Hear the stories behind the music with the Signal Path podcast.
Tapping a global network of musicians, producers, engineers and other sonic innovators, Shure brings you exclusive interviews with the people shaping the world of audio.
Music TV legend Jerry Bryant
On air since 1984, the Chicago-based show has given countless musicians their first TV exposure. Combining live performances with interviews, JBTV has hosted the likes of Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, The Flaming Lips, Oasis and many more over the years.
In the podcast, Bryant describes how he started the program and has kept a volunteer-run operation thriving long past music television’s heyday and into the online era.
Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Bryant developed a deep appreciation of music early on. He was in awe of his relatives Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, a successful husband and wife songwriting team that wrote hits for the Everly Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Holly and countless others.
“My part of the family could care less about music,” says Bryant. “They considered them hippies. Can’t they get a normal life? Normal jobs? But they were artists. I remember staying up all night listening to them. That really inspired me. I was seven or eight at the time. It changed my life.”
Later, he would get his first taste of broadcasting through the Junior Achievement youth vocational training group.
“I wasn’t a very good student in school,” Bryant says. “I’ve always had something for broadcasting in my blood. I was always behind the scenes doing the production stuff.”
After various jobs, including a stint as a television repairman, he eventually found success producing band-related promotion clips for radio and TV. And that’s when he got the idea to do his own music show.
“This whole thing started as a hobby,” Bryant says, describing the early days of JBTV back in 1984. “There was a time when radio and TV were all about the community they were serving.”
In return for some production work for a local Chicago TV station, Bryant asked for one hour of free airtime on Saturday nights. “That’s why we never had commercials, because I was doing it for free,” he says.
Focus on the music
Originally showing music videos selected by his guests, Bryant eventually changed the show’s format to include live performances along with interviews. Today, he regularly hosts well-known artists, but the focus remains on up-and-coming acts.
“JBTV is all about helping the bands at the beginning. Nobody cares about you at the beginning,” he says.
Now running for more than three decades, JBTV has evolved after MTV peaked and the rise of the internet began to challenge linear TV. Originally a regional UHF broadcast, the show now offers live streaming and clips on YouTube.
“Technology changes so much, it’s hard to stay on top of it,” Bryant, who is now in his sixties, explains. “The music is what drives it. It’s a global thing. Music is what brings people together in so many ways. It’s something I’ve embraced, and it keeps me young.”
Listen to the full interview with Jerry Bryant and subscribe to Signal Path from the podcast provider of your choice below.