For well over 25 years, the voice of Gerry House kept country music listeners entertained over the radio airwaves of WSIX / Nashville. The legendary personality-comedian-songwriter-singer (Does 1992’s timeless Bull count?) documents many of his favorite memories from his career in “Country Music Broke My Brain,” his new book. House told The 615 that the release is a collection of memories that he hopes some will relate to and find humorous.
“It’s my theory that country music causes brain damage, and I can prove that with two words – Blake Shelton,” House says, with his impeccable sense of timing. “It’s really a series of interviews, funny ideas, and funny things I have heard over the years. I have a lot of friendships with people, but it’s not just a radio-y kind of book about going on the radio and stuff like that, it’s also about my early childhood.”
House recalled getting bit by the radio bug at an early age. “I grew up in Kentucky just south of Cincinnati,” he says. “When I was young, some of the biggest personalities in America were on the radio. There was a guy named James Francis Patrick O’Neal, who had a thing called ‘The O’Neal Foundation.’ I stole that and created ‘The House Foundation.'”
House’s first music interview was Kenny Rogers, during his First Edition days in the 1960s. “I was working for the campus radio station and was a nervous wreck. He was so gracious and funny even then. I was so impressed with how kind he was to a kid who was asking the dumbest questions in the world.”
That interview style became more refined over the years, but he says his secret is just keeping it conversational. “When I was on the air, I didn’t have a set of questions. Everybody is coming to promote something – although we did have a lot of people come by and just drop in. Alan Jackson had just signed a deal with an underwear company, and he just dropped in with his underwear outside of his pants like Superman. I just talked to my buddy. We would incorporate them into whatever we were talking about so they could be a part of the conversation.”
His relationships with artists such as Reba McEntire (for whom he wrote the 1986 chart-topper “Little Rock”), Keith Urban, and Johnny Cash are detailed, with “The Man In Black” making a never-before-revealed “confession” to House. He also dishes on another performer that he calls friend – the afore-mentioned Shelton.
“I knew Blake when he was the life support system for a mullet,” House jokes. “We wrote some songs together, and I remember thinking ‘This guy is going to be a big star,’ and he was just fresh out of Oklahoma. Some just have that certain thing, and he did. He’s just hilarious. He was exactly as he is now. He just says what he thinks. He’s a great guy, and I’m really proud of him.”
He also recalls the time that he impressed NBC’s Jane Pauley by giving her up close access to a country icon. “Jane came to town for the ‘Today’ show, and I was her guide. I took her to Printers’ Alley to a honky tonk at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I went to open the door, and I hit somebody with the door, and it was George Jones. He came out, and he was in a little bit of an altered state. He saw Jane Pauley, and he assumed he was on TV. So, he hopped up on stage and sang ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ acapella, all by himself. I told him that it wasn’t a TV show, and he said ‘Well, alright,’ and ran out of the club. It was a strange and otherworldly experience, but it made me a hero to Jane Pauley, who said ‘You got George Jones to sing for us live.”
After being away from the microphone for over three years, does House miss it? The on-air time, maybe, but not the alarm. “You never get used to it. I still wake up early, but I don’t get up. You never get over that. The problem with that is you have to go to bed so early. My wife used to tuck me in about 8 p.m., and I remember hearing a noise, and I said ‘What’s that?’ and she said ‘That’s Bobby, the little boy next door.’ I asked how old he was, and she said ‘eight,’ and I said ‘I’m going to bed before Bobby! I need a new life.’ But once I was there in the studio at 5 — it was the most fun ever.”