During the last twenty years or so, the rise of the humble DJ almost to legendary status has taken place. These masters of vinyl, and MP3 have almost cult stature amongst their fans, and the artists that produce dance music nowadays are almost obliged to have an endorsement from a top DJ. Be it featuring on the actual track, perhaps rapping, or at the very least producing the track.
The Original Pioneers
The original DJs were radio presenters in the USA, and a commentator named Walter Winchell was credited with coming up with the term, “disc jockey”. Back in the UK in 1943, Jimmy Savile launched the world’s first “DJ Dance Party” playing jazz records. He also claimed that he was the first DJ to use two turntables for uninterrupted play.
The Growth of Radio
As the fledgling DJ movement was taking place in small private clubs in the UK, the real revolution was in the USA in the 1950 and the growth of commercial radio. These niche stations finally bought the DJ into the home, the disc jockey had been born and was here to stay.
It was the teens of America that loved the music that these new disc jockeys were putting out on the airways, they also adored the way the DJs were part of the show. Soon the American teenager was demanding to see their radio idols, and the kings of the airways started to appear live at the “Sock Hops” and “Platter Parties”.
These performances were played with the 45-rpm records, featuring one hit song and then the DJ would talk to entertain the crowd until another record was played. A DJ in 1955 called Bob Casey was the first to use two decks, and played continuous hits of the day.
The Birth of The Nightclub
The mid 60’s saw the rise of the nightclub, and for the first time these new dance establishments in America and Europe featured DJs playing records. It was also during this period that specialised PA equipment started to materialise. Sound systems were now sophisticated affairs with powerful amplifiers and mixers. It was really the development of the “mixer” that allowed the DJ to actually put his own individual stamp on proceedings. “Beatmatching” became the rage, and DJs could mix in one disc to another seamlessly.
The manufacturer “Technics” was at the forefront of developing the mixer, and then created the granddaddy turntable of all time, the “SL-1200”, which still remains the industry standard turntable.
Technics had created a monster with their new mixer and DJs in the 1970’s started exploring with what they could do with this evolutionary equipment. And it coincided with the rise of disco a blend of soul and funk that was going to shake the world. Movies such as “Saturday Night Fever” were all about the disco movement and the humble DJ had finally made it to the big screen. Things would never be the same again in the world of disco and the DJ.