January 23, 2023

Two Philadelphia Radio Legends Have Passed: Sonny Hopson and Jerry Blavat with Amazingly Similar Career Stories

This past weekend the Philadelphia radio community lost two legendary talents in radio personalities, Sonny Hopson and Jerry Blavat. Hopson known as "The Mighty Burner" and "Soul Sound Sonny" with the catch phrase "Maka No Mistaka Jaka" was 85. Blavat was the self proclaimed “The Geator with the Heater” and “The Boss with the Hot Sauce” was 82. Both became household names through many decades of being on the air. Both launched their careers by playing Black music, sometimes referred to as Soul music or Rock 'n Roll. 

Jerry Blavat, a Jewish guy raised Catholic from South Philly (and a dancer on the original Bandstand with Dick Clark), idolized and patterned his style after the local and legendary in their own right, Black AM radio DJs "Jocko" Henderson and Georgie Woods. Blavat's first radio job was in 1960 at 1310 WCAM-AM in Camden, NJ (just across the river), but his soon thereafter and brief stint at Black radio station 1340 WHAT-AM captivated white audiences. (Blavat tells this story in his video from 2021 at the 20:00 minute mark below.)

From there he would promote his shows, which made him even more popular and was eventually hired at the mainstream pop stations (WFIL and WIBG) and by 1965 had his own TV Show. The rest as they say is history. He had been on the radio in some form or another for the last 62 years. He was a regular host on AAA format station 88.5 WXPN-FM in 2022, playing Doo-Wop music. He took a break from the show in January of this year due to health concerns.

Sonny Hopson launched his career at WHAT radio from 1965 and remained on the air until 1986. He, like Blavat, was a nightclub owner and record promoter as well. Hopson is also known for being the first person on the scene following singer Teddy Pendergrass' near fatal accident that left him paralyzed in 1982. Both he and Blavat hosted local TV dance shows. Both also lived very colorful lives that "the old guys in the barbershop" would say involved the seedier side of nightlife and the "underworld." They have each published a book recounting their careers on the air.

Hopson was not nearly as active as a radio host in recent years due to his own health related issues, but we documented his returned to radio as a fill-in host on WURD radio in 2009. We recall him also hosting on that station in the mid 2010's as well.

Philadelphia Metro News has more on both of these radio personalities and how each became radio icons.

"Philadelphia legacy radio — the sound of golden oldies touching on early rock and roll and rhythm and blues — lost two local legends this weekend with the passing of Jerry Blavat and Sonny Hopson.

Blavat passed away at the age of 82 on Friday from the effects of myasthenia gravis and related health issues at VITAS Inpatient Hospice at Jefferson-Methodist Hospital. Hopson passed peacefully at home, at the age 85. In both instances, the family and friends of Blavat and Hopson remained at each man’s side until the end. There are many parallels between the two radio giants. Read more. >>

Another Sonny Hopson aircheck

Jerry Blavat from 2021

Below we are sharing posts from WDAS-FM personalities Mimi Brown and Patty Jackson.

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Jay Hicks adds APD duties at Cox Media's Power 106.1 in Jacksonville. Hicks continues to serve as Asst. PD of Adult R&B station Star 94.5 WCFB-FM in Orlando.

Kenny J exits his PD position at Beasley Media's urban/hip-hop Foxy 99 WZFX-FM and Urban AC 107.7 Jamz WUKS-FM Fayetteville, NC.

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