily. Of course, I have tons of vinyl, CDs, etc., but find I listen most online now.
Peter: Do you find music keeps you feeling young and energetic?
Jana: Absolutely – I can’t imagine what I would do without music in my life – it’s definitely in my blood, a life source! It refreshes me every day – and I’d love to spend more time creating music! I just want to stay happy, healthy, and keep making music every day of my life. That is being blessed, and hopefully it blesses others as well! That’s the real joy – to share music!!
Charles W. “Buck” Trent has played the bajo since age 10. He’s performed with such luminaries as Bill Monroe, Porter Wagoner, Roy Clark, Marty Stuart, and Dolly Parton (he played lead guitar on Parton’s Jolene and I Will Always Love You). He and Roy Clark were the first country music duo to tour the Soviet Union in 1976. Trent’s received many awards over the decades and has appeared on numerous TV shows including The Tonight Show, Mike Douglas Show, and Dinah! He invented the electric banjo but also plays the steel guitar, electric bass, mandolin, and guitar. His latest CD is called Spartanburg Blues and features Dolly Parton, The Oak Ridge Boys, Vince Gill, David Frizzell, and Marty Stuart.
Peter: I’m sure you’ve never been asked this before 😊, but how did your trademark “Oh Yeah!” and thumbs up thing come about?
Buck: The “Oh Yeah!” and thumbs up came about while taping my Talkin’ Blues [song]. After I sang the punchline to the joke, there were a few beats left and I had to have something to say. So, I said “Oh Yeah!” and gave the thumbs up!
Peter: How were you able to tape 13 Kornfield sketches back-to-back without it getting old real fast?
Buck: The Kornfield jokes were usually with different people so it was fun. The jokes were so corny and the more you messed them up the better it was.
Peter: Can you give me one favorite “Hee Haw” memory?
Buck: My favorite memory from Hee Haw was the day Roy Rogers and Dale Evans taped the show. He was my childhood hero. I went over to him to introduce myself and he said, “I know who you are Buck, I watch you every week!” That made my day!
Peter: “Hee Haw” was one of the first shows to air bloopers. Is there one that sticks out in your mind? Did you have any bloopers?
Buck: There were a lot of bloopers. Junior Samples took 14 takes on the word “pollution”. He couldn’t pronounce it. Roy Clark had to get up and down with Junior 14 times. It wore Roy out! I’m sure I had a few but I can’t remember any.
Peter: When did you leave the show and why?
Buck: I left in 1983 or 1984. The reason I left was I had quit working with Roy Clark and went out on my own. I was just phased out of Hee Haw.
Peter: Was “Hee Haw” a blessing or a curse? What do you think when you watch the reruns today?
Buck: It was a blessing for me and a lot of the others. I like watching the reruns. We did some great picking and singing on that show. We had the best guests on it, too.
Peter: I have to admit, I got a bit choked up watching you interacting with Roy Clark during the 2012 “Salute To The Kornfield” reunion.
Buck: The reunion was fun. Roy and I just picked up where we left off. It was so special seeing everyone again. There were so many that died after we taped it. So sad to lose so many friends.
Peter: What was it like working with Roy Clark?
Buck: Working with Roy was a lot fun. They said we had a wonderful time! Ha ha! We traveled the world together. Our dueling banjos is still a hit. No one has done it better than us!
Peter: How is it playing with the Kornfield Friends from “Hee Haw“?
Buck: The Kornfield Friends concerts was a lot of fun. I loved it and would like to do more.
Peter: Do you still perform your famous “Talkin’ Blues” song? Buck: Yes, I do the Talkin’ Blues at the Kornfield shows. Robert Lunn came up with the original one. I did his first verses. Then I had to write my own for every show.
My last question to Buck, since he also told jokes on Hee Haw, was whether he had heard any good (or bad) jokes lately. He said no, so I’ll steal one from one of his live shows: It was so cold out today, I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets!
Hee Haw was a wholesome program the entire family could enjoy together. There aren’t too many shows you can say that about today. I think the best way for me to close this article is to quote from Hee Haw’s closing theme: “May your pleasures be many, your troubles be few.”
My personal thanks to Lulu Roman, Jana Jae, and Buck Trent for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer my questions. A huge shout out also to Scott Sexton and Jean Trent for facilitating these interviews.
Trivia (from metv.com):“Elvis Presley was reportedly such a big fan of [Hee Haw], he wanted to appear as a guest. Presley also dated two Hee Haw Honeys: Linda Thompson and Diana Goodman. After the legendary singer’s death, his father made an appearance on the show and paid tribute to his late son.”
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In January of last year I wrote an article on my RecommendedStations.com blog about the TV detective show Mannix. It received the most views and positive comments of any article I’ve written. To start the New Year off, I decided to write about another vintage TV show, but this program isn’t a detective show and it has much stronger ties to music.
Hee Haw began back in in 1969 when CBS aired it as a temporary replacement for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour which had been unceremoniously cancelled by the network due to disagreements with the stars. The country comedy show, loosely based on NBC’s Laugh In, was butchered by the critics, yet did so well in the ratings that it found itself in CBS’s regular line up in January of 1970, 53 years ago this month.
Hosted by country music legends Roy Clark and Buck Owens, Hee Haw was a country music variety show featuring musical performances, comedy sketches, and the Hee Haw Honeys (attractive young ladies in low-cut, tight-fitting outfits). Some of the show’s popular reoccurring skits included Pfft You Was Gone, Pickin’ and Grinnin’, Gloom, Despair and Agony On Me, The Kornfield, Empty Arms Hotel, Samples Sales (“Call BR-549”), K-O-R-N News with Charlie Fahrquarson, Archie’s Barber Shop, The Naggers, Gordie’s General Store, Doc Campbell and Nurse Goodbody, Hey Grandpa! What’s For Supper?, The Culhanes, and Lulu’s Truck Stop. These skits made household names out of Archie Campbell, Grandpa Jones, Junior Samples, Gordie Tapp, Don Harron, Lulu Roman, Misty Rowe, Barbi Benton, Gunilla Hutton, Gailard Sartain, Kenny Price, Lisa Todd, Roni Stoneman, and others.
As Hee Haw became a ratings success it attracted some heavy-hitting guest stars over its many episodes. Some of these included Ed McMahon, Hugh Hefner, Ernest Borgnine, Senator Robert Byrd, Billy Graham, Dennis Weaver, Billy Carter, Will Geer, Foster Brooks, and George Gobel.
Big name country music stars also graced Hee Haw broadcasts…singers like Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, Charlie Pride, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, George Jones, and even Garth Brooks. Kenny Rogers, another huge star who performed on Hee Haw, met his 4th wife on the show- Hee Haw Honey Marianne Gordon. But I digress. The musical performances were taped before a live audience but the rest of the show had laugh tracks added.
What’s In A Name
Speaking of taping, Hee Haw was originally taped at a CBS-TV affiliate in Nashville, but soon moved to Opryland where an entire season was recorded twice a year, each in marathon one-week sessions. This dramatically reduced production costs and allowed various Hee Haw stars to record albums and tour with minimal disruption.
Pardon My Blooper
Hee Haw was also a pioneer of the blooper. It was one of the first, if not the first TV show, to regularly air bloopers in its episodes. These consisted of a cast member flubbing a line and requiring multiple takes to get it right. Perhaps the most famous of these was Junior Samples trying to pronounce the word “trigonometry”.
On the subject of records, Hee Haw spawned a cottage industry of country albums. There were three volumes of The Stars of Hee Haw and a spin-off titled Guest Stars of The Hee Haw Show. These were compilations of hits by regular performers on the TV show. There were also four volumes of The Hee Haw Gospel Quartet featuring Roy Clark, Buck Owens, Grandpa Jones, and Kenny Price.
