HO HO BROTHER 19–Quid Pro Ho

Well, I did it again. For the 19th consecutive year.

Let’s go back to where it all started, in 1999. I was playing radio as part of the Murdock, Hunter and Alice morning show on 92.5-KLSY in Seattle. Technology was beginning to pick up some serious speed. We had these cellular phone things that allowed you to make phone calls from practically anywhere if you were willing to carry the big battery it came with. It was the beginning of the digital world as we watched records and ‘carts’ replaced with amazingly clear compact discs or ‘CD’s.’

I have had several technology gurus over the years, going back to the early 1980s when I paid $1200 for a computer that ran DOS and had a monochrome monitor.  My neighbor Paul generously helped me learn all about them.

Over time, another neighbor in another neighborhood who worked at Microsoft came to my rescue more than once. Neil was a godsend as I took risks, screwed things up, but thanks to his tutelage, I learned what I did wrong and my computer know-how grew by leaps & bounds.

But it was as the century closed that Rick Taylor, the Sandusky radio chain I.T. guy, handed me a CD of Christmas music he had put together. “You what?  You found songs and then made your own CD? Tell me more.” And he did.

With enough knowledge to be dangerous, I created my first Christmas CD of holiday fun and favorites: HO HO BROTHER 1. It was a mishmash of Christmas songs, sentimental and goofy, while weaving in some of the Christmas bits I had produced over my radio career.  It was well received, and so the following Christmas I did another. And another. And another.

This became one of my Christmas traditions and I challenged myself to find songs you probably had never heard before, or different versions of the old classics, as well as creating original comedy, all blended together in a non-stop 68-minute Christmas-palooza. My self imposed rule was to never use the same version of the same song twice. In time, I even incorporated an original Christmas parody song that I wrote and local singer Alana Baxter recorded. We would even produce a music video to go along with it.

My goal was always to create a holiday experience that you could pop into a CD player and a little over an hour later, find yourself fully immersed in what this time of year was all about.

These days, I’ve got it down to a system. In fact, from the minute I put the finishing touches on the current year’s collection, I start stashing songs for next year’s compilation.

Here’s this year’s lineup:

HO HO BROTHER 2019—Quid Pro Ho

1) Dr. Phil’s Opening Big (Fred Bugg)

2) “Sugar & Booze” Ana Gasteyer

3) “I’ll be home for Christmas” Lea Michele with Jonathon Groff

4) “Christmas Tree” Meg & Dia

5) “Frosty the Snowman” Shannon & Keast

6) “Santa Stole My Lady” Fitz & the Tantrums

7) 1-877 SLAS-4-ELVS (Me)

8) “Christmas Cookies” Oak Ridge Boys

9) “Finally it’s Christmas!”   Hanson

10) “Colgate Tooth Powder Commercial”

11) “That’s What I Want For Christmas”   Shirley Temple

12) “I Love Christmas” Tommy James

14) “Little Drummer Boy”   Pink Martini

15) “A Willie Nice Christmas” Kacey Musgraves with Willie Nelson

16) “Merry Merry Christmas” John Legend

17) “Beer, Joy of Man’s Desiring” Christmas With Beer

18) “Santa Claus is Coming To Town”   Tommy Dorsey & Orchestra, Cliff Weston & Edythe Wright

19) “Christmas Comes But Once A Year”   Joe Bonamassa

20) “Jingle Bells” The Ray Conniff Singers

21) “Some Day At Christmas” Alana Baxter

22) “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas”   Bing Crosby

23) “Mele Kalikimaka”   Chris Isaak

24) “O Come All Ye Faithful”   Susan Boyle with Elvis Presley

25) “I Believe In Father Christmas”   Greg Lake with Ian Anderson

26) “Walken In A Winter Wonderland”   (Scott Burns)

 

I’m really proud of this year’s edition. I stumbled across a Tommy James Christmas song he did that’s a lot of fun that I had never even heard of before.  There’s a Shirley Temple tune that brings back some childhood memories.  There are modern entries, some classics and two of my radio brothers bringing their best for the Dr. Phil open (Fred Bugg) and and Christopher Walken close (Scott Burns).  I am truly blessed.  Yeah, and that’s me not being able to resist doing 1-877-SLAS-4-ELVS.

With all the being said, enjoy this year’s collection right here.  Just click on it to listen, or right click it to save on your computer. Put it on your phone and you have a Christmas party to go!

