Sunday, December 28, 2014

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

At the end of part II, I had started building up my album collection along with my 45's and had just gotten my first ever "turntable" at the end of '75. 

At 13 in 1976, things were going great. Besides the aforementioned above, I was a teenager who had just graduated from Junior High School (8th grade) and was looking forward to high school in September. Before that though, my friend Eggie (Edgar) and I would take a summer job as volunteers for T.O.R.C.H Catholic Charities at Christ the King High School in Queens working with mentally handicapped children.

Life was good! I had my music as ironically the radio airwaves were booming with the song 'Heaven must be missing an Angel' by Tavares (pictured above) at the same time I was discovering girls; and luckily for me, I was meeting many at my summer job. In July, I was also staying with my aunt and uncle in Manhattan for a couple of weeks while my mom, as I understood it, was in Pennsylvania tending to my other uncle who was ill.

Alas, my mom came back home the first Wednesday in August, I remember it like it was yesterday. So this time at the end of my workday at Christ the King High School, instead of taking the train back to Manhattan, I went home to Brooklyn. When I walked in the door, excited to see my mom, I noticed boxes everywhere. I asked my mom what was going on and she told me we were moving; thinking we were going to another borough like Queens, I got excited. However, that excitement quickly ended when she said we were moving to Bethlehem, PA.

I thought she was in Pennsylvania taking care of my uncle, but she was actually there so my uncle could help her find a job and place to live. My mom was doing the best for her children, but in my eyes it was the worst. What made it even worse was she told me we were moving Saturday; in other words three days later. I was crushed, devastated and heartbroken all at once. Everything I knew, all my friends, the girls I had just met and the school that I was going to in a month were all going to be gone in an instant.

However, once my mom carefully explained where we were going and why, I understood and actually looked forward to it. So I moved to Pennsylvania in August '76 and culture shock set in; like Dorothy told Toto, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore," I felt the same way. We moved to South Bethlehem and one of the first things I found out was there were no record stores. What? My life was ruined!

That was until I discovered a little place a couple of blocks from where I lived on Third Street called 'Phillips Music Store'. It wasn't a record store, but rather a store that sold instruments and stereos. However, they did have a small section in the back where records were sold.

To say I quickly became a regular there on Saturday afternoons was an understatement. The really nice thing was, while their stock wasn't big, if I had a specific record I wanted they would order it for me. So, while they normally wouldn't stock these because of supply and demand, I was ordering and buying LP's like 'Joyous' by Pleasure and 'Look out for #1' by The Brothers Johnson.

That little store and my music helped me in the transition from Brooklyn to Bethlehem and while I no longer had WBLS in NYC, I now had WDAS in Philadelphia; it was similar, but different. In New York urban radio was playing music from artists like Crown Heights Affair and Salsoul Orchestra; while in Philly I was hearing groups like Sun, Pleasure and Parliament for the first time. In other words, I went from a club and disco sound to a more funk and soul sound. Little did I know then how much this diversity would shape me later on?

One more place South Bethlehem offered me to hang out at was the public library. I walked in there one day and discovered they had records you could sit down and listen to on headphones. It was during those library listening sessions that I discovered albums such as 'Save the Children' by The Intruders, 'Live on Tour in Europe' by the Billy Cobham/George Duke Band and 'Light of Worlds' by Kool & The Gang. That record would have a profound effect on me, as I was able to borrow it and record it, as you will soon find out, and side one would literally put me to sleep every night.

It was my birthday again in December '76 and while a year earlier my mom had bought me a close and play Emerson phonograph, this time she bought me my very first stereo system. It was a compact stereo, which had a receiver, turntable, 8-track and cassette all built into it; I was in heaven. Not just because I had my very first stereo, but the cassette deck allowed me the opportunity to record stuff.

Listening to WDAS every day, radio DJ's like Jerry Wells, 'Butterball' Tamburro, Doug Henderson and Tony Brown became household names to me. I quickly put my close and play turntable next to my stereo and began to mimic what radio DJ's were doing. Not just playing one song after another, but I would actually record commercials from the radio onto a cassette and would act like I had my own radio show equipped with music and even commercial breaks. I was trying to be a DJ and didn't even know it.

In Part IV I go from record collector to record selector/DJ, meet Bobby Konders and get my very first sound system.


  1. Find myself looking foward to the next part. Thanks for sharing Sam.

  2. Thanks again Flor for reading. You the man!


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