The Jim Gerard Show

Sorry to report the passing of an old friend, Jim Gerard, a radio and television personality from Indianapolis. 

For five years, up until the time I moved to Los Angeles in 1970, I played piano on Jim’s daily TV show on channel six. We did the show before a live audience every day, with a nifty seven-piece band for which I wrote many of the charts. Along the way I developed a dangerous habit of speaking up when I felt the conversation needed a little boost and/or correction, and the station soon conceded by adding a microphone at the piano, so I could spout off when necessary. It seemed to be necessary pretty often. Jim always worried about what I might say next, and you can sense a little of that in the clip I’ve posted here, particularly when I began talking about the drug company that was one of his sponsors, but it turned out all right for everybody. 

At the same time we were doing the Jim Gerard Show, David Letterman was a rising local star, doing weather daily at the station on the other side of Meridian Street. A part of me still sometimes wonders if Dave ever looked at our show, and thought to himself, “Hmm, I’ve got to get me one of those wiseass piano players  when I get my own show someday.” 

Inevitably, I met Paul Shaffer. He came backstage before out show at Madison Square Garden some years later, but I had the good taste not to mention to him that I might have been responsible for his gig. 

By the late 1960s shows like Jim’s were becoming pretty rare in secondary markets, and a year after I left Indiana, Jim’s show was off the air. 

But Jim was a hardy survivor—he signed a deal with one of his sponsors to continue a scaled-down version of his show, with no band and no wise-ass piano player, on another station for many more years. 

When we played in Indianapolis on tour in the 1980a, Jim invited me to be a guest on the later incarnation of his show, and I loved being asked to do that, and I promised myself I wouldn't be a wiseass. That visit is the clip I’ve posted here. As you can see, Jim wasn’t exactly a high-pressure interviewer, but he was such a doggoned nice guy that he was liked by everybody. Except, maybe, Mel Torme. But that’s another story.

RIP, Jim Gerard.