In July 2020, Ollie Ginelli released a short documentary on the lengths he went to learning to play Summertime (Gershwin) on a keyboard for his father’s 70th birthday. As his father’s birthday (29 May) fell within the pandemic and his father was isolating, Ginelli contacted BBC Breakfast and was invited to play one minute of the song on live TV as a special surprise for his father, Malcolm Gerrie. The video has 2.3M YouTube views, but it also went viral on Daily Motion and Instagram.
Here’s a sample of the YouTube comments. Joepie writes: “This guy is not even my son and I’m all choked up at how the Father must feel. What I wouldn’t give for the opportunity to do this for my Dad. Outstanding and Happy Birthday Sir”. BMTHSLIM says: “To commit yourself to something is easy… BUT, to see it through to the end, Despite it taking YEARS longer than you originally thought, AND keeping it a secret from your father, you came through on your commitment in style Olly.” Let’s look.
One more comment: Maromaro “This is one of the most underappreciated videos here on YT. I’m glad it showed up to me because it’s such a heart-warming story. Great job! 11/10.” So the basic story is that when Ginelli was 17, his father was with a friend. Ginelli said, “When I’m older I would like to be a jazz pianist”. His father chuckled. Three years later, Ginelli decided to show his father that he could play jazz piano. Except, by now his ambition had shrunk to learning Summertime.
After ten years of fiddle fart assing, Ginelli decided to get a little more serious. He also had a short documentary to make on his quest to impress his father (who had inadvertently slighted him). Now, it is no secret that documentary film makers distort reality. It is inevitable. Even Michael Moore documentaries involve editing, simplifications, and distortions. When you tell your own story there is the temptation to present yourself in a particular light. This video features Ginelli’s father:
What is Ginelli’s father doing in a documentary on The Tube music programme?! Well if Ginelli had spoken a little more about his father, Malcolm Gerrie, and spent a little less time showing himself mucking about in front of a keyboard without a shirt on, you’d know. In Ginelli’s video, Gerrie comes across as a friendly, lonely old duffer suffering under Covid19 restrictions. Luckily the Daily Mail report included more of the BBC Morning interaction. After Ginelli says he’s spent 10 years learning the piano because his father laughed at him, his father replies “What a bad dad! I used to be a school teacher and I’ve worked in music all my life and television, and to laugh at somebody’s ambition, I’m going to go and jump in the River Tyne I think!” Later Malcolm Gerrie says: ” It was just the best present, I was really impressed. All the little flourishes – I worked with Jools Holland all my life and I think Jools has got a bit of competition, son!”
“What,” I thought, “his father works in TV with Jools Holland, was he a roadie turned sound man, perhaps?” So I did a little digging. Crunchbase reports that Gerrie “is the founder of Whizz Kid Entertainment spearheading business development whilst also taking an active role in production and the creative vision of the company. After 30-plus years in the industry, there isn’t a genre of programming that Malcolm has not been involved with be it prime time entertainment, scripted, arts, music, kids, documentaries, events, 3D, comedy or digital content”. It adds that Gerrie is famed for his innovative programming including creating The Tube, being the first to generate advertising funding by including the sponsor’s name in the title (The Pepsi Chart), and producing the first ever YouTube live-streamed concert (U2 at the Rose Bowl, California). He launched The Match football programme for Sky One, he helmed The British Film Academy Awards for 15 years etc etc. The charity TV shows Malcom Gerrie was instrumental in organising include Live 8, Band Aid, War Child, Red Hot & Blue, (Nelson Mandela’s) 46664, the Prince’s Trust’s Fashion Rocks, and the UK version of Stand Up to Cancer. Then there are all the Entertainment related documentaries that he has executive produced, from U2’s The Joshua Tree DVD to John Cale and Lou Reed’s stunning Song for Drella film.
Malcolm Gerrie is a legend! No wonder his son Ollie Ginelli was able to get a slot on BBC Breakfast.
I’ll leave you with Malcolm Gerrie’s explanation of why he started The Tube: “The Old Grey Whistle Test was still featuring artists like The Eagles and Jackson Browne when The Sex Pistols and The Jam and The Ruts and Penetration were packing out the clubs across the country. And I’d been a fan of the Whistle Test for many years, huge fan, because they had David Bowie and Roxy Music, but for some reason they really got stuck up their own backsides and for whatever reason couldn’t embrace what was going on.”
I’m sure that Ollie Ginelli will join The Music Man in saluting his father for his contribution to music television and documentaries. Good on you Malcolm Gerrie.