A tabloid TV host talks his way into a country music career

Born in London, a former mayor of Cincinnati, and the host of one of those appalling dysfunctionophile daytime talk shows since 1991, Jerry Springer is pushing for true Renaissance-man status with the Nov. 1 release of Dr. Talk, on which the horn-rimmed yakker croons country music. The title cut is a would-be novelty hit, cornball self-deprecation with fiddle accompaniment. After describing a string of freakish guests, Springer rams home the feel-good chorus: ”There’s Oprah, Phil and Sally/And Jerry Springer too/A little dose of a talk show host/You won’t seem quite as blue.”

On ”Dr. Talk,” which his press materials note he wrote during a plane ride, Springer is admitting that he oversees a garish sideshow, but that it’s all in the spirit of therapeutic fun. So, having masterminded a TV-to-music crossover, the remaining questions are, how much of the country-music audience is aware of Springer, and how can his baleful alto compete on country radio with, say, Vince Gill’s?

To say that Springer’s voice is thin is like observing that Kate Moss ain’t too chubby, but at least he doesn’t condescend to the genre — no hoked-up drawls, no put-on twangs.

Nope, gotta hand it to him — Jerry goes hardcore country here. Real pedal-steel guitar. Real honky-tonk rhythms. Springer has the nether-region spheres to cover Hank Williams (a chilly version of ”Cold Cold Heart”), and does a perfectly fine version of one of my favorite country songs of all time, Ernie Ashworth’s 1963 hit ”Talk Back Trembling Lips.” There are, of course, gratifying lapses. Do I hear, for example, a bit of Dr. Talk‘s old English accent in his halting rendition of Bob Dylan’s ”Mr. Tambourine Man”?

And if Springer succeeds in his musical sideline, does this mean that Willie Nelson gets a talk show? I can see the theme shows now: ”The IRS: Government Agency or Hell Spawn?” ”I Was Kidnapped by the Highwaymen.”