For the Record
Many performers on the show launched their recording careers thanks to Hee Haw. Some of these included six records by The Hagar Twins, fifteen albums by Susan Reye (not including her collaborations with Buck Owens), Hee Haw Honey Barbi Benton cut five records (she was very popular in Japan), not to mention records by Stringbean, Grandpa Jones, Gordie Tapp, Roni Stoneman, Mini Pearl, Lulu Roman, Buck Trent, and Jana Jae. There were even spoken word records released by Junior Samples, Archie Campbell, and Grady Nutt.
CBS: Country Broadcasting System
In 1971, during television’s “rural purge” which saw the cancellation of such popular shows as The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, Bonanza, and Gunsmoke, CBS cancelled Hee Haw after just two years. But Hee Haw had the last laugh, or the last hee haw as it were, because it went on to a much longer and even more successful second life in syndication. Hee Haw became a regular Saturday night fixture for millions of Americans. At its high point it had 30 million viewers.
Television shows don’t last forever, however, and first-run production of Hee Haw ended during the summer of 1992. A “best of” series called Hee Haw Silver, hosted by Roy Clark, ran for another year until the series finally came to an end after 25 years. Hee Haw proved to be one of the longest-running television shows in syndication history.
“…an entire season was recorded twice a year, each in marathon one-week sessions.”
To the joy of Hee Haw fans everywhere, there have been several cast reunions, the most recent of which was on the TV show Huckabee in February of 2019, hosted by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The show included a recreation of The Kornfield sketch where cast members told corny (pun intended) jokes like this one from the Huckabee Kornfield skit: “Why aren’t tubas used in country bands? Because they’re heavy metal.”
Hee Haw on DVD
The best Hee Haw reunion in my opinion was RFD TV’s Country’s Family Reunion’s “Salute to the Kornfield” episode in 2012. Many of the surviving cast reunited to share funny stories, jokes, and of course, great country music. It was heartwarming to see so many of them back together again. I was so moved by it I bought the 4 DVD set. I’m not a DVD kind of guy but I figured it wasn’t a program that would be rerun very often, and I was right. The set also came with a 5th DVD featuring behind-the-scenes footage. And I own Time/Life’s Hee Haw 10th Anniversary Celebration DVD, which I also highly recommend. I’ve been unable to source The 20th Anniversary Show on any format even though the 2 hour performance was filmed. If you know of its existence, please let me know. I inquired with Turner Classic Movies (TCM) since they mention it on their website but their generic response wasn’t helpful. The regular series itself is also available on DVD, but at last check, you can watch it for free on Circle TV if your cable provider includes that channel.
To celebrate this unique show, I donned my detective’s fedora, rented a car from Junior Samples’ Samples Sales, and searched all of Kornfield Kounty to track down Hee Haw stars Lulu Roman, Jana Jae, and Buck Trent.
Lulu Roman was actually born Bertha Louise Hable. Her life wasn’t an easy one. She was born in a home for unwed mothers, was raised in an orphanage, and later in life became addicted to drugs and did jail time. She got clean and converted to Christianity. She introduced gospel music to Hee Haw, but she’s probably best known for the “Lulu’s Truck Stop” skits in which she played a sassy waitress alongside an inept cook (played by Gailard Sartain) along with a rotation of unfortunate customers. In 1980, she sang at the Inauguration Celebration of President Ronald Reagan. Roman continues to perform, having made appearances just this and last month. She’s released several music CDs including 2013’s At Last, a collection of standards featuring duets with Dolly Parton, George Jones, and T. Graham Brown. In 2019 she published her autobiography- This Is My Story; This Is My Song. Roman was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1999.
Peter: Where did the name “Lulu” come from?
Lulu: Well, that’s a story. One of my trips to jail- there was a lady in there that said I looked like [comic book character] Little Lulu. It stuck.
Peter: Are your blue Hee Haw overalls original?
Lulu: Well, they aren’t blue, they are the official Hee Haw overalls, and yes, I still have them.
Peter: What’s your favorite or funniest memory from Hee Haw?
Lulu: I have so many. My favorite memory is working with Sammy Davis. He was the best ever to work with in the Kornfield.
Peter: Give me one juicy Hee Haw behind the scenes tidbit.
Lulu: We were a family so I don’t have anything juicy.
Peter: Did it hurt to get hit by the “Joke Fence”? How did that work? Did a crew member pull a rope to lift the fence post?
Lulu: One of the crew did have a rope to make the fence work. It didn’t hurt.
Peter: Cathy Baker once mentioned the cast lunches at Cracker Barrel. Were you at any of those? That must have been fun.
Lulu: We would all go together for lunch. Sometimes in small groups, sometimes all of us.
Peter: What do you think when you see Hee Haw reruns today?
Lulu: Brings back wonderful memories.
Peter: How do you like doing the “Kornfield Friends” shows?
Lulu: I love getting together with my friends.
Peter: It must have been emotional doing the Country’s Family Reunion’s ”Salute to the Kornfield” show. Was that the last time you saw most of the cast?
Lulu: It was a hard day. We knew that would be the last time we would see some of them. We made it extra special for them. The last time I saw most of them was about 3 years ago at the 50th reunion.
Peter: Who did you enjoy working with the most on Hee Haw?
Lulu: I loved working with everyone. Gailard [Sartain] was always so fun to work with in the “Truck Stop” because we got to toss food around.
Peter: Why do you think Hee Haw proved so popular?
Lulu: It was corny and people loved it. They got to see new up and coming artist. No show was the same.
Peter: Could a new Hee Haw show be done today and be successful?
Lulu: No, because the writers had a talent that just isn’t there today.
Peter: Do you get tired of being asked about Hee Haw?
Lulu: No. When they stop asking, then I know we are forgotten.
Peter: Your Birthday was in May. Many of your Hee Haw friends have passed away. Is there anything you’d still like to accomplish or do you take life one day at a time?
Lulu: I do take it one day at a time. I love life. I will be out there as long as the Lord will allow me to be.
Be sure to come back in week or so for part two which includes interviews with Jana Jae and Buck Trent.
Update: Since I conducted my written interview with Lulu, her health has declined. I’m sure you join me in wishing her a quick recovery and good health in 2023.
If you enjoyed this article, please help support my blog by becoming a Recommended Stations Patreon supporter today for just $1. As my thanks, you’ll get my Recommended and Hitchhiker Station in your in box every month. This month’s Recommended Station out of New York is loud and raunchy and is the best fun you can have with your clothes on.
In Have A Strange Christmas Part 1, I examined 5 strange holiday CDs. In Part 2 I give equal time to 5 strange holiday records. You’ll find links at the end if you want to add any of these oddities to your holiday music library.
Scrooged: Danny Elfman (Enjoy The Ride ETR096; 2022)
Scrooged, starring Bill Murray, debuted in November of 1988, and is the kind of film that you either liked or didn’t. This Danny Elfman soundtrack, which is completely different from the original motion picture soundtrack, doesn’t feature any strange material, although the music ranges from creepy to full orchestral holiday numbers. Nonetheless, I’m including it in my article because my vinyl pressing itself is strange.
For one thing, it’s the thickest record I’ve ever owned…1/4” thick! This makes 180 gram vinyl look like paper. The thickness is because, sandwiched in between each side of the clear vinyl, is liquid with sparkles. Move the record around and it creates a kind of snow globe effect, perfect for a Christmas soundtrack. It’s the world’s first now globe record. And yes, you can actually play it.
The other odd thing about this liquid-filled record is it’s refillable. If any of the liquid should evaporate over time or change color, I simply ship it back to the record manufacturer and they’ll replace the liquid and sparkles for a small fee. It’s the world’s first refillable liquid record!
This Scrooged variant took 6 months to make and each one was assembled by hand. It was limited to something like 100 pressings and sold out in less than 15 minutes. You’ll blow your entire Christmas gift budget on one of these records now, assuming you can find one.
