When the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts opened a decade ago, Jerry Blavat was sitting with crooner Paul Anka and philanthropists Sidney and Caroline Kimmel.
Sidney Kimmel told Blavat — who entertained at his wedding — that he should emcee a rock ’n’ roll show at the spectacular new venue at Broad and Spruce streets.
“We sold it out,” Blavat said of that initial show. “The first year, we had three sold-out shows. Now we do two a year.”
The Kimmel Center is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and the radio icon known as the “Geator with the Heater” and the “Boss with the Hot Sauce” will host his 23rd show on Saturday at 8 p.m.
“It’s a magnificent facility,” Blavat said. “The Kimmel Center is a state-of-the-art concert hall. It’s the only place to do a show of this nature. Every seat is prime.”
Saturday night’s concert will showcase music from the late 1950s to the ’70s. The lineup consists of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Ben E. King and Darlene Love; Shirley Alston Reeves of the Shirelles; The Trammps, a Philadelphia disco group; balladeer Lenny Welch; Edna Wright & The Honeycone; and Chris Montez.
“We surround them with a twenty-two piece orchestra,” Blavat said.
Blavat, 71, has been described as someone as much a part of Philadelphia as the Liberty Bell, the Mummers, the Phillie Phanatic and cheesesteaks.
On Saturday, he’ll offer “greetings and salutations” to audience members, who like to sing and dance during the show. He loves seeing smiles on their faces.
“I take them down memory lane,” he said.
Over the last 10 years, some of the popular figures at Blavat’s Kimmel shows have been Jay Black and the late Johnny Maestro.
Blavat added that Love has been an audience favorite. He’s excited to welcome King and Welch back to Philadelphia after long absences and Montez for his debut in the city.
Blavat, a South Philadelphia native, first burst onto the local scene at age 13 as a dancer on Bandstand. He’s been on the radio since 1960 and, like King and Love, is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s played to live audiences as big as 40,000 strong at the Robin Hood Dell East.
On the radio and at live gigs, he plays doo-wop, oldies, a cappella, rhythm and blues, Motown and the Philadelphia Sound.
Each weekday, he can be heard on Cruisin’ 92.1 from 5 to 7 p.m. and Kool 98.3 from 7 to 9 p.m. On Saturdays, he’s on WXPN (88.5 FM) from 6 to 7 p.m.
Longtime Geator fans — he calls them his “yon teens” — can see him in person.
On Wednesdays, he’s at the Sugar House Casino from 5 to 7 p.m. On Thursdays, he’s at the Buck Hotel in Feasterville at 8 p.m.
During the summer, he moves most of his live shows to Jersey shore locales such as Margate, Wildwood Crest, Sea Isle City and Egg Harbor Township.
Blavat is also a frequent guest on PBS pledge drives, which raise money during oldies broadcasts.
The Geator’s book, You Only Live Once: My Life in Music, was published last July and has spent 19 weeks on Amazon.com’s top 10 list. He’s even held a signing at the Vesper Club, a prestigious private dining club in Center City.
“The book has just been amazing. It’s on the third printing,” he said.
The Geator, who rejects hip-hop, rap and much of today’s music because of its derogatory lyrics, said the music he plays will live forever.
“It’s the lyrics. It’s a happy sound. The beat gets you. You can dance to it. When something is good, it never really dies,” he said. ••
Jerry Blavat will mark the 10th anniversary of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts by hosting a rock-and-roll concert this Saturday at 8 p.m. in Verizon Hall.
Tickets range from $41 to $81.
Mark the Spark will host a pre- and post-show Geator Dance Party at Commonwealth Plaza. The party is free and open to the public.
The Kimmel is located at Broad and Spruce streets. Call 215-893-1999 or visit kimmelcenter.orgEndFragment EndFragment