Earlier this month two of Boston’s longest-tenured radio personalities bumped into each other in the halls at GBH. This year marks the 40th anniversary of “Eric in the Evening,” Eric Jackson’s smooth, seminar-level jazz show. Oedipus is the punk-rock WBCN DJ who went on to serve as that station’s program director for more than two decades.
In the mid-1970s, Jackson and Oedipus first crossed paths when Jackson was spinning his “mixed music” playlists on the overnight shift at ‘BCN. His purple-haired counterpart would arrive in the wee hours to begin writing material for morning DJ Charles Laquidara; that was Oedipus’s first gig at the station, as a volunteer.
Though they both went on to become Boston radio legends, they hadn’t actually seen each other in decades, Oedipus says, until that impromptu recent meeting. On Christmas Eve, the two will share the airwaves at GBH.
Jackson will play some of his favorite holiday music — expect a little Nat King Cole and Marian Anderson — beginning at 5 p.m. At 8 p.m., he’ll hand the microphone over to Oedipus, who will present his annual “Christmas Eve With Oedipus” show of rare and obscure Christmas songs, which he’s hosted for more than 40 years.
“It’ll flow appropriately,” says Oedipus of “Christmas Eve With Eric Jackson and Oedipus.” “Eric will have everyone in the perfect mood.”
From those early days at WBCN Oedipus took note of Jackson’s on-air style, combining an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz with his serene, conversational delivery. “It always impressed me how he could just turn the mic on and speak,” Oedipus says. “He knew exactly what he was going to say.” By contrast, he says, smiling, “I’d get all jittery.”
For Jackson, DJ-ing is like “you’ve been invited into somebody’s living room.” For a time, he says with a laugh, GBH was running a promotional photo of him in a tuxedo, until he asked them to change the picture.
“People are just coming home from work and relaxing,” he explains. “That’s not the image I want to project.”
Oedipus’s Christmas show ran on ‘BCN for 30 years before moving to WFNX. For a couple of years it aired on the Globe’s short-lived Internet radio station, settling at WGBH in 2015. In 2018, then-Mayor Marty Walsh declared Dec. 24 “Christmas Eve With Oedipus” Day.
Each year Oedipus scours the record crates, both physical and virtual, for Christmas music you haven’t heard before. One of his earliest discoveries was “Christmas Wrapping” by the New Wave band the Waitresses. Though he claims he was the first to introduce the song on the radio, he can’t play it now. Too well-known, he says.
In preparation for the show, he listens to “well over a thousand” new or newly unearthed Christmas songs each year. “Most of them are just mediocre, but occasionally you find that great gem,” he says. Those are the ones likely to make the cut.
He takes great pride, he says, in steering clear of the kind of Christmas song “that if you heard it one more time you’d kill the DJ or smash the radio.”
Though their tone may be different, Jackson and Oedipus share one thing in common: Neither will bring a predetermined playlist to the station on Friday.
“Oh my goodness,” says Jackson, chuckling at the notion. “I’m an improviser.”
Email James Sullivan at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.