Friday, December 26, 2014

My life as a DJ and Record Collector (Part I)

I've decided to write my story, not only to share with you, but also to see how many other DJ's and record collectors out there share a similar path. It was inspired by a conversation I recently had with my wife after I had bought a couple of records while out shopping with her and then I heard a song on the car radio I began listening to. She asked, "How did this all start for you?"

Born in Brooklyn, NY in the early '60's and raised there on through the-mid '70's my mom kept a tight leash on me. Obviously, she didn't want me to succumb to the dangers of the streets.  Thus, spending a lot of time at home there were three types of entertainment, books, TV and most importantly the radio. As a young kid I had a small transistor radio I kept in my room that I would sit and listen to for hours at a time. At first as a youngster it was early '70's AM Pop music, but then around 1973 I remember discovering the FM radio band.

That influence came from hanging around with my older cousin June (Leo) who would come and pick me up to take me out on the weekends. When you're 10 and your cousin and his friends are 17, you think they are the coolest guys in the world; thus, you want to be just like them. So, without realizing it, I went from listening to Casey Kasem's Top 40 to Gerry Bledsoe on WWRL and the Chief Rocker Frankie Crocker on WBLS.

Although I listened to and enjoyed all types of music, Soul and Latin music were heavy influences from my cousin, my mom and most importantly the neighborhood; quite simply, I was a product of the environment. Thus, I listened to everything they played on the radio, plus my mom playing Fania Salsa records at home and my cousin playing songs like 'Expressway to your Heart' by The Soul Survivors and 'The Love you Save' by The Jackson Five. To me music was cool! I loved listening to it and then I discovered another cool thing about it, records.

Not only did my cousin June have a record collection, but his older sister Liz at the time was married to a guy named Eddie who also had a nice record collection; only his collection was a bit more eclectic. Whenever my cousins Liz and Eddie would invite me to stay over their apartment circa '74, I would look through Eddie's records in the living room. They were stacked on a bookshelf and being in love with music I was mesmerized; I thought they were the coolest things in the world.

I remember I would go to the living room and would sit there for hours breezing through albums, as Eddie would play the latest records he bought. Some pieces that I vividly remember pulling out were Buddy Miles 'We Got to Live Together' circa '70, Barrabas self-titled LP circa '72 and Willie Colon's 'Lo Mato' circa '73. This was cutting edge music at the time and stuff I was not hearing on the radio.

Obviously I wanted to be like my cousins and have my own record collection, but at 10/11 years old, who has money for records; especially growing up poor with a single mom who was struggling to keep a roof over me and my sisters heads. Alas, the radio was my salvation and would be it until the summer of '75. It was then that I went to visit my Father for summer vacation; he lived in Lorain, Ohio. More importantly though I got to hang out with my cousins on my Father's side.

My aunt, (my Father's older sister) also lived in Lorain with her husband and 13, yes I said 13 children. Obviously there were some close to my age at the time; I was 12 going on 13, so I spent most of my time with my cousins Ricky who was 14, Eric who was my age and Gary who was a couple of years younger. Primarily though it was Ricky who I spent most of my time with.

During this time in Lorain, there was a candy store; not too far from my father's house that had a pinball machine in it. This was before "video arcades," so suffice it to say we spent a lot of time in there playing pinball. The unique thing about this store though was that if you hit a high score on the pinball machine, the store owner would give you a prize. Surprisingly, the prize was not candy, but rather it would be a 45RPM or 7" record.

The first 45RPM record I won was 'Fame' by David Bowie (pictured above). Getting this, my very first record, was not only a big deal for me, but it was addicting. From that point forward, a lot of coins were spent playing pinball and winning records. At the end of the summer I came back to Brooklyn with a shoe box filled with about 15-20 records in it. Little did I know at the time that one of them would be this very rare hard to find soul gem 'Love Foundation' by Electrified Action. Of course there would be no free records being given away for pinball anymore, which meant I needed money to feed my habit.

Not much I could do about it since I was 12 going on 13, but save whatever pennies I got. That meant skipping lunch and saving my lunch money, washing cars for my uncle and his adult friends in the neighborhood on the weekends and taking anything else any adult would give me from a quarter to a dollar and putting it in my piggy bank till the weekend.

Tomorrow Part II will cover the progression from my first album to my first "turntable" to my first stereo and more. 


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Flor for taking the time to read and leaving a comment. I really appreciate it.


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