2. Switched on Santa: Sy Mann (Pickwick SPCX 1007; 1969)
The Moog synthesizer is an electronic, modular instrument invented by Robert Moog in 1964. It has the ability to replicate the sounds of other musical instruments as well as create unique sounds that no other instrument can produce. Early models were large and intimidating and required hours of programming by an electronic engineer. The 27 minutes of music on Switched on Santa must have taken forever to program. The liner notes claim it took 1 hour of Moog programming to yield 30 seconds of usable music!
The Moog wasn’t a musical curiosity. It was used by The Doors, The Beatles, The Monkees, Rolling Stones, The Byrds, Grateful Dead, and Stevie Wonder. But this strange musical monstrosity wasn’t limited to just rock and pop music. The Moog found its way onto jazz and even classical records, too. Switched-On Bach from 1968 was a huge hit that went on to sell over 1 million copies and win 3 Grammy awards. Johan was probably spinning in his grave.
With success like that, it was only a matter of time until another “Switched On” title followed. Enter Switched On Santa from 1969, the logical follow up. Who could resist 13 holiday classics including Angels We Have Heard On High, Silent Night, and White Christmas performed on the Moog? The music sounds like the soundtrack from a low budget 1950’s sci-fi Christmas movie.
Manning the Moog was Sy Mann. Mann served in the army during World War II, mostly conducting army bands. In 1953 he joined CBS-TV and replaced Dick Hyman as pianist and arranger for the Arthur Godfrey Show. He later went on to work with artists like Barbara Streisand, Melanie, Connie Francis, and Tiny Tim.
I doubt this is the record you’d play while trimming your Christmas tree, but you might play it while you burn your real tree in the backyard after the holiday is over. Merry strange Christmas from Mann and the merry Moog.
3. Merry Christmas…Have A Nice Life: Cyndi Lauper (Real Gone Music RGM-0930; 2022 (original released in 1998 on Epic))
That Cyndi Lauper, she’s so unusual. But that’s not the only reason I’ve included her first Christmas album on my list, or because this vinyl variant is festive red and white candy cane swirl color. I’m including this title mainly because she recorded all of her vocal tracks from inside her cedar closet! I’ll refrain from any coming out of the closet jokes.
The music is also unusual, not for Lauper, but for a Christmas album. Eight of the eleven tunes she wrote or co-wrote and they’re all over the place. Some have a tropical vibe like Christmas Conga, or a Cajon flavor like Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree. Still others are folk-inspired with Lauper playing the ukulele, dulcimer, and recorder. Then there’s the wheezing bag pipes on Three Ships. I don’t know what the hell Minnie and Santa is all about. Since she recorded it at home you can hear her young son, born the year before, in the background on New Year’s Baby. Perhaps mommy’s singing upset him.
Admittedly, there are some very sweet tunes like December Child, In The Bleak Midwinter, and Silent Night, featuring New York’s Chatterton Elementary School Choir. Basically what we have here is a very mixed musical bag, which is just fine for celebrating a strange Christmas.
4. Bonanza: Christmas on the Ponderosa (RCA Victor LSP-2757; 1963)
Bonanza holds the title for the second longest-running TV western (Gunsmoke is number 1), lasting 14 years and 430+ episodes. TV Guide included the show in its list of the 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. The series starred Loren Greene as Ben Cartwright and it revolved around the dynamics within the Cartwright family, their interactions with the community, and operating their ranch called “Ponderosa”. A young and relatively unknown Michael Landon played “Little Joe” Cartwright.
You’ll hear Landon, Greene, and the other two Cartwright brothers belting out Jingle Bells, O Come All Ye Faithful, Deck the Halls, and 25 minutes of other holiday classics you’d expect any family from the 1860’s to be singing around the Christmas tree. There are also heartwarming stories about the first Christmas tree and why we light candles on a tree. The songs are presented as if someone recorded the audio from a never-broadcast Bonanza Christmas episode, complete with cast banter and clapping at the end of the songs. If you loved Bonanza, you’ll love this record. Here’s an excerpt from a review someone wrote about the record on Amazon: “I cry when I listen to it. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to such simpler times. I just love Bonanza. What a loss when it was cancelled.”
Speaking of crying, if you’ll allow me to digress a moment, I recently caught the Bonanza episode, A Christmas Story, and it had me in tears. It starred a baby-faced Wayne Newton who played a wannabe singer, and his shifty Uncle who defrauded the town out of thousands of dollars. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but if you have the opportunity to watch it, it’s well worth tracking down even if you’re not a Bonanza fan.
When one thinks Christmas songs, one usually thinks Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, and the like. The cast of Bonanza doesn’t usually come to mind, which puts Christmas on the Ponderosa firmly on my strange Christmas list. Let’s be honest. This album only exists because NBC wanted to milk every last penny they could from this extremely popular TV show, and after all, isn’t that what Christmas is really all about?
5. A Twisted Christmas: Twisted Sister (Rhino 563173; 2017 (originally released 2006))
So far, I’ve explored Christmas records with liquid + glitter inside, music performed on the Moog, songs sung in a cedar closet with a baby gurgling in the background, and songs sung by the cast of Bonanza. I conclude my list of strange Christmas music with this holiday gem by Twisted Sister.
Even if you’re not a heavy metal head banger, you should know the name Twisted Sister and its big hair and makeup-wearing leader, Dee Snider. You should also be familiar with their one big hit, 1984’s We’re Not Gonna Take It.
In this outing from 2006 (reissued on limited edition green vinyl in 2017 for Record Store Day), A Twisted Christmas features heavy metal versions of songs like I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Let It Snow, and The Christmas Song. The band also puts their own twisted take on We Wish You a Twisted Christmas and The Twelve Heavy Metal Days of Christmas. Lita Ford even dropped by to do the honors on I’ll Be Home for Christmas.Oh Come All Ye Faithful is performed in the same style as We’re Not Gonna Take It. The group performed it on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Scanning some of the A Twisted Christmas reviews on Amazon: ”the whole thing is just a bad idea”, “Horrible. Please do an album of your own material”, and “Makes a great joke gift”. You get the idea.
I guess if you’re looking for some completely different holiday music, you should consider this A Twisted Christmas. Just be sure to pick up a bottle of extra-strength Tylenol while you’re in the store in case you get a twisted headache.
Regardless of what music you listen to this holiday, I hope you have a wonderful time and are able to be with the people you love. Happy holidays and I’ll see you next year.
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Last year I wrote an extensive article about strange holiday music. It focused on several vinyl records and one CD. It got a lot of reads and positive comments. I decided to do another, but this year I’m doing a two-part series. This first installment focuses on strange holiday CDs while Part 2 looks at strange holiday records. Whether you still play CDs like I do, or you just fancy the unusual, I think you’ll enjoy reading about these odd discs. I’ve included links at the end should you be brave enough to want to add any of these titles to you holiday music library.
Cocktails with Santa: Richard Cheese (Coverage Records IDTCR27CE; 2013)
If you’ve never experienced Richard Cheese’s music then you’ve been denying yourself a unique listening experience. You have to start somewhere, so why not with this holiday CD, 2013’s Cocktails with Santa?
If you don’t know Cheese (Mark Jonathan Davis), he’s a deliberately cheesy lounge singer from Los Angeles. He writes some original material but is mostly known for taking pop songs and “louge-ifying” them as only Cheese can do. He’s had several songs make it on Billboard’s Comedy Album chart and performed briefly in the movie Barb And Star Go to Vista Del Mar.
On Cocktails with Santa, he transforms (or butchers, as you prefer) Jingle Bells, O Christmas Tree, Deck The Halls, Little Drummer Boy, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, and other classics,into swinging, smoky Vegas lounge songs. If this is cheese then cheese me up, baby. His original Christmas in Las Vegas is my favorite track from this CD:
Christmas in Las Vegas / Decorate your tree with chips / Let’s roll a yo beneath the mistletoe / While that angel strips / Rudolph sold the sled, now he’s betting on red / In a casino made out of gingerbread / Christmas in Las Vegas / It’s a trip!
