Monday, December 29, 2014

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

At the end of Part III, I've gotten my first stereo system, put it side by side with my close and play turntable and am mimicking being a radio DJ.

Life in Bethlehem started to become more acceptable once I went to school and started making friends. One of the first guys I met who had a similar interest as far as music and collecting records was Heriberto Cruz now known as DJ Eddie C. I remember on Saturday afternoons we would get together at each other's homes to listen to each others records and just jam.

Another group of guys I met by hanging out at the Boys Club were Wilby Almodovar and Francisco Lugo AKA DJ Will and DJ Cisco of a crew they had with their cousin Danny Lugo, the technician, known as the Loug Machine. I was 14 at the time and they were like 15 and 16, but they knew I had records, so whenever they would play house parties in the area, I would come along as part of the crew. It was at this point that I was first introduced to actual mixing/blending of records and also DJ systems.

After that first year in Bethlehem, I was going into my sophomore year at Liberty High School and musically I noticed I was surrounded by another genre I was not familiar with, rock. Just as in Brooklyn I was a product of the environment, well all of sudden the environment I was in was listening to things such as Boston, Peter Frampton and Kansas. At the time, being young and close minded, I had no interest, but later on I would end up buying all these records and then some including the classic 'Frampton comes Alive'.

Meanwhile, I was still ordering and buying my records from Phillips Music Store, but as I met more people with the same interest I kept hearing about these other stores in Allentown, the city next to Bethlehem. There were two stores in particular people would talk about, Speedy's on Hamilton Street and Toones on Tilghman. Another transplanted New Yorker Dennis Douvanis opened Toones (original business card pictured above) around the same time I came to Pennsylvania. Dennis would later become the DJ at Casey's nightclub.

Finally circa '78 after learning bus routes in the Lehigh Valley, I made my way to these stores and realized ordering records was no longer a necessity. These stores, especially Toones, were stocked with what I was listening to and I was able to buy records that weren't necessarily commercial such as Quazar's self-titled LP along with The Winners self-titled LP, which featured the classic 'Get ready for the Future'.

It was around 1978 or '79 that I also met my brother from another mother. My other passion at this time in my life, which I have not mentioned to this point, was basketball. Growing up a Knicks fan in Brooklyn, I loved watching it and also loved playing it. So having access to a Boys Club in Bethlehem, I was there just about every day dribbling and shooting a basketball.

At the time I was dating a girl named Angie Diaz. She and her sister Martina went to Freedom High School, which was across town. Martina started dating this guy they kept telling me I needed to meet. A white kid named Bobby Lee Konders who, like me, played basketball, loved music and collected records. Apparently at the same time they were telling Bobby about me as well. So, it was as though we had already known each other when we first met at a house party in South Terrace, Bethlehem.

From that point forward the friendship grew. Sleeping at each other's homes, playing basketball every opportunity we got and most importantly buying and listening to records. It was Bobby at the time who introduced me to another genre of music I was naive to, reggae. I remember he would borrow his father's car and we would cruise around on a Friday night listening to 8-tracks of reggae love songs Bobby had recorded. Of course today he is world renowned as a reggae DJ/Producer, with his own radio show on Hot 97 in NYC and his record label Massive B; yet we remain friends and brothers to this day.

Bobby actually started DJ'ing parties at school and around town as he had saved up to buy his first DJ system; meanwhile, that wasn't in my budget yet. However, one thing I was doing that was cutting edge at the time was recording cassette tapes. Even before the advent of boom boxes I had a portable cassette player that I would carry around school with me. So between the records I already had, recording music from the radio on WDAS and even Soul Train from the TV, I had the music.

In between classes on the patio at Liberty I would play my little cassette player and I noticed people would always gather around to hear the sounds. Kids around school started calling me "Sam the man the with the jams." I also began to notice that whenever I went to house parties or dances, regardless of who was DJ'ing, I was always invited to bring my records and play.

Word started to get around about me as having the music. However, there were two things missing; first was a DJ name. While I was content with the moniker the kids at school had given me, it was Bobby Konders who told me it was too long. He then said, "Why don't you just shorten it to Sam "ALL JAM" and that will mean the same thing;" and that is how the origin of my nickname was born. Next thing I needed was a DJ system.

In Part V, Hip-Hop is born, I get my first DJ system while in college and rock the '80's.  

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