Gerry House, as interviewed by Harry Chapman for Southern Exposure Magazine
Story compiled by Brandy Blanton
Photography by Anthony Scarlati
In this building there’s a hip-hop station, a rock n’ roll station and a talk station. I see all these guys, and they’re trying to beat my brains out. And yet, we have to go to meetings and have to hang out … and for a while they even wanted me to plug other stations … and I said, “I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to help push them along at my expense – why would I want to do that!” But that’s what the TV show is about.
HC: You and Allyson have an incredible partnership that really began back … early … I guess, elementary or middle school?
GH: We went to the same elementary school, although, she claims she doesn’t remember me until junior high. I remember her. We went to elementary, junior high, high school and college together and … you must put this in, everything I am and everything I will ever be is because of Allyson House. And that’s true. She is the funniest human being I know – bar none – she’s absolutely hysterical.
HC: You have a remarkable partnership.
GH: Yeah, we really do. It’s pure luck, I mean, bumping into somebody you love. And she just happened to grow up three miles from me. But yeah, we do …
HC: She becomes the foil of a lot of your humor on the show … does she like that?
GH: Well, all of the stuff I tell on the show is true. I mean, she has a Gracie Allen (which is an old Vaudeville reference) sensibility which is what I find so funny. She says a lot of things … not intentionally funny. She’s not ditsy, but I mean … well, maybe a little ditsy … alright, she’s ditsy. But she says things that are just amazing.
For instance, I came in the other day and she had a dot here (as he points to his forehead) I thought it was a bug on her head and I was like, “What is that?” And she said, “That’s a magic marker mark.” And I said, “What’s that for?” She goes, “Well, I just had my hair styled and that’s where the part was. And I’m going to wash my hair and I want to know where the part was.” So she would have a reference point on her head! See, that’s what I live with, and that’s true.
HC: I know you’re immensely proud of Autumn, your daughter, who is in the music business.
GH: Yeah, I don’t know how she got in the music business! (laughter) How did that happen? She’s the Vice President of Capitol Records in charge of A & R – signing acts. She works with Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley and Keith Urban and … looking for acts, picking out songs and all that stuff that goes on in the background. She’s really good at that. She’s really good at managing people’s careers, looking at it and figuring out what should happen. I mean, with her DNA … when she grew up she was in the music business – since she’s been born I’ve been writing songs.
HC: Who do you find funny?
GH: I think Steven Wright is funny. I thought Richard Jeni … this is tragic, Richard Jeni was one of the funniest comedians I ever saw and he just killed himself. That happens a lot, and it’s strange to me. I think Dylan Merand is hilarious; he’s a British comedian, TV guy over there. I don’t laugh … to laugh out loud is rare for me [at a comedian]}. But you know, all the usual suspects … Seinfeld is brilliant. I think Larry the Cable Guy is hilarious.
HC: A lot of people compare what you do to Seinfeld.
GH: Well, that’s just the ultimate compliment. I’m not within a hundred miles of him. He’s a real genius, I think. And that my humor is observational and about life and surrounded by people who have their own problems, yeah … I can see … I hear that a lot.
HC: Back to your songwriting … you’ve had hit songs for Reba and George Strait and others, and when you hear those songs, what does that mean – when you hear your song on the radio.
GH: I’ve asked other guys about it, but they’ve never been in my situation in that I would play a song that I wrote. I kind of sometimes remember where I was or … like I had a song that LeAnn Rimes recorded called “On the Side of Angels” which was on a huge album. I remember writing that melody at Christmas because my father-in-law was down and everybody was sitting in the living room, and it was in my head and I was trying to put it down frantically before I forgot. And I remember everybody going, “Hey, hey, hey … we’re trying to watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’” I’m back there banging on the piano going, “Let me just get this down!” So I remember things like that, but it’s almost like I’m not connected to them in some way, it’s kind of weird. Like “Little Rock,” it’s been 20 years.
HC: That’s remarkable and still as fresh today.
GH: It’s just weird. It’s just weird hearing it. But I’ve heard other stories where I’ve said, “Oh, I like that song” and they say, “You should, you wrote it!” You forget.