Having been to Las Vegas many, many times around the holiday season, I can confirm it is indeed a trip, and Cocktails with Santa brings you there.
This music might be strange, but that doesn’t mean it’s not popular. The Cocktails With Santa CD and 2020 limited edition colored vinyl record are both out of print. I bought my used CD for an inflated price on eBay. However, if you’re intent on having a cheesy Christmas, you can buy the digital album download through Bandcamp for just $5. As the Cheese himself would say, please lounge responsibly.
2. Luau in December: King Kukulele and the Friki Tikis (Friki Tiki Records FT-003; Released 2008)
I’ve never been to Hawaii, but without exception, anyone I’ve ever known who visited has described it as paradise. So, what better place to celebrate Christmas than in paradise?
You may not have heard of King Kukulele (Denny Moynahan) and the Friki Tikis, but they’ve played at Disneyland, Universal Studios, Hollywood, and indeed all over the world. Their songs feature the ukulele, marimba, Hawaiian lap steel guitar, and vibraphone, with drums and bass in the rhythm section. The band performs in 1940’s Hapa Haole Hawaiian tradition for a truly authentic listening experience. The King even dresses the part with a bold Hawaiian shirt, straw hat, and a grass skirt.
On Luau in December, the group’s 3rd release, the King and his Frikis apply their exotic island treatment to 14 vocal tracks, including 3 holiday classics. It’s certainly different hearing Hawaiian versions of You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, The Night Before Christmas, and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Some of the originals, besides the title track, include Hooray For Santa Claus, Thirty-two Feet and Eight Little Tails, and Santa’s Menehune. The cool retro cover art was designed by the artist Shag.
If you think of Bing Crosby’s Mele Kalikimaka when you think of Hawaiian holiday music, this isn’t that. Don your hula skirt, pour yourself a Mai Tai, pop this disc into your CD player, and have a Friki Tiki strange Christmas.
3. Tales From The Crypt: Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas (The Right Stuff T2-31330; 1994)
If you’re a horror geek like me, you’re familiar with the Emmy-nominated Tales From The Crypt series which aired for 7 seasons on HBO between 1989-1996. The host, the Cryptkeeper (voiced by John Kassie), was a wisecracking, animatronic skeleton with a super annoying, high-pitched cackle.
In the fine tradition of record companies, The Right Stuff, a subsidiary of Capitol Records, put out this holiday gem to milk as much money out of the series as possible. These 15 tracks are sure to warm the cockles of your heart with little ditties like Deck The Halls With Parts of Charlie, We Wish You’d Bury The Missus, ‘Twas The Fright Before Christmas, and Should Old Cadavers Be Forgotten. Of course, no album from this period would be complete without a horror rap song. Yes, a rapping decomposing corpse. And you thought you heard it all.
To complete the theme, the included booklet is a “special collector’s comic re-print” of And All Through The House.
I think it goes without saying, this title is long out of print but it can be found on used record sites like eBay where I scored my copy (minus the slime green-colored jewel case). A word of warning that this CD might cost you an arm and a leg (no pun intended).
As a side bar, 6 years later Capitol Records came out with Tales From The Crypt: Monsters of Metal. These were real songs by real metal bands tied together with narration by the Cryptkeeper.
Have Yourself A Scary Little Christmas is a must for horror buffs or anyone looking to have a scary strange Christmas.
4. White Trash Christmas: Bob Rivers (Atlantic 83591-2; 2002)
Having worked in radio, I was familiar with Bob Rivers, but you don’t need to be a former broadcaster to know his work. If you were a regular listener to pop, classic rock, or even some talk radio, then chances are you know Bob Rivers, too.
Rivers was a popular radio host who began writing and performing his own parody songs. His best-known release was his first, 1987’s Twisted Christmas, which went gold. You’ve probably heard the track Twelve Pains of Christmas which received a lot of air play. A Message From the King is another classic from this album that will have you in stitches. Thank you, Mama.
Rivers went on to release six holiday comedy CDs including What Trash Christmas, his last, in 2002. This disc has 13 tracks of humorous holiday-spoofed tunes. Some of the songs include Osama Got Run Over By A Reindeer, The Little Hooters Girl, Shoppin’ Around For A Christmas Tree, and I’ll Be Stoned For Christmas, sung by a dead-on Dean Martin imitator named Scott Burns. I think my favorite from this CD is Me And Mrs. Claus, which isn’t particularly funny, but it’s a great holiday take on Billy Paul’s Me and Mrs. Jones.
Like some of the other CDs on my list, White Trash, along with Rivers’ other holiday CDs, are out of print, but can be had very reasonably on eBay and elsewhere.
Today, Rivers is semi-retired living in Vermont where he makes maple syrup with his wife and often flies out to California to visit his grand kids. How life changes.
You’ll have a merry strange Christmas listening to White Trash Christmas, or pretty much any Bob Rivers Christmas CD. Just be careful not to cough up eggnog through your nose as you laugh out loud.
5. Surfin’ Kitty X-mas: Mark Malibu & The Wasagas (Sharawaji Records SRW 135; Released 2020)
I’m not sure what surfing has to do with Christmas, but I suppose if surfing is your bag, then Mark Malibu’s got a brand-new bag. Surfin’ Kitty X-mas is stacked with 18 tracks, 5 of which are Christmas standards plus a “public domain holiday medley”. All of the songs are instrumentals performed in bold surf music style.
Surfin’ Kitty X-mas is a compilation CD of surf bands like Underwater Bosses, The Breakers, Voodoo Surf Tribe, Urban Surf Kings, and The Terrorsurfs. Mark Malibu organized the project and he and his Wasagas contributed 2 tracks of their own. Mailbu is a self-described Canadian surf-punk instrumentalist and formed his Wasagas in 1979.
Frankly, it’s weird hearing surf versions of sacred classics like O Little Town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, and O Holy Night. Then there are the original songs like Christmas Twist, A Voodoo Xmas, and Cuckoo for Christmas. Try as I might, I just wasn’t able to picture Jesus hanging ten. This is definitely not your father’s Christmas music, unless dear old dad was a surfer dude.
The other odd thing about this CD is it was released to benefit the Pinetree Stables/Cat Sanctuary in Grand Bahamas which spays, neuters, and feeds all the abandoned cats on the island (thus, the origin of “Surfin’ Kitty”in the title). The Sanctuary also benefits from the sales of Surfin’ Kitty Volumes 2 and 3. The Sanctuary’s mission isn’t what’s odd, it’s the location. With the organizer being Canadian, you’d think all the proceeds would benefit a Canadian animal shelter, eh? Well, it all goes to a good cause wherever it is.
If you’re looking for totally different holiday music this season that will knock your Christmas stockings off, Surfin’ Kitty X-mas should just about do it, and it’s only 10 bucks.
In Part 2 of Have A Strange Christmas, I give equal time to 5 strange Christmas records. Remember to come back here in a few days to unwrap it.
If you enjoyed this article, please help support my website blog by becoming a Recommended Stations Patreon supporter for just $1. As my thanks, you’ll get me Recommended and Hitchhiker Station every month in your in box.
Much like Santa Claus, WALM Radio – Christmas is shrouded in mystery. There’s no information about WALM on its website and no method of contacting them. WALM Radio has other Internet stations under its belt like jazz and old time radio (OTR), and what I take to be their anchor station, a Christian music station. The “Christmas vinyl” playlist is definitely laid back, but it’s just shy of full blown “easy listening”. You’ll hear music from artists like Anne Murray, the Boston Pops, Robert Goulet, Mitch Miller & The Gang, Peggy Lee, Mahalia Jackson, Montovani, Johnny Cash, Lawrence Welk, Celtic holiday music, and, gulp, Jim Nabors. If you can get past the insipid spoken promos (“We’re the home industrial strength, elf-powered turntables…”), you’ll thoroughly enjoy the music. You can even make a song request through their website and the meta data will show “Requested” when the song plays!
