Saturday’s “Jerry Blavat and Friends” show at the Kimmel Center will be, as always, a celebration of Philadelphia’s most legendary R&B disc jockey-performer and the musical memories he conjures. Yet, this iteration of the Geator’s annual soul and doo-wop floor show is his 40th concert at the Kimmel, featuring such pals as the Miracles, Kim Weston, Brenda Holloway, the Stylistics. Sonny Turner (of the Platters), Jay Siegel’s Tokens and the Chantels, some of whom have never graced the Broad Street stage.
When Blavat started, he did three shows a year, but now he’s down to one annual shindig. The Geator chatted about his big 4-0, why he’s only doing one show and how he’s expanded his reach from Philly to the Shore.
Before the first event, I was having dinner with [Sidney] Kimmel, whose wedding to Caroline I performed at, and he wanted the center to be more than just a home for the orchestra. “Why don’t you do one of your shows there?” he said, knowing that I had done revues at the Robin Hood Dell and such. So I did, one after another, and they all sold out. We kept going at that pace. Until it got to be too much.
At this point, Atlantic City is very much a reality. You cannot lose sight that for 60 years I’ve been part of the fabric in that town … going back to the Steel Peer shows and dances like the one in 1962 where I brought Stevie Wonder to the stage of Jefferson Hotel, or even the Ritz Convention Hall. Sea Isle, Wildwood, A.C. — 60 years of that is what I brought to the Golden Nugget, the Sands, Hard Rock. I was there long before the casinos.
Actually, the reason I’m calling it “Jerry and Friends” is that, other than the Tokens, none of these performers has played full sets with me at the Kimmel. Kim Weston has never played my Kimmel show. Sonny Turner of the Platters has never done the Kimmel. The Miracles were only here to sing “Abraham, Martin and John” for a Sidney Kimmel affair in 2002. Brenda Holloway and the Stylistics did one show each a while back.
The idea that leads this charge is memory. We’ve done specific disco, soul, and doo-wop in the past. This one is truly a mixed bag, and one filled with the hits of our youth — doo-wop with the Tokens, Philly soul with the Stylistics. Motown with Brenda Holloway and Kim Weston. The constant is the 40-piece orchestra, which you can never get anywhere else, and, the secret is that each artist sings only their hits. No one wants to hear Kim Weston doing Diana Ross songs or the Tokens singing Johnny Maestro. These songs are all theirs … and the audience’s, too, young and old alike.