Monday, August 22, 2005

Jerry Blavat & The Yon Teenagers - The Discophonic Walk

Example
"The Geator with the Heater"
Jerry Blavat
Example

I’m sure that I’ve gone on in this space before about what an amazing musical city Philadelphia is. Even if you only take in the R&B/soul records made in the 60’s and 70’s, Philly stands head and shoulders above almost any regional scene (Detroit excepted). One of the things that helped to make it great was the local radio stations and air personalities. One of the greatest from that era (and he’s still around today) was the Geator with the Heater, Mr. Jerry Blavat. When he started on the radio in 1961 (he had previously been a dancer on the original incarnation of American Bandstand), Blavat was a hyperactive kid from Philly with a serious taste for black music. During the 60’s he rose to prominence on the Philly airwaves, working at both WCAM and WHAT (the home of the “Mighty Burner” Sonny Hopson). From 1965 to 1970 he hosted the ‘Discophonic Scene’ TV show on WCAU and WFIL, which was also nationally syndicated. At one point he appeared as himself on an episode of ‘The Monkees’. Blavat was no ordinary Top 40 dj. His playlists were filled with grittier sounds, especially soul and R&B and it was all served up with his mile-a-minute, motor-mouth jive talk delivery. The 1988 film ‘The In Crowd’ featured a character named “Perry Parker” who was clearly based on Blavat (who apparently sued – and settled out of court – over the uncanny resemblance). The soundtrack to that film (never released) was a window into the kind of sounds Blavat was spinning in the mid-60’s, including cuts like ‘I Do’ by the Marvellows, ‘Mine Exclusively’ by the Olympics and ‘The Real Thing’ by Tina Britt. The real-life Blavat – like many other DJs in the 60’s – compiled and released party records, which is where today’s selection comes in. Strangely enough I picked this album up at a garage sale two doors down the block (Thanks neighbor!). I’m always interested in Philly stuff, so I grabbed the LP when I saw Blavat’s name on the cover, but it was another story entirely when I opened up the gatefold. I’ve seen a bunch of these dance party records, but never one as good as this. This was a record compiled by (and intended for) people that knew their music, including cuts by the Olympics (the aforementioned ‘Mine Exclusively’), C.O.D.’s, Four Shells (?!?), Jackie Lee and Warren Lee (can I get another ?!?) among others. To make things even cooler the inner sleeve listed the tunes next to the appropriate dance for each number (I wish I could see what some of those dances looked like). Included on one side of the LP was Blavat’s theme (from 1966) ‘The Discophonic Walk’. The tune is credited to ‘Jerry Blavat and the Yon Teenagers’ (that was how he referred to the kids). The tune, a hard hitting dancer which features the singing of the Geator - Blavat has said that he was backed by Cameo-Parkway session musicians, including drummer Bobby Gregg – and hand clapping from the assembled masses. The tune accurately reflects Blavat’s infectious energy. I’ve seen a reference on the internet that suggests that this record (which was also released as a 45 on the Favor and Cameo/Parkway labels) was done for the benefit of a local high school and recorded in the school gym, with the students providing the background noise. Blavat apparently performed the song on American Bandstand at some point. Jerry Blavat is still around today, broadcasting on a couple of different South Jersey stations (WVLT, WWZK and WPEN) as well as hosting popular record hops/dance parties and hosting at his Margate, NJ night club Memories. He also shows up on some of those PBS pledge week oldies concerts. Below is a quote I found on the web from a 1966 article in Record Beat magazine: “That's a show, baby, and that's what we do: we wail for you; and it may be silly, but it's only in Philly; but -- no sad song, it won't be long until we make our bow from Maine to Cal. And you too can do the Boogaloo. "What's the Boogaloo?" Well, you might ask me what the Philly Dog is or the Rain Dance or the national talk, the Discophonic Walk! They're dances, babe-ophonic baby, and they're all created by yon teenagers. No choreography, nobody's idea of what they THINK teenagers might dance like -- this is it! A soulful group of Philly kids-- not hand-picked, just grabbed off the streets where the dances originate! And they wail up an insane breeze!” – Jerry Blavat

10 Comments:

Anonymous CJ Grogan said...

I just saw him on this special about Wildwood NJ, still got that crazy energy thing going on. They showed some pretty vintage "dance part" footage.

How does one become discophonic anyway?

8/22/2005 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger guapo said...

this is perfection in sound!

8/23/2005 04:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this!

8/26/2005 02:48:00 AM  
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12/31/2005 02:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Keely said...

Hi, Larry -- I'm Jerry Blavat's assistant and I just found your great page, one of the best I've ever seen on the Geator. I love what you said about Philly's place in music history. Thought you'd like to know that you can now hear Jerry on Saturdays from 6-7 pm via WXPN's webstream (xpn.org). He focuses on the blues roots of rock & roll and I know you'll enjoy the show.
Best regards,
Keely Stahl, Philadelphia

1/27/2006 01:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sonny Hopson The Might Burner Internet Radio (LIVE, 1967, 1969, 1981,1986 shows)

http://www.whthmusic.com

Windows Media Player required

2/06/2006 05:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

I was on Jerry Blavat's TV show Discophonic Scene, taped in Cherry Hill NJ in 1979 and I can not find anything about that show

3/04/2006 10:00:00 PM  
Anonymous JOY918@aol.com said...

I just recently visited the club Memories in Margate New Jersey was told that memories is not owned by jerry Blavatt anymore but he hosts there from time to time. Who is the new owner of Memories or is it closing?

8/22/2006 01:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill Smith said...

Great page, Larry.

I have streaming audio of The Discophonic Walk on my website "Geator! A Tribute to Jerry Blavat"

You can hear it here: http://home.eznet.net/~gc/geator/#discophonic

11/08/2006 11:09:00 PM  
Blogger Charlene said...

Hi, I was a dancer on Jerry Blavat show in the early 7o's @3rd St & Market St{channel 29}towards the ending of that era. I would like to find footage on the show. I had a ball.......Having the chance to be apart of the show has giving me so many great memories!
Thank You!

6/20/2008 09:02:00 AM  

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