Streaming at 320 kbps, this is one of the best-quality, all-holiday streams available on the net, plus there are no commercials. Because it’s streaming at such high quality (“ultra-high fidelity” as WALM Radio calls it), there can be annoying stability issues with their Internet radio stream such as not connecting or connecting but not having any sound. Still, I included WALM Radio in my list since the stream on their website is very stable. That said, I much prefer listening to my Internet radio, not a computer, so I ended up cutting and pasting the Direct URL (shown at the beginning of this segment) into my Internet radio. It’s not perfect but it has better reliability than their Internet radio stream.
The WALM Radio – Christmas mix is mostly calming and peaceful…something we could all use a little of during the holiday rush. And no, WALM Radio is not short for Walmart Radio.
Update: Unfortunately, WALM’s website stream has also become unreliable as well as the direct URL and I can find no way to contact WALM about this. However, my other holiday station suggestions more than make up for this.
I have a soft spot for crooners, especially the legends of the past, and Crooner Radio – Christmas Vintage delivers Christmas crooners and then some. All of our old holiday friends are here…Andy Williams, Mel Torme, Sammy Davis, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Della Reese, Wayne Newton, Lena Horne, and even dashes of Elvis and Bobby Darin. Crooner Radio pushes the boundary with artists like The Pointer Sisters, but what the heck, it’s Christmas. Strangely, the stream’s meta data sometimes lags, meaning it continues to show the artist and song title for the previously played song. But with these big-name crooners, it’s pretty easy to figure out who’s singing what.
If you’re not in the mood for sugary holiday pop hits and you have no use for commercials, give Crooner Radio – Christmas Vintage a listen this holiday. You’ll feel so warm and fuzzy inside you just might start crooning some Christmas classics yourself.
I’ve freely admitted it before…I don’t know much about classical music and rarely listen to it, but I often turn to it during this time of year to get a refreshing break from the same old holiday fare. This station reaches deep into Santa’s classical bag and plays harp, brass, voices, and carols, and without a single commercial jingle. Artists include the San Francisco Girls Chorus, the Berlin Philharmonic Brass, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cambridge Singers and Orchestra, the Choir of Kings College, and many more. The music is uplifting and creates a wonderful atmosphere day or night. As ACCC states on its website, “Classical Holiday favorites; comfort, joy and peace whenever your spirit needs a lift.” This isn’t a pop-up station or temporary format just for the holiday. They stream this music all year-round. I think I know which station Santa listens to in the off-season.
If you need a little classical Christmas right this very minute, whether you’re in California or wherever, tune in A Classical California Christmas courtesy of Los Angeles’ KUSC.
JIB On The Web was on my holiday station list last year, and it was also one of my Recommended Stations a few years back. Ordinarily, I never repeat a station, but JIB On The Web is such an exceptional station it deserves inclusion again. It’s a beautiful music station, not a dedicated Christmas music station, but starting at noon eastern time on the day before Christmas, the station airs 15 hours of holiday music. For many, “The Beautiful Music of Christmas”, now in its 5th year on JIB On The Web, is an annual tradition that’s not to be missed.
Unlike some other beautiful music Internet radio stations, a great amount of love and care goes into programming this station, and no less effort goes into its musical holiday extravaganza. JIB On The Web is operated by a very talented radio announcer who worked for the original FM station in Massachusetts, so expect nothing but an authentic WJIB beautiful music experience each time you tune in.
There certainly are a lot of radio stations you could listen to on the night before Christmas and the day of, but none are like this one. In fact, you’ll enjoy it so much, I’m willing to bet you’ll still be listening to JIB On The Web long after the holiday is over.
RadioSpinner Fireplace Sounds isn’t a Christmas station or even a music station, but I’m including it anyway because a fireplace always makes for a better Christmas. It’s just as the name says- the station plays fire sounds 24/7. All fire, all the time. You can practically smell the smoke. It creates the perfect ambience for the holiday or for pyromaniacs. Personally, I like to play this station while I have my electric fireplace on. Why electric fireplaces don’t have a digital recording of fire crackling or just a USB jack to connect a thumb drive with a fireplace recording, I don’t understand. But I digress. By the way, I say “fire sounds” because you’ll mostly hear outdoor fires with an abundance of wind, but I guess Radio Spinner Outdoor Fires With Wind didn’t quite have the same appeal.
The station does a much better sell job on its website: “Fireplace Sounds is designed to soothe, relax. Listening to the radio station is as pleasant as wrapping yourself in a warm blanket, hugging a cup of hot mint tea with both hands and quietly watching the ferocious weather through the window. Only a pleasant crackle of firewood, smoldering coals and barely audible sounds of the wind.”
Fireplace Sounds streams out of Russia where they know a thing or two about cold weather. At 97 kbps in the AAC codec, the sound quality is okay, but the wind noise overwhelms the fire sounds. I also didn’t hear any chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but I’ll take what I can get, especially when it’s free.
Maintaining a fire in fireplace, or anywhere, is a lot of work…tending to the fire, hauling and stacking the wood, clearing the ashes, and so on. In this case, just sit back and enjoy, because RadioSpinner Fireplace Sounds is the lazy man’s fireplace. Now, where did I leave my slippers?
Update: As my luck would have it, this station’s stream stopped working about a week after I posted this article.
You now have five free Internet radio stations to enjoy this holiday season! When someone asks you about the station you’re listening to, be sure to tell them you discovered it through RecomendedStations.com.
Trivia:What was the first radio station in the US to play Christmas music this year? Cincinnati’s Star 93.3FM was the first out of the gate. On November 1st, the day after Halloween, Star FM switched over to all Christmas music.
‘Tis the season for giving, so if you enjoy any of these radio stations, please help support my website by becoming a Patreon supporter today for $1. In return, you’ll get my Recommended and Hitchhiker Station every month in your in box as my thank you. This month’s Recommended Station recalls the early days of radio while the upcoming Hitchhiker Station might cause temporary holiday insanity.
Looking for that elusive gift for the record collector who has everything? Before we get into the details of this device that illuminates colored vinyl, a little background is in order.
Records are made with PVC pellets (which are naturally slightly milky-white in color) that have been mixed with black carbon which is gives them their shiny black color. The black carbon also fills in imperfections and adds strength and rigidity which makes the record last longer. This is important because, unlike a CD, cassette tape, or digital music file, a record album degrades each time you play it.
Another thing basic black has going for it is that the quality of black vinyl records tends to be high because it’s the industry standard…they’ve been producing them that way since the advent of the vinyl record. As a result, the quality of black records is remarkably consistent. The black color also makes it easier to spot imperfections during quality control inspections.
Color Me Impressed
Colored vinyl, on the other hand, uses PVC pellets mixed with dyes. In addition to records made using a single, non-black color, there are variations on the colored vinyl theme like multicolored, split color, smoked, marbled, and splattered. Yes, I’m talking about records, not meat or cheese. By the way, don’t confuse any of these variants with picture discs which are a whole other story and tend not to sound as good or last as long as colored or black vinyl.
A Little History
Colored vinyl records didn’t start with the vinyl LP. Some 78 RPM titles dating back to 1917 were colored, starting with a Vocalion Records release that was a reddish-rust colored shellac. Perhaps not the most appealing color choice, but it served its purpose of making their records stand out. I believe the first prolific use of colored vinyl by a major label was RCA Victor’s introduction of the 45 RPM single in 1949. To give the new format a little extra excitement, each genre had its own color. For example, country music used green-colored vinyl, classical used red, children’s recordings used yellow, while pop music stuck with basic black.
