Gerry House, legendary country music radio personality who helmed The Big 98 WSIX-FM in Nashville for over a quarter century, is coming back. And I hope he creams the the everloving snot out of the sniveling Bobby Bones and his wacky morning crew in the ratings.
Maybe you don’t know the name Gerry House if you live outside of middle Tennessee or just started paying attention to country music a few years ago, but he started on WSIX in Nashville in the early 80’s, and worked all the way until 2010 when he “retired” amid rumors he was either forced out, or was fed up in the era when mainstream country began to take its big ugly turn for the worse. Regardless of the reason, his voice was off the air, and to many this symbolized the changing of the guard in country music just as much as Taylor Swift’s Entertainer of the Year trophies at the time.
Gerry House wasn’t just an on-air personality, he was a Nashville institution. He won CMA Awards, ACM Awards, scores of other radio distinctions annually, and was well-respected throughout the industry and by artists and listeners alike. Gerry House wasn’t just a talking head. He won greater respect by the music community by penning country songs for some big artists, and even releasing a couple of his own albums in the early 90’s.
George Strait had a #1 with Gerry House’s “The Big One” in 1994. Gerry’s “Little Rock” sung by Reba McEntire went to #1 too. And “The River and the Highway” by Pam Tillis was a Top 10 co-write for Gerry with the great Don Schlitz. Gerry also wrote songs for Randy Travis, Clint Black, Neal McCoy, The Oak Ridge Boys, and Brad Paisley just to name a few. Even before coming out of retirement, Gerry House was probably headed to the Hall of Fame in some capacity.
After penning a highly-acclaimed biography called Country Music Broke My Brain in 2014, not much was heard from the former country music giant, but apparently he’s feeling the itch again, and he’ll be taking a place two notches past his old home on The Big Legend 98.3 May 26 at 7 a.m. with co-host Mike Bohan. That will put House in direct competition with iHeartMedia’s flagship syndicated country music morning show personality, Bobby Bones.
Bobby ostensibly replaced Gerry House on WSIX, though it wasn’t a smooth transition from one to the other. When Bones assumed the morning show spot on The Big 98 in the fall of 2012, it felt like an end of an era for WSIX, and country music. Bones, who moved from Top 40 radio in Austin to take the Nashville spot, was totally ill-equipped for the job, was completely clueless how to navigate the nuances of the country community, and even paid for “Go Away Bobby Bones” billboards around Music City to create sympathy for himself and draw attention to his show.
Truth be told, Bobby Bones has matured and learned quite a bit since first taking the position as the most powerful personality in country radio, and that’s good, because his show commands a massive daily audience. He’s gone from trying to guilt Kacey Musgraves to appear on his show by playing the Cancer card, to being one of the few in radio who pays attention to artists who the radio doesn’t play. He’s still not nearly as funny as he thinks he is, and is still prone to Bone-headed mistakes (like the time he cost struggling iHeartMedia $1 million big ones for playing emergency signals on accident), but he has shown signs of improvement. Some, that is.
He’s no Gerry House though. Nobody’s Gerry House. And even though House had his detractors back in the day as well (as will anyone who commands a big audience), it will be a warm, familiar voice for many in country music to have House back on the airwaves. He’s not a fiery personality, so don’t expect some sort of public feud. House is someone who’s personable with everyone. And after all, 98.3 is owned by iHeartMedia too. The station transitioned from ALT 98.3 in September 2016 to cover more older country songs. But don’t think folks won’t be watching the ratings intently for the next few months.
Maybe Gerry House coming back—just like when he left—symbolizes another transitional period; this time back to the way country music is supposed to be, led by the success of Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, and so many others in the genre’s move back to more roots and substance. One can only hope.