WORTH REPEATING: Geator Still Packing Heater


PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY: The sound is vintage, from when radio was king in Philadelphia. Jocko Henderson, Hy Lit, Georgie Woods, the recently passed George Michael—these DJs were local superstars on stations that defined neighborhoods—WIBBAGE, WDAS, WHAT—with call-letter allegiance determined by race, parish and hip factor. And Blavat ended up the biggest of them all, if not by celebrity, then at least by staying power. “As commercial radio continues to blow, legendary DJs are dying,” says WXPN’s Bruce Warren, who puts the Geator on the air every Saturday night. “There was something about growing up in Philly listening to these guys. There are very few great DJs left on the radio. DJs-as-storytellers is a vanishing art form.”

Blavat and his audience have grown together, in a way: When they go see him for two, three hours a week, they step back in time to a day when they were the coolest cats in the parish, when a wild night out involved necking in the back of Dad’s Chevy at the drive-in movie theater at Broad and Pattison. They step back into this old Philadelphia, where they find the Geator, holding court. Like he never left. “Everybody wants to go back and relive a moment in their life where you can relate, and I do that,” he says. “I bring you back for two hours with my music to a better time in our world—a time when kids were the product of a neighborhood, kids went to dances—Wagner’s, Chez Vous, Starlight—and they met other kids from different neighborhoods.”

As he loves to remind anyone who will listen, Jerry Blavat too is very much the product of a neighborhood. He grew up half Jewish, half Italian on McKean Street in what was then a very Italian South Philadelphia. But with his father in and out of jail and his mother working as a riveter at the Navy Yard, Blavat was raised mostly by the nuns of St. Monica’s Parish at 17th and Ritner. “I always hung with older people because I always wanted to learn from older people,” he says. “I always dressed older.” On the occasion of his 50 years in show biz, Blavat has been working on his memoirs—a detailed account of the life and times of the Geator. Though still a work in progress, it details his education on the streets of Philadelphia, his early days working as a manager for Danny and the Juniors (“At the Hop”), the South Philly dances where he hosted thousands of kids at a time, and his fortuitous entry into the world of radio, when, as a new jockey on Camden’s WCAM, he started spinning in the middle of a snowstorm. When no relief jocks came, he just kept spinning his records—Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino—musicians who at the time weren’t played on radio. The phones lit up, and the program director offered him a permanent slot. MORE

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