The Sound of Color
There’s a school of thought that says not all colored vinyl is created equal. That is to say, certain record colors may not sound as good as others upon playback, or as good as your standard carbon black record. It’s strange to think that color could impact sound, but it can. In fact, one could argue the more colors present in the vinyl, the worse the sound might be because of all of the foreign ingredients. There are even glow-in-the-dark records, though I don’t know anyone who plays their records in total darkness. I’ve read these are noisier than their black and colored brethren, but I can’t personally attest to that since I don’t own any. It would follow, then, that a transparent clear record would sound better than a colored vinyl record (except for black).
Do You Hear What I Hear?
If I played a colored vinyl record for you, immediately followed by the identical recording pressed on black vinyl, would you hear any difference? I suspect most people wouldn’t, but if there was an overt difference, it could just as well be attributed to the manufacturing process rather than the color of the vinyl. If the record plant doesn’t have much experience pressing colored vinyl, that won’t help either. Regardless, most record enthusiasts don’t buy colored vinyl records because they think they sound superior. They buy them for their unique appearance and collectibility, especially since many colored vinyl titles are produced in limited batches.
Speaking of limited quantities, that, along with the cost of the dyed pellets, tend to make colored vinyl titles more expensive. So, you’re paying more for a record that technically probably won’t have the same longevity as less expensive black vinyl and possibly not as good sound quality. Mind you, there are plenty of black vinyl titles that can be quite pricey in their own right.
In Living Color
If you want to add some colored vinyl to your collection you don’t need to search very hard. Some record labels specialize in colored vinyl like Third Man Records, Real Gone Music, Enjoy The Ride Records, Sundazed Music, Wax Mage, and WaxWork Records. Major retailers like Barnes & Noble, Urban Outfitters, and Newbury Comics sell colored vinyl, some of which are exclusive to them. Even record clubs like Vinyl Me Please and Vinyl Moon release titles on colored vinyl. Yes, Virginia, there are record clubs.
If you want to go off the deep end, you’ll find records that go way beyond colors. Romanus Records, for example, has pressed records with different kinds of material sandwiched between the 2 sides including kitty litter, razor blades, sand, gunpowder, colored liquid, LEDs, and even pieces of Doritos chips! I wonder how some of those records would look with colored lights behind them. I was delaying this article to be able to display my “snow globe variant” Scrooged LP soundtrack I ordered more than 6 months ago. It contains a clear liquid with sparkles inside. I decided to go forward with my article rather than continue to wait. Such special releases require more time since they’re much more complicated to produce.
The Vinyl Verdict
You’ve heard the saying, “Once you go black, you never go back.” Somehow, I don’t think that phrase was about records, but it might be equally applicable. The absence of black carbon likely means colored vinyl records won’t have the same strength and longevity as their black counterparts and may not sound as good. That said, unless they’re abused, most colored vinyl records should last long enough and sound good enough for the average record enthusiast. If sound quality is of the utmost importance, you’re probably better off playing it safe with good old, boring black vinyl. On the other hand, if seeing colors and patterns spin on your turntable puts a smile on your face and you’re enthralled by the art, go for it. After all, records have the potential of being the most visual of all music storage formats.
Colored vinyl is meant to be seen and heard. If you’ve got an album you especially love the color of, why hide it inside a cardboard jacket? Sure, you could frame it, but that’s not very exciting, and it prevents you from being able to easily play it. What if there was a product that allowed you to safely display your colored vinyl, backwash them in light, and easily access them for playback? Well, there is.
Let There Be Light
Vylumi Shine and the Shine Pro do just that. Andrew Boudreau came up with the idea and had his final design completed in 6 months. He hand-assembles each one out of his home in Atlanta, Georgia and sells them on his recently revamped website and on Etsy. The two models backlight a record to make its color(s) pop. Simply place the record over the center nub and turn the light on. Voila! Instant glowing artwork. The record “floats” so you don’t have to worry about it making contact with the surface and getting scratched. And the LED that illuminates the record never gets hot enough to warp the record, so no worries there. The result is beautifully mesmerizing.
I got in touch with Boudreau to ask him some questions about his unique invention:
Peter: What gave you the idea for Vylumi Shine?
Andrew: It all started in late 2021 when I picked up my first picture disk. I was searching online for ways to display it since it’s widely known the audio quality on all of them are notoriously bad and I couldn’t find anything that didn’t have a massive picture frame as part of the display. I knew a good friend of mine had a 3D printer so I ran him through an idea of what I now call the ‘Nub.” It’s a very minimalist design and is simply a rod the size of the record spindle that angles up to safely keep the record in place and that’s attached to a base plate. I was using a simple command strip to test hanging a few on the wall and while I was thumbing through my collection I thought: “I wonder what else would look good hanging on the wall,” so I grabbed a copy of Cowboy Bebop that I knew had a nice colored marble to it and hung that on the wall to see how it looked. It looked okay, but a bit lifeless, so on a whim I brought it over to an outside window to get some light on it and it came to life! That’s when the light bulb(s) went off (dad joke, apologies). It just dawned on me that I had so many of these color variants in my collection, and they were just spending their lives tucked away in their sleeves on the shelf. So, I built my first prototype out of cardboard, a battery powered LED light string, and the nub and just started putting records on it to see how they looked. It was very basic, but the idea worked. 4 prototypes later I had a design I was really proud of and started showing people in February of 2022. Everyone I showed wanted one for themselves so I started making a few. I opened the Etsy store in March of 2022 and my own website in June. So far, I’m at 300 units sold worldwide and I can’t explain how proud and fulfilling it is to see my customers showing off their collections on social media.
Peter: You source the parts and assemble the units by hand in your spare time?
Andrew: The electronics I source through two separate companies and I’m trying to narrow that down to one moving forward. I do that for a few reasons; First, it allows me to be more nimble when new technologies emerge. Secondly, after putting in an inquiry with a product design company, I learned that it would take about $200,000 just to get custom electronics and molds designed and the same, if not more, to actually get them produced. I’m very proud that the structural materials are all made here in Georgia. Very early on I had run this idea by my neighbor, as he likes to tinker and is generally handy. I came to him with the problem of properly diffusing the light to see if he might have any ideas. He operates a company that specializes in large scale vinyl wraps and signage projects for conventions and airports, so I thought he might have some ideas and I recalled that he had a few CNC machines that weren’t getting a lot of use because Covid had really hit their business pretty hard. I drew some designs on some printer paper and he cut those out on the CNC machines, and to this day his company cuts all of the structural parts. As mentioned above, a friend of mine makes the nub on this 3D printer and I’m able to pay him a fair price per batch he prints. But to the other part of your question, after I get my daughter to bed and my wife settles into a book, I head to the basement and assemble these by hand still. I’ve had to make a few tools to speed up assembly and help to standardize the sizes of a few components, but I can’t explain how much I love doing this!
Peter: Does it work with picture discs?
Andrew: You can certainly display a picture disk on a Vylümi, but sadly, picture disks are all opaque and won’t let any light through.
Peter: You have a Patent pending?
Andrew: I do! I have both Trademarks and Patents pending for this as of this last summer.
Peter: Do you own a lot of colored vinyl or records in general? What’s your favorite-colored vinyl title?
Andrew: I’ve been trying to catalogue my collection and I think I have about 1,000 in my collection right now. I’ve been building a vinyl collection since 2008 when I invested in my first Hi-fi setup and started to get into finding color variants 4-5 years ago. Color variants are probably 10% of my collection and I didn’t get into collecting the more boutique pressings from Wax Mage and others until I came up with this idea and found them through my research. My favorite though? That’s like picking your favorite child! My recent favorite is a pressing from Glory or Death Records by Great Electric Quest (which is actually his band). It’s a beautiful party monster and really transforms with the Vylümi to look like a sheet of elegant stained glass…It also glows in the dark as a bonus!
Peter: What’s the rarest or most expensive record you own?
