DJ Chronicles – 1: The Genesis.

I’ve always loved to write, but I’m not just a “wordsmith.” Besides writing, reading, and watching more television than I should, I’ve been a lover of music all my life, and I’ve been a DJ for almost 30 years.

I remember listening to music on the hi-fi as a kid. The hi-fi was a console that was about eight feet long and made of sturdy wood, and it had a record player, 8-track, analog radio, and sometimes a TV in it. We had oodles of those little 7-inch 45rpm disks, and I would sit and shuffle through them, admiring all the different label designs, and learning who sang what. I listened to a lot of soul and R&B from the Motown and Stax labels, and discovered funk by listening to The Bar-Kays, Funkadelic, and Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Then, when my cousins brought home a 12-inch single called “Rappers Delight,” my world was changed forever. I was but a wee lad when Hip Hop was born, and I latched on, and never let go.

I first came to know DJs as  those annoying guys who talked over the beginnings and ends of songs I was trying to record off the radio. Then, in the mid 1980s, I started hearing records being mixed and blended together, and I thought that was the greatest thing ever. Naturally, I had to see if I was any good at it, and since I didn’t have any professional equipment, I practiced scratchin’ and cuttin’ on my mother’s Soundesign component set, and my sister’s Fisher-Price record player. I promised them both that I wasn’t ruining their needles, even though I totally was.

But even before those mixshows started, there was someone who showed me, live and in-person, how a DJ really controls the vibe of the party. That person was my mother. One time when we were at a family get-together, she went over to the record player and dropped the needle on the long horn blast at the beginning of Tom Browne’s “Funkin’ For Jamaica,” then lift it up and start it over, sayin’ “y’all ain’t ready for this one!” I like to think that my mother was doing “wait for the drop” before it was even a thing.

I spent the rest of the 80s making pause-mix tapes, and even tried rapping over them. But I kept coming back to the music. That was always the most fun part for me. I didn’t get a chance to rock any parties or show off my dazzling(-ly awful) skills though, until about a year or two into my college career.

To Be Continued…

 

“His Master’s Voice” painting by Francis Barraud.

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