“Let the blubbering begin!”
Gerry House, who’s been the morning man to the stars as a fixture on Nashville’s morning radio for most of the last three decades, signed off Wednesday on his very last shift for WSIX-FM. It’s a retirement from regular morning shows, but not a retirement from his life’s work as a writer and comedic talent.
Gerry announced his departure some three months ago, and the stars have either called in or come by the studio in droves over the last week to wish him well. Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban have had funny and/or sentimental moments. On Wednesday’s shift, the well-wishers included Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton and Reba McEntire.
WSIX Vice President Tom English announced the station was renaming the studio as “The House,” in honor of Gerry and his House Foundation show.
“It’s a very, very sad day for Nashville, but a great day for you,” Brad said.
“I know impending doom is waiting just around the corner,” Gerry quipped. “But,” he added with a wink, “I don’t wanna be negative about it.”
The send-off was significant. Morning radio personalities are supposed to inspire, motivate or at least entertain people as they battle traffic on their drive to work, a place many of those commuters dread. Being bubbly and funny before the sun comes up is a talent, often taken for granted, and Gerry had the added task of doing his job in Music City, where many of the artists whose songs he played listened to his show and the things he said about them.
Those stars were often the butt of Gerry’s jokes, but he won them over by the droves, able to poke fun at them — or, more appropriately, with them — in part because he is one of them. In addition to his on-air work, he’s recorded a couple of comedic albums, and he’s written such hits as George Strait’s “The Big One,” Pam Tillis’ “The River And The Highway,” LeAnn Rimes’ “On The Side Of Angels” and Reba’s “Little Rock.” He’s also written some of the lines Reba, Brad and Carrie Underwood have delivered when they hosted awards shows for the Academy of Country Music or the Country Music Association.
“The first time that you interviewed me years and years ago, you were wearing a tuxedo shirt with a bow tie,” Reba remembered. “I’ll never forget that. I was thinkin’, ‘What in the world is this guy doin’?’”
Gerry’s final shift ended with an appropriate mix of sentiment and weirdness. He played his dad’s favorite country song — Hank Snow’s appropriately titled 60-year-old classic “I’m Moving On” — and aired the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans theme “Happy Trails.” He also made the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” the final song of his shift.
Big Machine Records bought the final commercial for $1,500, all of which was donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Taylor, The Band Perry, Reba, Rascal Flatts and label president Scott Borchetta all wished Gerry well in the spot, which ended with the static sound of a needle that’s reached the end of a vinyl record.
Even then, Gerry was making a quick exit. He was slated to fly around noon to New York with his wife, Allyson, to detox from more than 30 years of 3 a.m. wakeup calls.
“You can sleep late now,” Reba noted.
“That’s the whole deal,” Gerry replied.
“Peace and music, love as always,” Gerry later told his listeners as he left. “Godspeed. Which is 35 miles an hour.”