Andrew: This little invention has introduced me to a lot of amazing people in the industry. Pretty early on I contacted the folks at Wax Mage/Gotta Groove, Wax Vessel, SlyVinyl, Heathen HandMade Records, Romanus Records, and Plastikat Deviations to get their feedback on my idea and early products since they make the hand-crafted art my audience is collecting. Recently, Matt Ortt at Plastikat surprised me with one of his liquid-filled records that is a complete one-off. It was made for the owner of Glory or Death Records and is the first liquid filled that has two separate chambers of liquid in it. A portion of that liquid is black, so when it’s on the turn-table spinning, it spreads out pretty evenly with centrifugal force that it just isn’t awesome eye candy like the rest of his stuff. He put it on his Vylümi and it just transformed. He dropped me a note that said this album looks best when lit up, and we (he and Buddy from Glory or Death Records) thought you should be the rightful owner of it. That about made me cry, I am so honored to have it and it is by far the most-rare album I own.
Peter: What brand and model turntable(s) do you use?
Andrew: For my 40th [Birthday] I was able to purchase a Rega P6 and have a Dynavector 10×5 with a ruby cantilever and optimized contour nude contact line diamond tip from Sound-Smith after bending the original cantilever in a cleaning accident 3 months into owning it. That one hurt the soul, but I can’t speak highly enough of the crew at Sound-Smith and their craftsmanship they put into repairs and upgrades.
Peter: What’s your professional background?
Andrew: My day job is and has always been in technology sales. I get to be a nerd all day long and I have to constantly learn about what’s new in the market, and my customers are always bringing me difficult problems to solve. It’s a pretty demanding, high stress job, so sitting down to spin a record at night has always been my way to unwind. I’m certainly not an engineer or someone who is crafty/handy, so the fact I was able to come this far with an idea is a miracle unto itself.
Peter: What kind of music do you usually listen to?
Andrew: My tastes are certainly firmly on the rock side of the spectrum. I can be found listening to your typical classic rock albums, but spend most of my time reliving my high-school days with grunge/Alt music from the 90s.
Peter: Anything else to add about the Vylumi Shine/Pro?
Andrew: I would just like to thank everyone for their kindness and support (!), and thank you Peter for taking the time to talk with me. This has been an unintended and amazing journey. I never thought this idea would take off in the way that it has and all of my customers have been so patient and understanding of the fact that I’m a one-man shop doing this in my spare time. The vinyl community has been very generous to me over the years and I’m so thankful I can provide a little something back. Thank you all for the support and I can’t wait to see where this journey goes!
I found splattered vinyl to look the most impressive with Shine Pro. Colored vinyl that’s all one color looked like a giant-colored spotlight. As it turned out, I only had one splatter-colored record in my small LP collection. Its base color was transparent which meant I could make it whatever color I wanted with the Vylumi Shine Pro’s light, which was very cool. You can see more impressive Shine Pro-worthy pictures on Boudreau’s website, Instagram, tiktok, Etsy, and Facebook (links provided at the end of this article).
If you happen to have a few colored 45 RPM singles or 10″ records in your collection, Boudreau has you covered. For $20 you can get a set of adapters that fit both of those sizes, though the adapters can only be used in conjunction with the “dust cover” which is an additional $30.
Ask The Manager
As a Product Manager, part of my job involves finding problems with a product before it goes into production and coming up with ways to improve it. In the case of the Vylumi Shine Pro, I have a couple of suggestions for improvements and enhancements.
To start with, being able to anchor the base or give it some weight would be great, as the base is very light weight since it’s just a thin, empty plastic case with LEDs. If you use the wired remote instead of the app as I did, you must be very careful not to accidentally yank the base.
Getting my record off of the center nub was rather difficult. I had to pull the record to the point of bending the sides of the LP. Due to the nub being a black or dark brown color, I didn’t notice until later that it’s actually positioned at an upward angle instead of straight so the record doesn’t fall off easily. Had I known to pull upward instead of straight, it would have been a bit easier to remove the LPs. Still, Boudreau has since modified the nub in production to make it a slightly smaller diameter. I’d also suggest putting a radius on the nub. No sharp edges in close proximity to records!
It would be nice if at least the Pro model could be wall mounted. Boudreau told me one can easily glue a saw tooth hanger on the back but the problem is the dangling wires from the combined wired remote control/power supply. His first-generation models were battery powered and could thus be wall mounted. I assume a built-in Li-Ion battery rechargeable version would be too expensive to make.
What I would really like to see the Pro do is what records are supposed to do- spin. Seeing colored vinyl come alive through light is amazing, but having the record actually rotate (not necessarily at 33 1/3) would be very cool and more engaging, especially if the record was liquid-filled. Without a doubt, this would push the cost higher, perhaps to the point of turning most buyers off. If you’re tempted to manually spin your record on this device, Boudreau warns users against this or else the 3D-printed nub will eventually become sawed off.
Don’t Try This At Home
The Shine Lite sells for $60 while the Pro goes for twice that plus shipping (the Pro is on sale as of this writing). Frankly, both models look remarkably simple. Being the cheap and creative guy I am, I tried to think of a less expensive way to accomplish the same thing, which is also part of a Product Manager’s responsibilities. Since I was a kid, I’ve had a bit of MacGyver in me…spontaneously creating things out of duct tape and tampons, although nothing explosive. I remember one Halloween I secured rope from the kitchen window of our second-floor apartment down to a chain link fence adjacent to the sidewalk in front of our house. I cut a small hole in the top of a white pillow case, slipped the top of a metal coat hanger through the hole, and drew two eyes and a mouth with a black maker to make it look like a ghost. I tied a second rope onto the hook of the coat hanger in order to slide it up and down the main rope. As a final touch to my crowning achievement, I hung a flashlight from the coat hanger inside the pillow case to illuminate my ghost, hung it on the rope, and slid it up and down as the trick or treaters made their way in and out of our apartment house. I was quite proud of my creation and the costumed, candy-hungry visitors appeared equally impressed. A few years ago, I saw a very similar contraption in a catalog, albeit much more refined. That guy probably owns his own island now. But as usual, I digress.
Returning to my MacGyver LP light, I took a cheap picture stand that was collecting dust in a drawer and placed one of my colored vinyl records on it. I then backlighted the record with a Remon 25-watt LED spotlight I bought two years ago on Amazon for $29 (which has since been discontinued) to light my vintage aluminum Christmas tree. The light included a remote control that allows the light’s brightness and colors to be adjusted similar to the Vylumi Pro’s remote, although it doesn’t have a built-in microphone to flash to the beat of music like the Pro can. My color contraption created a similar effect as the Pro, but the stand could be seen behind the record, it risked scratching the record, and the spotlight got hot enough to make me concerned about the record possibly warping. It also sent the light all over the place rather than containing it just to the record itself. The Lite and Pro each cost significantly more than my Frankenstein light, but they accomplish the task more effectively, safely, and elegantly.
If you don’t need the additional control the Vylumi Shine Pro provides, like thousands of color options, 100 dim levels, a remote, free app (by a 3rd party), a timer, the ability to group other Pros, and Siri/Alexa compatibility, you can save some dough and stick with the more basic Shine. Either model is a fun and safe way to display and share your beloved-colored vinyl. If you’re looking for a gift this holiday for the vinyl lover who has everything, this should do it.
I didn’t get my review sample for free and I don’t receive any commission if you buy either of these models, so if you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting RecommendedStations.com by becoming a Patreon supporter for just $1. As a thank you, you’ll received my Recommended Station and Hitchhiker Station every month in your in box and you’ll be helping to support articles like this.
Three years ago, I brought JingleMad Radio based in the UK to light. Within seconds of my first listen I knew this was a Hitchhiker Station. JingleMad plays nothing but radio station jingles. You know, the upbeat music that promotes a radio station’s all-important call letters. JingleMad doesn’t play songs or commercials, just jingles…sixty-six jingles per hour to be precise. Even JingleMad Radio has its own jingle. There’s also jingle montages where multiple variations of the same station jingle play back-to-back. The stream also includes each station’s name in the metadata in case you cannot figure it out from the jingle (unlikely). Some of the jingles are quite creative and funny like, “Get your feet on the floor, get your butt out the door.” Having worked in radio broadcasting, I developed a perverse fascination with this station.
