Catching up with Lee Cameron: The original Christmas Podcaster
The last several years have brought us a whole new genre of holiday entertainment in the form of Christmas podcasts. Interested in Christmas history and nostalgia? The podcast world has you covered. Can’t get enough of those Hallmark Channel movies? Take your pick of podcasts that discuss and review them. Or maybe audio dramas are your thing. It’s all there, growing by the season, and free for the taking.
But if you were looking for a Christmas podcast way back in 2006, it was slim pickings among a smattering of podcasting pioneers. Like Lee Cameron, the voice actor and radio personality who hosts The Christmas Stocking. The show blends historical facts, independent holiday music, and warm connections with his many listeners—all in short, professionally produced episodes. Christmas Past recently caught up with Lee to discuss podcasting, California Christmases, and ugly sweaters, among other things.
As far as I can tell, yours was the very first Christmas podcast. What gave you the idea to start The Christmas Stocking way back in 2006?
I wanted a topic that would be fairly evergreen. And I remembered so many of the stars of Christmas specials when I was a kid were/are remembered for Christmas long after their careers were otherwise pretty much wrapped up, and even after they passed. The idea of doing something that might stand the test of time was one I liked.
You have a background as a radio DJ and voice actor. Can you tell me about that?
I’ve been fascinated by media as long as I can remember. I loved TV as a kid, and watched very actively, paying attention to how things were made. I had a chance to be on WTIC-FM in Hartford, which was a dream come true. I went out west because radio was more fun in California, spent four years in Las Vegas, then helped start the Radio Disney network. I came to LA at the end of 1999 and worked for a couple of years on the Jammin’ Oldies station. I started doing voice over in Las Vegas, and I’m still plugging away.
Well, since you’re a DJ, I’ll ask you to make a Christmas playlist. Name 5 essential Christmas songs
That’s hard. There are a lot of Christmas carols (traditional songs) that are essential, because they connect us to history in ways that very few things do anymore. Tops on that list for me would be “Silent Night, Holy Night.” Also “Away in a Manger,” “Ave Maria” (especially by Barbra Streisand), “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (the more gospel the better for me, but all versions I’ve heard work), and “O Holy Night.” That’s a painfully incomplete list.
But here are six contemporary faves:
- “Snoopy’s Christmas” by The Royal Guardsmen
- “Someday at Christmas” by Stevie Wonder
- “Christmas Time is Here (Vocal)” by Vince Guaraldi Trio
- “Welcome Christmas” from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (the original—there is no other, and likely never will be)
- “The Christmas Waltz” by The Carpenters
- “Heat Miser” and “Cold Miser” by George S. Irving and Dick Shawn, respectively, from “Year Without a Santa Claus.”
Have you ever had to be on the radio on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?
I’ve been on the radio both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day many times. I loved doing Christmas Eve, and liked Christmas, although I still wanted to play Christmas music and they usually transitioned back to regular format by the time I went in. But I felt like the people who were paying attention to the radio on Christmas Eve or Day really needed a friend and I was glad to be there for them.
I did a Christmas Eve or two at Radio Disney, also. I thought it would be a blast, because kids are so excited on Christmas Eve and I could be part of a special memory. Maybe I was for some, but it was a nightmare for me. I put a lot of kids on the air when I was there, and the kids were so wound up they were just calling and screaming at me. Not very Christmassy!
You’ve produced 138 episodes to date. How do you find fresh topics?
I have a long list of topics that I haven’t gotten to, some of which I’ve thought of and many that have been suggested by listeners on email, Facebook or Twitter. And I ask every year what people want to hear about and there are always good suggestions.
Are there any topics you’ve avoided covering?
Weird Christmas advertising or other weird Christmas traditions or aspects that people are only interested in because it’s gross or strange. I want everything on the show to be positive and celebrate Christmas. And I want everything to be interesting to a broad audience. I made a few exceptions, mostly European characters like Krampus and the Yule Lads, because they’re culturally significant.
What’s your favorite thing about making The Christmas Stocking?
I love connecting with people from all over the world, and learning that the show means much more to them than I ever expected it would. I also really enjoy finding Christmas music that’s really good, especially the original songs, which I realize won’t usually be the most popular because part of Christmas is about reconnecting with the past. I’ve found a lot of really good originals and new versions of classics in the last few years.
My first episode on the origins of Black Friday (Episode 2), where I went into the theories of where the name comes from, is one of my favorites. At least one of the stories is pretty dark. It also features one of my favorite songs “Christmas Hopes and Joy” by Black Turtle. The key lines are “Don’t get your hopes up, this Christmas, I don’t wanna hear you whine.” Makes me laugh.
You live in California, but you’re from New England originally. What do you miss most about New England Christmases?
Cold weather. The possibility of snow on Christmas, or in December, even though many years it didn’t snow. Where I’m from, if it snowed it really did look like a print by Currier and Ives. These things are the wonderful things we remember all through our lives. California has been special for me, though. Christmas means family here even more than it did when I was growing up. I also live in the city, but I grew up in the country, so I see a lot more decorated houses here, but I really miss trees and hills. A lot.
Ugly sweaters: yea or nay?
I don’t have any, never wanted one. My dog Stella, though had one I found at Target that was adorable.