making the people dance

I remember going to the bar with my friend Dave. Dave owned a piece of crap Disco system, and was hired to play a wedding for a friend of his….a very pretty friend of his. I agreed to help him out, but what I really did was discover how much I wanted to be Mr. Cool DJ.

This was back in ’93. Soon after, I went and bought my own ‘system’. Visiting the old Radio Shack store, my money ( all $5000 I borrowed from the bank) and I were soon parted. I arrived home with every piece of equipment my loan money could handle.

The salesman (a former Disk Jockey) said Ross Sound was the equipment that would last a lifetime. A set of  400 W speakers and an amp that cranked out even more wattage, this thing had a great sound. He threw in a mixer board, two cassette decks, and two CD decks. My dad and I made wooden boxes to hold everything. I couldn’t wait to start playing dances.

My first dance was for a dart party at a local bar. The crowd were used to the regular DJ, but since he was sick that night, I filled in for him. Armed with 29 music cassettes, I learned a valuable lesson…I didn’t know squat about DJing.

Luckily, the club owner used to DJ in his younger days. “You have great equipment, that stuff will last forever; it’s your music that sucks.” Sound advice (pun intended).

As soon as I got home, I joined Columbia House. They had a special on where you received 10 CD’s if you purchased one. I joined ten times. I made up names, I used my brother and sister’s names, hell, I even used my cat’s name. When all the tapes arrived, I was in heaven.

This was the beginning of a long career (try 23 years and counting) in which I was the guy who made people dance…like in the song.

In no time, I had gathered over 500 cassette tapes and CD’s, and soon made the move to digital.

One night, I spent hours transferring my cassettes and CD’s to mp3 files. When finished, I had over 5000 songs, some good, some not.

My next few gigs were easier than the first. I actually had a few songs people requested. In the years that followed, I took advantage of music downloading, using such ‘then legal’ methods as Napster, Sky Rocket, and eventually Torrents. I hit all the yard sales, and gathered whatever music I could find, and transferred those to digital as well. In the first ten years I played, I had amassed over 10, 000 songs. currently I have over 70,000 songs.

I was doing two gigs a week, and spent most of my young adult life in bars and night clubs. sometimes the room was so smoke filled, I had to crouch down to see if people were dancing. I put up with jeers, threats, and boos, but also a few ‘yays’. I was hit on more than once by pretty but drunk ladies, some offering to take me home for the night. I was offered free drinks and even a few joints, and one night, some guy offered me a white powder. Of course I always kept it professional, and turned down the booze and the drugs, and sometimes even the women.

These days are much different. A struggling economy meant many of the club goers have already left town in search of more money and stable jobs. This little town once boasted over ten night clubs, now there are only two. And nobody seems to want to go out and have a good time.

Still, from time to time, my wife and I take a gig. It is fun for us to sit and watch as the crowd dances and hoots and hollers, and every now and then, we get up and dance with them. Two years ago I played my best gig ever. I played my own wedding.

It took me three months to create the perfect playlist. I studied our guest list, and tried to remember  peoples’ favourite songs. When I finally compiled the list, I played it at another dance I was hired to do, and it went great.

On the night of our wedding, there was no DJ sitting behind the equipment. Everything was pre-programmed into the computer. We were able to spend the evening walking around talking to our guests while the music blared from the speakers. The dance floor was packed all night, from 9:30 until closing time at 2:00. Best gig ever!

I still do a few dances, maybe one or two per year. I enjoy playing the oldies. I don’t have much use for that ‘new stuff’, even the country songs have gone to hell…no way to dance to the stuff.

I thought about selling my stuff off, but having played for over 20 years, I feel my music is a part of me. So is the equipment, which is still exactly the same stuff I bought back in 1993. He was right, it does last forever.


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