Some of the radio jingles on JingleMad Radio are very short while others run surprisingly long. Some are very upbeat and others are more subdued depending on the station’s format. Regardless, most of the jingles you hear on JingleMad were professionally produced by a jingle company like JAM, Pams, ReelWorld, Zone Radio Imaging, Ignite Jingles, S2Blue, David Arnold, Brandy, Bespoke Music, Sharpsell London, or Murfin Media.
Here’s one of JingleMad Radio’s “clock” (a radio term):
:00 Single Jingle News with Stuart Clarkson
:01 Top of hour jingle
:02 JingleMad JingleMix – 66 jingles in a row!
:17 Demonstration time – jingle demo
:30 Another 66 jingles in a row!
:45 JingleMad jingle montages – user created montages
:59 News intro
In addition to the jingles, you’ll also hear “shouts”, but “ShoutMad Radio” doesn’t have quite the same appeal. A “shout” is radio parlance for a recording by a group of singers who “shout” the DJs name usually followed by the station jingle. Shouts are played by stations in between songs or at the end of a commercial break before going back to the music. When I was a DJ at adult contemporary station WLNH-FM in New Hampshire, I had my own shout. It made me feel important even though I wasn’t. I was a little fish in a little pond. I have my shout recorded on my WLNH air check cassette somewhere in a box in my basement. It’s a bit sad that my nearly 7 years in radio are represented on the single side of a cassette tape stored in a box in my basement.
Be that as it may, I reached out to Roy Martin, founder and President of JingleMad Radio, to get the story behind this Hitchhiker Station:
Peter: When did JingleMad Radio first begin streaming?
Roy: The service was conceived at the end of 2011 and went into testing mode in January 2012. 10 years on and we are still officially in Beta mode!
Peter: What was the idea behind JingleMad?
Roy: On the basis that there is a radio station for pretty much any interest or theme these days, I figured it would be fun to see if I could operate a radio station playing nothing but jingles from radio stations. We sought full permission from the main jingle companies, with almost all of them coming on board, giving us the OK to use their musical works.
Peter: How is JMR funded?
Roy: It’s a personal project funded by myself. It has zero running costs and only takes up a small amount of time to keep the jingles up-to-date and scheduled. Technology helps save much time, and we’ve called on favours from playout companies and streaming providers to make it more worthwhile!
Peter: How many station jingles do you have in your library?
Roy: As of today, we have almost 12,000 individual pieces of audio on rotation. We start each hour with 66 jingles in a row, then into a few demos and montages before returning to non-stop jingles taking us through the rest of the hour.
Peter: Where do you source the jingles from?
Roy: The majority have come from the owners of the jingles, either the companies that made them or the radio stations that bought them. We’ve also been sent many by enthusiasts and collectors, along with ‘jingle montages’ from collectors.
Peter: Do you only play jingles from UK and European radio stations?
Roy: 95% of our jingles are in English, so include all English-speaking nations. The majority come from North America and the UK.
Peter: What is the most bizarre station jingle you’ve ever played?
Roy: We’ve got a few jingles with swear words in, which we schedule ‘after the watershed’ at night. We did have one complaint made to Ofcom [UK communications regulatory agency] about one particular jingle sung many years ago which we have since dropped as it doesn’t seem appropriate these days, as with many songs sung during a different era.
Peter: What’s the most obscure jingle you’ve ever played?
Roy: We play all jingles we’re allowed to, so nothing stands out as being obscure.
Peter: Do you also run a music radio station or you just do jingles only?
Roy: JingleMad Radio is totally about the jingles. No music involved. I personally operate a couple of other radio services but these aren’t connected to JingleMad.
Peter: Are the majority of your listeners in the UK?
Roy: It’s split mostly between the UK and North America, although we are popular in Japan.
Peter: Are you working on anything new for JingleMad?
Roy: Being 10 years old we should probably look at officially launching the station! Maybe we’ll do that. But on-air, we’ll just carry on adding jingles and playing them out non-stop.
To slip in a little shameless self-promotion, earlier this year I added a custom jingle to my own Internet radio station, Wind Chime Radio. It was composed, arranged, and sung by several members of the New Randy Van Horne Singers and plays randomly.
I’ve brought you some pretty off-the-wall Hitchhiker Stations over the years, but JingleMad is one of the maddest. If you’ve got a thing for jingles, check out JingleMad Radio and jingle all the way.
Trivia:Wheaties cereal by General Mills was the first consumer product to use a commercial jingle on the radio, broadcast on Christmas Eve in 1926. In 1947, Dallas radio station KLIF-AM was one if the first stations to use a jingle to identify the station’s call letters.
If you enjoyed this article, please help spread the word and support my blog by becoming a Patreon supporter today for just $1 and get my Recommended and Hitchhiker Stations in your in box every month.
Last year around this time I attended Roger Williams Park Zoo’s Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular which celebrated musical artists. This year’s theme was television, paying tribute to 75 years of broadcast entertainment. Being the serious couch potato that I am, and appreciating vintage television as I do, I decided to actually get off the couch, head down to Rhode Island, and see what was on the Zoo’s boob tube.
Like last year, the professionally hand-carved pumpkins by Passion for Pumpkins of Oxford, MA were intricate and exquisite. The 5,000 illuminated pumpkins were sensory overload for my eyes. In the background, soundtracks to various television shows enhanced the effect.
The pumpkin displays were grouped by decade starting from the 1950’s through the 2000’s. As with last year’s musical theme, there were glaring (my opinion) omissions. No Simpsons pumpkin (yet there was a Futurama pumpkin!), no Friends, and no Brady Bunch pumpkin. Pumpkin blasphemy!
Interestingly, Elvis was overtly MIA in last year’s display despite being a major musical icon, yet he was represented in this year’s television theme with an Aloha from Hawaii-carved pumpkin.
Then there were the noggin-scratching pumpkins like the Benny Hill pumpkin. Benny Hill? Really? The Benny Hill Show wasn’t even a US television show! The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude,The Bob Newhart Show, The Odd Couple, or Sanford and Son would’ve made more sense.
I’m a big fan of vintage so I especially appreciated The Twilight Zone, The Honeymooners, Bewitched, I Love Lucy, MASH, The Jeffersons, Cheers, Good Times, All In The Family, Batman, Star Trek, Mr. Ed, and The Golden Girls pumpkins (there was also a pumpkin dedicated exclusively to Betty White). There was even a Max Headroom pumpkin.
“…the professionally hand-carved pumpkins by Passion for Pumpkins of Oxford, MA were intricate and exquisite.”
Game shows and public television were also represented like the classy Jeopardy pumpkin and one each for Mr. Rogers and happy little tree painter, Bob Ross. However, I don’t remember seeing one for Wheel of Fortune or Sesame Street.
Not surprisingly, the show with the most carved pumpkins was a show about nothing- Seinfeld. There was one each for Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer, and all very nicely done.
Television wouldn’t be television without commercials. I think it would have been fun if the display had sprinkled in some classic television commercial pumpkins like Coke, Life Cereal, Oscar Mayer Wiener, Alka Seltzer, and StarKist Tuna to name just a few.
I also wouldn’t have minded seeing a couple of “news pumpkins” like one for Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow, or perhaps even Mike Wallace.
If you’re in R.I. or planning a trip this month, The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence continues through the end of October. Tickets can only be purchased on line. For the more adventurous, there’s a zip line ride and illuminated swan boat rides. I’ve included a link to their site below as well as a link to my Instagram page so you can see more of my prodigious pumpkin pics. Happy Halloween.
Trivia: During the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular’s run, Passion for Pumpkins will go through 20,000 pumpkins to keep the displays looking fresh.