HC: How much influence did your parents have?
GH: Well, neither one of them … my Dad played a little guitar, but church was very influential. I have to really fight all the time, Gospel popping out of me because I played piano in church. My mom forced me to take piano lessons and then I taught myself guitar – I play both equally as bad. I played trombone in the school band, that’s a chick magnet. (laughter)
HC: A lot of people remember when you would talk to your Mom.
GH: Yeah, she was truly hilarious. She used to write bits. She used to sit around … and I could tell that it wasn’t real – not very often, but … she said one time, “Oh honey, I had a tough night.” And I said, “What happened?” She goes, “Well, I had some paint left over and I painted the toilet seat.” So I asked, “What color did you paint it?” She said, “Blue, but I went in and sat on it and forgot it was wet!” and I said, “No kidding?” And she said, “Yeah, I had the Blue Moon of Kentucky!” (laughter) Mom made that joke up.
The sweetest story, and I’ve told this before, but … for a year I was on WSM AM – that’s a very powerful clear channel station, I call it – not a Clear Channel station, but … we used to be able to (some mornings) the signal would get to her in Kentucky. It would fade in and out, but it was the only time she’s ever been able to listen to me. So I would call her and say, “Did you hear the show this morning?” I was on a show called the Waking Crew. And she would say, “Oh honey, it faded out before I could really hear it. I guess a lot of people were listening that day.” She thought … the more people between us and the signal sucked it out of the sky.
HC: What are your thoughts on radio and Country music today?
GH: Well … You know, I don’t like the mass-produced sensibility of it (radio). It’s all corporately owned now. You know, each radio station used to have a general manager, its own program director, its own music director and now all those guys are gone. Now it’s five stations and one guy is the manager – which is fine, it’s efficiency, but I’m from the old school. I still feel competitive toward the other stations in the building. I mean, I call them my poor deformed cousin stations. (laughter) I mean, otherwise, if you’re not competitive … I mean, I don’t think of it as an effort for the company, I wish they’d all go off the air! (laughter)
HC: What do you think about Country music today?
GH: Oh, I don’t know … it’s been going out of business ever since I’ve been in it! (laughter) There’s been an article in the paper every three months: “Music is Down, It’s the End of the World” and literally, I’ve been here 30 years and I’ve seen this article 1,000 times.
HC: What is it about Country music that draws people?
GH: It’s the songs. It’s the songs and the fact that they feel a connection to the artist because of a familiarity to them. It’s the only industry, except for maybe some older Pop singers like Tony Bennett, where you can have a shelf life of more than two years. You know, the thing that astounds me is the response that we get from XM Radio. We get a whole lot of response from all over.
HC: That’s one of the changes in radio that’s certainly impacted you?
GH: Yeah, well, I mean it tells me that something’s not right if 15 or 20 million people will pay for something they can get for free. It’s specialized … it’s a big choice … I think satellite radio is fabulous. I’m not knocking what we got, but I just … it’s the homogenization of it that I find kind of “blah”. Nobody has the freedom to do … I mean, I’m a dinosaur. Nobody has the right – for the most part – to go on the air and do that. There’s not very many people that do that and most of them are syndicated or on the satellite. It’s very difficult.
HC: What’s for the future? How long do you want to keep doing this?
GH: I’m going to do it as long as it’s fun. You know, the lifestyle wears me out. I have to go to bed so early! Allison sort of tucks me in bed sometimes and …
HC: What time is that?
GH: Oh around 8 or 8:30 – sometimes 9:00. But in the summer, you know, it’s light outside. One time she was kissing me on the forehead – you know, like I’m five – and I heard a noise outside and I said, “What is that?” She said, “That’s Kevin.” And I said, “Who’s Kevin?” And she goes, “Well, he’s our next door neighbor.” “How old is Kevin?” She goes, “He’s 8.” And I said, “I’m going to bed before Kevin!” Kevin is 8 years old and he’s up rocking and I’m going to bed!
HC: Well, there’s a million things we could talk about and a million that we haven’t talked about, but as one of your eight faithful listeners … I thank you on behalf of the other seven for what you bring to morning radio and to all our lives every day.