February 15, 2023

The Story of Jerry Blavat and Hy Lit, Two Rock 'n Roll DJ's from Black Radio Discuss A Mob Hit on the Other

In January of this year, 82 year-old disc jockey Jerry Blavat passed away. He became a wildly popular radio DJ in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area after having launched his radio career in 1960 at WCAM in Camden, NJ. The Geator with The Heater became so popular that Dick Clark told him he needed to be on a station in Philadelphia. Blavat chose to move his show to 1340 WHAT-AM, a station that catered to Black listeners and was popular among white teens because they would also play Elvis Presley and The Beatles. According to Broadcast Pioneers of Phila: In the mid-sixties, reports had his audience at a half million teenagers per month. On that station, Blavat stated that he only made $18 a week ($1.50 per hour). Most of his audience didn't buy it, but it was true. The real money was at the hops, not on the air. However, Blavat knew he needed the airwaves to promote the appearances.

In 1955 another Philadelphia radio legend, Hy Lit started his own radio career. (Obviously he was lit decades before anyone used the term "lit!") He worked at a multitude of stations in Philadelphia. Ironically enough Lit popularity soared by playing rock 'n roll at 1340 WHAT as did Blavat. According to the Hy Lit's obituary printed in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2007, he credits Georgie Woods, the legendary Black radio DJ, with saving him one night during an early appearance, when the mostly African American audience did not believe that the white man at the microphone truly was Hy Lit. (Woods, The Guy with the Goods, would bounce between WHAT and WDAS-AM in the 1950's and 60's playing soul and rock 'n roll music. His legendary status was cemented when he amplified his voice beyond the microphone as a civil-rights leader and becoming a talk show host on those stations in the 70's and 80's.) Lit also went on to launch an experimental hippie-era rock music format at 105.3 WDAS-FM, (which at the time played classical and polka music) around 1970. His show was called "Hyski's Underground."

Lit left WHAT radio and transitioned over to the white radio station WIBG by 1960 as they suddenly dropped Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole records and began playing Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Blavat, as the new kid on the block in the early sixties took aim at dethroning Hy Lit. They went up against each other for ratings in radio, TV shows (both hosted local TV dance shows), and who could draw the most teens at local "dance hops" at area theaters and halls. They became nemesis if not downright enemies. As noted below:

But now comes the rest of story. Some time in 1970's, Blavat, having grown up in South Philly had developed friendships with many known Italian mobsters. His ties to the mafia were well known in and around Philadelphia and South Jersey. Rumors were Blavat had ordered a mob hit on Hy Lit. 

The two came together on a local TV morning show called "AM Philadelphia" to talk about the supposed mob hit. This show originally aired in 1995.

Judge for yourself. Clearly Hy Lit was very nervous with sitting close to the guy that wanted him dead. Blavat wryly denied everything. The host Wally Kennedy did a great job. 

Great moment in radio history. 

Live with the Geator: The one and only Kenny Gamble, producer, singer, songwriter, and co-creator with Leon Huff of "The Sound of Philadelphia" (12/27/2020)

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