As I host my 17th annual Christmas Special on WGNA, I am reminded of my favorite childhood Christmas gift.

It was the mid-80s, and I was about 9 or 10 years old, the year that I got the gift that would change my life. As I unwrapped presents that morning, with my Mom and Brother under the tree, I had no idea that one of those little gifts would ignite a fire that would become my destiny. A little silver radio with a cassette recorder was my favorite gift that year. After tearing the shiny paper off the box, I set the dial to my hometown country station, WSCG in Corinth, New York. I listened all day and night, hitting the record button whenever I heard a good Country Christmas song.

I just couldn't put that radio away, it played the music of The Judds, Reba McEntire, George Strait, Alabama, The Statler Brothers, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Rogers, George Jones and so many more. In addition, it also introduced me to the voices of local radio DJs that would inspire my desire to play music on the radio- Joan Crane, Stan Edwards, Rocky Shannon, and Ray Blackwater were the names I remember from those early days. However, I would meet and know so many more great personalities through the years, like Jay Scott (who gave me my second radio job at Whistle Country), Bruce Smith (who gave me my third radio job at My Country), Brian Jackson (who gave me my fourth radio job at CD Country), and finally Lou Roberts, Richie Phillips, John Stanley, Buzz Brindle, Jake Thomas, Sean McMaster and Fred Horton (who gave me my fourth radio job at WGNA). In addition, Al Skop and Steve Warren who gave me the honor of hosting a show on Sirius Satellite radio from 2000-2004. There are so many more, but I just don't have time to list them all. Now back to the story...

Luckily, with the station just down the road from my house, I was able to make some connections after winning a radio contest. By 12, I had cued a few records and thread a few reel to reel tapes. Then, as the months went on, I was walking to the station after school and introducing records on the weekend. To give you an idea of the state of Country Music at the time, new artists like Randy Travis and Ricky Van Shelton were just taking off, CDs were about to revolutionize the industry, and we were still about 3 years away from hearing about rising stars like Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks and Clint Black. Obviously, there was no www, Facebook, or email. The only contact we had with listeners was over the phone, via a letter or seeing them face to face at a remote or bar gig.

Now, here we are in 2012 with 5 CMA nominations, one CMA win, 25 plus years of priceless experiences in the Country Music industry and just as many memories as the walls of the Country Music Hall of Fame. I am very lucky that mom decided on that particular gift that year. I'm also forever grateful to all of the kind DJs and Program Directors who gave a teenager a shot at making his dream come true, including the town of Corinth who came up with the clever idea of getting me to sign a Child Actor's permit, so I could legally work under the age of 14.

What was your favorite Christmas gift of all-time? Feel free to leave your story in the comment section below.