And now with another shift in the technology, CD’s are going away, but I still make a few for those who still have players. Here’s what this year’s label looks like:

The little girl is from a photo taken in 1950s Seattle, as she gazed at all the dolls in Frederick & Nelson’s window.

I still don’t have a new song written for Alana yet this year, but we’ll pull it off again somehow. It always works out.  Last year, we did the “Someday at Christmas” you find on this year’s HO HO and filmed the video at Bothell’s Country Village, which is no more. It’s where I was a town crier and welcomed Santa most of the last 17 years. It’s amazing how quickly things we do become things we used to do.

That’s why I cherish this time of year and probably go overboard in holiday commitments and activities. But you know, one day, those will be the things I’ll remember that I used to do.

Make it count. Yeah, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but it’s going to be a short holiday season, so let’s get this show on the road.

Merry Christmas.

Tim Hunter

PS Oh, and yeah, here’s last year’s Alana Baxter video. Enjoy!

 

A Season of Traditions

Christmas is a wonderful time of year.

It’s a celebration with memories and traditions that take me back to my childhood. We would go out, pick out a tree, then bring it into the house and decorate it. It was when the manger scene went up on the hearth, when mom baked her collection of Christmas cookies, when presents slowly piled up underneath, and our family would go to enough church services to hit a yearly quota.

The official kickoff for this special season was when the Sears Christmas catalog arrived in the mail. That allowed us to see for ourselves what you were going to ask Santa for that year. To help the old guy out, we sometimes cut out the pictures of the toys we wanted and pasted them in our annual suck-up letter to the Claus, hoping that he wasn’t too careful checking that naughty-and-nice list of his.

The more holiday seasons you live through, it seems the more traditions you include in that “It ain’t Christmas unless I” collection. We probably have a lot of them in common–need to watch, “Christmas Vacation”, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol.” (at least one version) Then there’s putting up decorations, sending out Christmas cards, and of course, the shopping.

But besides all those normal routines, I’ve developed a collection of rather unique traditions of my own. There was the Santa Claus arrival where I was the official Town Crier for 18 years at Country Village in Bothell, but that appears to have run its course. In 2000, I began a tradition of assembling a collection of Christmas songs, comedy bits and audio memorabilia and making a CD that I called, “Ho Ho Brother.”  This year’s 18th edition is among the best. You can listen to it here just by clicking on this link.

Then, another tradition was added into my holiday season routine six years ago. My radio brother-from-another-mother Scott Burns introduced me to a young singer named Alana Baxter. I wrote a parody song about Christmas, she lent her voice to the project and we even shot a video to go along with it.  We started strong and have just kept getting better at it. Yeah, I’m being too modest.

We’re managed to pull this special effort five of the last six Christmas seasons and this year’s endeavor was among the toughest. With all my jobs and side-hustles, plus my recently-added radio gig, the time to make this happen just wasn’t there. But I swapped sleep for writing lyrics, got ’em to her and we went into express mode.

Friday, December 21st, Alana came by and she recorded the song. I mixed down a rough version and then we drove up to Bothell’s Country Village to shoot the video. I really wanted to showcase the Village one more time before the scheduled wrecking balls turn it into a memory next spring.

This year, we’ve twisted the lyrics to Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas.”  Stevie’s version was about world peace and ending war and much more noble efforts. Our version is just about all those things that go wrong at Christmas and drive us crazy. But then again, are they just things or could they actually be traditions? I’ll leave that one up to you.

Another amazing thing about this year’s video. It was shot entirely on my iPhone Xs. It’s my first-ever iPhone and they have completely won me over.

Finished in time for the holiday and destined to be part of my 2019 Ho Ho Brother CD, here’s “Someday at Christmas” by Alana Baxter. Enjoy.

And Merry Christmas!

Tim Hunter

 

The Hardest Christmas Tradition

Look, for starters, I love Christmas. I’m a bit of a Christmas nut. Love the songs, the love traditions, feel it’s not Christmas if I haven’t over-done the house. You know, that kind of a Christmas guy.

I write up a family Christmas letter with an assist from my wife, mail out cards to over a hundred people, and put together a Christmas CD that has become a tradition. This year, I produced the 17th annual edition of “Ho Ho Brother” and, if I may say, it was my best version yet.  I’m already working on the 2018 version.

