Favorite Spot: The Geator’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Express, Saturday nights, 6-7 pm, on ‘XPN
Neighborhood: All over town, but rooted right in Center City
Address: 88.5 FM on your radio dial; check out the Geator Gold storefront at 6th and Market.
I am: Writer, editor, and urban planner.
Years in Philly: 14 (plus another 10 in the burbs, if you count that. Which I don’t.)
Current Home: Grad Hospital.
My love note:
Dear Jerry “the Geator” Blavat,
I sometimes think I was born in the wrong decade. I can read history books and comb through old Inquirer and Evening Bulletin clippings and even talk to older Philadelphians, but all that will still only tell me what the city looked and acted like. But every Saturday night at 6, I can hear what it sounded like.
The Geator’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Rhythm ‘n’ Blues Express is a sonic time machine to a simpler Philadelphia, a time when street corners thrummed to the rhythm of doo-wop harmonies, and literally thousands of “yon teens” would cram into the Chez Vous Lounge or the Wagner Ballroom on a Saturday night to show off the latest dance crazes.
It recalls when the original Bandstand—filmed at 46th and Market—first hit the airwaves, and kids from West Philly who danced on the show (the Geator chief among them) started getting fan mail from teenagers across the country. From those very stages, you and native sons like Chubby Checker and Danny and the Juniors showed the nation how to dance and how to rock.
Now, every Saturday night, you take us listeners on a musical history lesson with your encyclopedic who-wrote-what-and-recorded-it-with-whom—knowledge that exists only in your head. It’s a total thrill when you play three or four versions of a single song back to back, giving us the rare opportunity to hear how nascent rock ‘n’ roll evolved, how the same song sounded totally different when done by white vs. black artists, or for different labels, or for commercial vs. artistic success. You never fail to give us the fascinating back-story behind the back-story, and then let us bask in the sweet harmonies of the original rock and doo-wop and R&B.
If we ever want to see the physical relics, your storefront studio is right there on Market Street for any passer-by to stroll up and gaze upon rock ‘n’ roll ephemera from a lifetime spent with friends like Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra. It’s a marvel.
Your hour-long XPN show takes me back to a Philadelphia that doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe it never did—who cares? It’s worth the trip anyway.