For the first 11 months of every year, the Wheaton College community knows Dr. Larry Eskridge as the historian who serves as Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals.
But in December, Eskridge doubles as Christmas music director at WETN, the FM radio station at Wheaton College, where he hosts “Uncle Lar’s Christmas Attic,” a Saturday program featuring music from his collection of 850 Christmas CDs. This year, the programs air from 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and are rebroadcast the following Wednesday from 9 p.m. to midnight.
Eskridge has hosted the program for about 10 years, and assisted with WETN’s Christmas programming for a decade before that. WETN begins playing Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, and most of the 2,300 Christmas songs in the station’s playlist come from Eskridge’s collection. Although the tracks are stored on the station’s hard drive, the CDs they come from fill nine shelves in Eskridge’s Wheaton basement.
Each show is organized around a theme, which allows Eskridge to share music from almost every genre with listeners. “Having grown up during the 1960s and 70s, when stations weren’t as targeted to specific demographics, I listened to a wide range of music, and developed an ear for a wide range of genres in my listening habits,” Eskridge says. As a result, his Christmas collection includes big band jazz, soul, classical, choral, rock, pop, contemporary Christian, gospel, and country music.
The collection also includes several albums he describes, with a historian’s restraint, as “a tad amusing.” These include a Christmas album with songs from the cast of the television show Bonanza, and a 1980 Star Wars-themed Christmas album featuring a pre-stardom Jon Bon Jovi and tracks like “What Can You Get a Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?).” Eskridge is saving such gems for the final show on December 31.
Upcoming programs include a sampling of 1920s to 1970s jazz, R&B, and soul, to air December 10 and 14; country and bluegrass tunes, airing on December 17 and 21; Christmas songs from the 1960s through 1980s, airing on December 24 and 28; and a collection of unconventional yuletide fare on New Year’s Eve.
WETN is available 24 hours a day on radio, on television, and online. In and around DuPage County, tune in at 88.1 FM. WETN-TV is available to Comcast Cable customers in Warrenville, West Chicago, Wheaton, and Winfield. To listen online, visit wetn.org.