But something I also took on several years ago was doing a Christmas parody song about the holiday season. Through my Destination Marketing buddy Scott Burns (actually, radio brothers who never had the chance to work together on the air), I met a local singer named Alana Baxter.  I would write the lyrics, Scott helped me record and mix her songs, I experimented and learned about shooting video and while they were rough, we still managed to pull off some pretty good holiday tunes, including “It’s Silent Night”,  “He rides a sleigh”, (yes, that’s me in the cow costume), “I won’t hate you very much tonight (It’s Christmas)”, and the salute to the Starbucks holiday cup debacle, “Where are you Christmas?” .

But lately, the project has gotten pretty challenging. Alana got a medical degree and moved to Hawaii. Last year, while she was in town for the holidays, I managed to write and record a song with her, called “All I need for Christmas (is booze)”. Fun concept, but we hurried through it. I wrote it quickly, she came over and recorded it with the idea of releasing it this year. However, when it came to put it all together, while listening to the tracks, it just wasn’t up to par. So, I called in some Hawaii radio favors and connections (thanks, Chip Begay and Dan Deeb), Alana slipped into a studio and I got some in-tune, fresh vocal tracks. I had already put in 5 hours mixing down a preemptive video, but when the vocal tracks didn’t match the old version, I had to start from scratch.

12+ hours of remixing and re-editing of video later, we have a song. I hope you enjoy it. “All I need for Christmas (is booze)” is too late for this year’s Christmas CD, but it has inspired me to already begin working on the 2018 edition, which will include this.

It wasn’t easy, but totally worth the effort to keep the tradition alive–here is Alana Baxter and “All I want for Christmas (is booze)”.

 

Merry Christmas to all!

Tim Hunter

10 YEARS THAT SEEMED LIKE A DECADE

One last group shot

Every year since 2000, I’ve put together a collection of Christmas cheer that I call “Ho-Ho Brother.”  I was inspired by the tech-savvy Rick Taylor who handed me his collections for a couple of years running and I finally said, “I should do this!”

So, each year, putting together another collection became a labor of love.  Over the 13 years, I’ve tried not to repeat songs—in title, yes, but not the same artist.

I put in a dash of traditional songs, some new, some quirky, a few original contributions—either comedy bits or a tune—and some new discoveries that I hope you’ll enjoy.

The 2013 edition has been titled, “10 Years That Seemed Like a Decade” because it was ten years ago that the Murdock, Hunter & Alice Show on 92.5-KLSY received a surprise going away party.

December 19th, 2003, was a Friday morning.  Our producer, Bryon Mengle, had poured his heart into this show, as we all had a sneaky feeling this was going to be it. I’ve included several cuts from that show on this album, including Alice’s line that “careers were on the line.”  We were, in fact, just hours away from unemployment.

But if you get to choose how you go out, that would have been the way to do it.

I’ve always been a major fan of Christmas, both from the message and from the experience. That day’s show included KING 5’s Dennis Bounds reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, live performances by Tim Noah, artists featured on the “Christmas in the Northwest” albums and even Brenda White, live on stage, singing the title song.

On Ho-Ho Brother 13, you’ll hear Bryon the Producer singing “Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer” with a group of school kids from an Issaquah elementary school.  The kid helping me out with “Toy Shop” is Jackson Gerdes, son of former KLSY music director Darla Thomas.  Fred Bugg, a guy who frequented the MH&A show over the years, provides an Al Bundy and Robin Leach for the cause.  You’ll even discover Ola Gjeilo, a Norwegian composer coming on the scene and his song, “Tundra.”  It’s haunting, while at the same time paints an audio picture of a snow-covered home in Norway.

You’ll also hear this year’s Christmas song that I’m turning into a video, which features the amazing Alana Baxter.  For the third year in a row, she’s trusting me to turn a couple of hours goofing around in a recording studio and with a camera into a fun song.  Click here to see the video of  “I won’t hate you very much tonight (it’s Christmas).”

While Thanksgiving reminds us to be grateful for the things we have, Christmas is more about being thankful for the people still with us.  It’s when we wedge in writing an annual letter or licking 100 envelopes to maintain the tradition of Christmas cards.  With Facebook and the Internet keeping us closer than ever, we almost don’t need an annual recap of what we’ve done over the past year.  But, for tradition’s sake, we carry on.

And that’s why I keep churning out one more “Ho Ho Brother” each year.  I have friends that still have that very first edition.  I remember my mom saying she was missing a couple of years and so I burned her copies, in order for her to have the complete collection.

This year’s CD is dedicated to the memory of a show and a person I never had imagined I would spend so much time with—Alice Porter.

The spirit of Christmas is there for anyone who would like to catch it.  It truly is a marvelous time of year.

Merry Christmas!

Tim Hunter