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Jerry Blavat, iconic disc jockey with Lehigh Valley ties, dead at 82

Peter Nero, Jerry Blavat, Joe Tarsia and Nathan Morris
Justin Maxon
/
AP
Conductor Peter Nero, far left, disc jockey Jerry Blavat, second left, recording engineer Joseph Tarsia, second right, and one of the performers in Boyz II Men, Nathan Morris, far right, talk before the Music Legends exhibition unveiling at the Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Tuesday, July 1, 2008. Blavat's death was confirmed on Jan. 20, 2023.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Jerry Blavat, known as “The Geator” during an eight-decade career as one of the Philadelphia-area’s best known disc jockeys and who had strong ties to the Lehigh Valley, has died at 82, media outlets are reporting.

Starting in the early 1960s as a dancer on the original "Bandstand" show in Philadelphia, Blavat became a famous disc jockey and host of his own radio and TV dance shows that helped introduce acts nationally.

  • Jerry Blavat, who had an eight-decade career as a disc jockey in the Philadelphia area, has died at 82.
  • Blavat frequently played in the Lehigh Valley, from the start of his career to recent New Years Eve shows at Sands Casino Bethlehem, now Wind Creek.
  • In a 2015 interview, he said the Lehigh Valley was an important part of his audience.

In a 2015 interview before he was scheduled to perform a New Years Eve show at Sands Casino, now Wind Creek Casino, in Bethlehem, Blavat said the Lehigh Valley was an important part of his audience.
"The people in the Lehigh Valley throughout my entire career have been very, very special to me," Blavat said. "When I first began on TV back in 1965 — very supportive. And then when we did the radio shows, we were syndicated out there, and we'd always go up to Allentown."

He said that when he was a dancer on “Bandstand,” he would follow host Bob Horn to record hops at Dorney Park in South Whitehall Township.

Blavat grew up in the Philadelphia area, in a broken home where, according to his 2013 autobiography, "You Only Rock Once: My Life in Music," his father was an absent numbers runner "in the racket business."

After dancing on "Bandstand," which Dick Clark later took over and turned it into a national favorite for decades, Blavat got his own independent radio show.

A Florida native, Blavat called himself "The Geator," a shortened form of "alligator." Because it was cold in the northeast, he enlarged it to "The Geator with the Heater."

"The people in the Lehigh Valley throughout my entire career have been very, very special to me."
Disc jockey Jerry Blavat in a 2015 interview

On his show, Blavat introduced many acts in the 1960s, including the Four Seasons and the Isley Brothers.

It was his weekly TV dance show, "The Discophonic Scene," 1965-67, that made Blavat a star. It started as the local replacement when "Bandstand" went national, but made Blavat so popular he got to guest star on television shows including "The Mod Squad," "The Monkees" and "The Tonight Show."

Later, Blavat even appeared in movies such as "Desperately Seeking Susan," starring Madonna; "Baby It's You," and "Cookie."

Until recently, Blavat had radio shows that kept him on the air seven days a week.

In summer 2015, Blavat did his Crusin 92.1 show from the Sands’ Molten Lounge.

"All of my life I've been blessed to follow my passion," he said in the interview. "This is my passion, this is my love — seeing people happy with what I do. … All I wanted to do was have the freedom to follow my passion, and that passion has been music and making people happy."