For most of us, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but Jay Isherwood’s Christmas spirit lasts all year long.
And, apparently he isn’t the only one who feels this way. He is the host and program director of an Internet radio station, www.MerryChristmasRadio.com, which plays Christmas songs every day, 365 days a year. As his station boasts, he is a certifiable Christmas nut. Last December, 70,000 listeners from all over the globe tuned into www.Live365.com to listen to the station and somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000 people were still listening in July, and throughout the off season. Isherwood anticipates the numbers will be even higher this year.
This former Livingston resident always had an interest in entertainment, but it wasn’t until he won a 95.5 PLJ Scott and Todd in the Morning radio contest to “Fill in for Joe Nolan,” that he really got the bug to be on the radio. He credits his wife Christina for urging him to enter. He simply called into the station, read a traffic report on tape and forgot about it. Then one day he heard his entry playing on the radio, and got the call that he won. He enjoyed the experience of reading on-air traffic reports for four hours and said he didn‘t even mind reporting to the station at 5 a.m. to work.
“I loved the experience so much, that I wanted to go back the next day, however, the job was already taken by Joe,” laughed Isherwood.
Besides having an interest in being a radio personality, he said he has always had a strong affinity for Christmas. He spent much his free time over many years listening to the Internet station, www.MerryChristmasRadio.com, and being an active forum member there. Isherwood's strong knowledge of songs, artists and song history impressed the site owner, Jeff Westover, who reached out to him and asked if he had an interest in programming. Isherwood jumped at the chance and was soon, doing much more than that. He purchased a sound-mixing board, microphone and equipment that enabled him to take phone calls and requests. Before he knew it, he was pre-taping and hosting shows from his own radio studio, in his extra bedroom.
Isherwood's hosting, interesting commentary, Christmas-related news stories and deejay skills became popular quickly, and he soon had the number one site in the genre, with ratings even higher than some more mainstream music stations.
At the beginning of this December, he hosted a live show for six hours, and took requests from people living as far away as Florida, Washington State, Canada, and even Scotland.
He recalled a polite 8-year-old from Louisiana who called him sir and explained how she puts out carrots for the reindeer and cookies for Santa and wanted a dollhouse this year.
“I really got a kick out of talking to her and hearing her passion for my favorite holiday,” said Isherwood. “I have always been a huge fan of Christmas and enjoy chatting with fellow enthusiasts and talking to her brought back many fond memories of my family holidays, from my youth.”
He said he doesn’t just celebrate Christmas -- he decks out his house, sits on Santa’s lap with his wife, takes great pleasure in decorating the tree, and he and his two brothers shout out Christmas movie quotes throughout the holiday meal, while Christmas music plays throughout the house.
During the off-season, he spends about six hours a month programming the site, answering emails, and creating podcasts, which jumps to 20 hours in December. He not only provides an entertaining stream of music, but breaking news and information about Christmas music, artist bios, links to contemporary artist websites and histories of Christmas music.
Isherwood said he loves traditional carols - including The Little Drummer Boy/ Peace On Earth, by Bing Crosby and David Bowie, and The Spirit of Christmas, by Ray Charles, but admits he also enjoys more eclectic tunes, such as a version of I heard the Bells, by Casting Crowns. He said he is always on the lookout for new songs and receives around 50 cds a year in the mail. If he likes what he hears, he plays it on his station, giving airplay to many brand new groups, often reaching listeners as far away as Sri Lanka, China, Russia and Greece.
Isherwood said feels he is onto something, in that Christmas music is becoming its own genre. Last year Josh Groban’s Christmas album was not just the largest Christmas selling record of the year -- it was the best-selling album of the year,“People like listening to Christmas songs, and the fact that Josh’s album out-sold artists like Beyonce, Carrie Underwood and even Usher, shows that people are starting to listen to this type of music all year round."
Isherwood's work on his radio station is a labor of love. He does it for free. But, that is not all he does in the spirit of the Holiday. He lives in Randolph but serves on the town committee that brought the Camuso family's animated Christmas decorations and got them displayed at the Oval.
Isherwood said he is sometimes on duty at the Oval to to operate the equipment and play the songs. He looks forward to chatting about Christmas with all of the visitors. And, if they are fans of his site, he is happy to meet them.
He may be reached at email@example.com.