Pittsburgh's WESA-FM wants to play your favorite Christmas song

| Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

When radio host Kevin Gavin thinks about Christmas songs, the images in his mind are not those of “doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles,” as a well-known song puts it.

No, the on-air personality who has been dealing with such songs for 36 years thinks of animals.

“There seems to be a whole lot of animal songs for Christmas,” Gavin says, talking about dogs barking out carols and cats mewing them.

But don't forget “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” or “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” he reminds.

Gavin will be offering his All-Request Holiday Music Special on WESA-FM (90.5) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, continuing the seasonal broadcast treat that started on WDUQ and moved with the station's new owners this year.

Gavin, who is the station's director of internships and training, is thrilled the program has had such a long life, since he “never thought it would happen in the first place.”

He says 36 years ago, he and some 'DUQ colleagues got the idea to do a solid stretch of holiday-music programming. That time was before the days of nonstop Christmas music that can be heard today, so they thought it would provide a nice option.

The fear of it not catching on was groundless, and now the station puts out notices about a week in advance, seeking requests.

Monday, it will have a free open house during the broadcast with family activities, coffee, bagels, holiday cookies and WESA punch. The event is at WESA/WYEP-FM (90.5, 91.3) headquarters at 67 Bedford Square on the South Side.

It will add another layer of participation to a holiday celebration that, every year, proves its popularity.

Gavin says the hours of the broadcast end up consisting of about 50 minutes of music each. Most requests are phoned into the station that day. But many of them have been e-mailed, snail-mailed and even Twittered.

Most of the time is filled by requests made in the first two hours, Gavin says.

“Of course, the great thing is when you get a request for something already lined up,” he says, allowing him to make more than one listener happy.

Most of the songs come from the albums the station or he has, and that offers a bit of range. Gavin says he has from 250 to 275 Christmas albums.

But, of course, there always is the song that isn't part of the collection. It pushes him into a tough purchasing decision.

“You always start thinking: Is it really important enough for one song?” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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