Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cameron Paul Tells All
Pt. 3

It was October 1977 and I had just gotten my first DJ gig at Broadway Power and Light on Broadway in San Francisco, California. I had never been paid to play records for people to dance to but I was about to and I was very excited.

After my audition I went straight home to tell my parents the great news. I was now a Professional D.J.! My parents were very happy for me. They weren’t thrilled with the location of the club but they tried very hard to overlook that.

Marvin, the owner of the club, had asked me to come in that weekend to listen to Peter spin before I started playing the following week. So I spent a couple of sleepless nights and when Friday night came I was the first one at the club. It was only 7:00 and there were only a few people sitting at the bar and there was country and western music playing! I thought, “Oh no, what the hell did I get myself into?”

Rudy, Marvin’s girlfriend and the woman whose recommendation had cemented the job for me, saw me come into the club and told me to sit at the bar next to her. She called Richard, the bartender, over and asked me what I wanted to drink. I was partial to Cuervo Gold Tequila, straight up, with a ginger ale back at the time so that’s what I told her I would like and she ordered it, and a beer for herself.

I was very nervous and I really needed the shot of tequila to calm my nerves. In fact, I needed a couple of shots to calm my nerves. I asked Rudy what was up with the music. She told me not to worry. She explained that before the dance crowd started trickling in, around nine, that a few locals hung out at the bar and that after nine the music changed to dance music. What a relief.

I hung out at the bar with Rudy and, at 9:00, in walked Peter. He came over to Rudy and I and shook my hand, congratulating me on getting the gig. He walked over to the D.J. booth and unceremoniously turned off the country western tape and started playing another tape of R and B music. He came out of the booth, walked over to the last stool at the bar, sat down and ordered a drink.

There he sat until about 10:00 when several groups of people started coming in. He took his drink and went into the D.J. booth and started playing his first record. I started listening intently.

Since I had heard Johnny Hedges mix music, beat for beat, that’s what I was expecting to hear from Peter, even if he did some talking. To my surprise he just faded the next song into the one that was ending and talked over the music while he was doing it. Like a radio disc jockey! He even made his voice sound like a typical AM top 40s jock from the 50s or 60s.

I thought that I really wasn’t going to last very long here. There was no way I was going to be able to talk like a radio D.J. I had no desire to do that.
As the night wore on and the club got more and more crowded, Peter’s rap got more and more annoying to me. It seemed he never stopped talking! And the crowd didn’t even seem to mind. And by 11:00 it was packed.

Another thing that weighed very heavy on my mind was the fact that this crowd was 99.9% African American. And the other .1% was me.

I decided I better pay careful attention to the music Peter was playing. I realized I wouldn’t be able to play a lot of the high energy disco music that I was used to. So I sat there the whole night until closing at 2:00 A.M. And I returned the next night, Saturday. If I thought Friday had been crowded, Saturday night was packed. Wall to wall bodies.

Peter played a lot of the same songs several times so I was able to learn a lot of the titles. I was very eager to play and I couldn’t wait until my first night. My schedule was Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. The club was closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

My start time Sunday night was 9:00. I arrived a half hour early and climbed up into the tiny D.J. booth. There was a package on top of the record bin addressed to D.J., Broadway Power & Light. Well, I thought, I’m the only D.J. here. I guess it’s for me.

I opened the package and there was a double record album inside. On the front, stamped in big gold letters were the words, “PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR RESALE”. It was the soundtrack to the new motion picture, Saturday Night Fever.

I couldn’t believe it. The movie hadn’t opened yet and I hadn’t even heard any of the music yet on the radio. This was my first advance copy of a record. Since I was early, I put on the album and just let it play.

I thumbed through all the records and recognized all the titles Peter had played over the weekend. A cocktail waitress asked me if I wanted a drink. I was very nervous so I ordered my usual. A Cuervo Gold with a ginger back. 9:00 rolled around and I started my first shift as a professional club D.J.

My first night actually went very smooth. I played a lot of the music I had heard Peter play and I snuck in a few of the high energy records that I liked. It got fairly crowded, however nothing like the crowd over the weekend.

The crowd was more ethnically mixed than it was Friday and Saturday although it was mostly black. I had been really worried about the crowd accepting me, this skinny white kid from the suburbs, but as the night went on I fell right into a groove and immediately got a feel for what they wanted to dance to.

I’ve always thought that a good D.J. has a natural talent for “reading” the crowd. Knowing what kind of mood the people in the club are in. Feeling the energy in the room and playing the appropriate music. I’ve called all of that, “The Psychology of the Dance Floor”. I think I’ve had that natural talent for being able to read my crowd from that very first night. And I think it was one of the keys to my success.

Another thing I knew was that I wasn’t going to say much over the mic all night. The only thing I said that night and just about every night for the next fifteen years was, “Last call at the bar. Last call for alcohol”. How many times I would say those two sentences over the next decade and a half.

That first night of my new career, little did I know where it would lead, I had a blast. I had so much fun I couldn’t believe I was being paid. Paid only $8 an hour, but at the time I thought it was a hell of a lot.

I didn’t try any fancy mixing that first night. I just segued the songs together. As one started to fade out I started the next one. Mixing would come later.

As I got more and more comfortable with the music and the crowd I started experimenting. The equipment I had was prehistoric. I didn’t have a clue about beats per minute or pitch control. It didn’t matter anyway because the only pitch control these turntables had was a switch that said 33 and 45 RPM! I learned how to mix on these things.

The mixer must have been an ancient radio mixer. It had giant knobs for the volume control and huge VU meters over them. Above the mixer was a lighting console that had about twenty toggle switches for the lighting effects. I was also the light man. Underneath the shelf that had the turntables and mixer was a reel to reel tape deck. To my left was a record bin big enough for a couple hundred records and beneath that, on the floor, there was an area large enough to place my own crate of records.

For the first couple of months I wasn’t too popular with Marvin, the middle aged owner of the club. He was so used to Peter’s style that I seemed radical to him. Especially when I played a record that he had never heard before. The D.J. booth was enclosed in plexiglas and whenever Marvin didn’t like the song or if he wanted my attention he would throw ice cubes at the booth. After a few weeks I learned to ignore the barrage. The important thing was that Marvin’s girlfriend, Rudy, liked me. And more importantly, she liked my music.

As time went by I decided to try to mix the way I had heard Johnny Hedges mix. I didn’t have a clue how he did it. I just figured I would play two records that sounded like they were the same tempo on top of each other. And that’s how I went about my first beat mixes.

I had no idea there was such a thing as a turntable with pitch control. And yes, back in 1977 there were Technics turntables with pitch control. I just had never been close enough to Johnny Hedges to see what kind of turntables he was using. I assumed you had to get two songs that were so close in tempo that you could speed them up or slow them down enough with your finger to be able to overlay their beats perfectly long enough to do a complete mix. I truly believe that learning how to mix on tables without pitch control helped make me as proficient as I later became.

And so I started to attempt true mixing. At this time, in the late seventies, beat for beat mixing was, for the most part, only heard on the east coast and in gay clubs on the west coast. Most straight clubs had “radio jocks” like Peter. The popular D.J.s were the ones who talked and cracked jokes. The more jokes the better. I was determined to change all that.

At the time, “Night Fever” by the Bee Gees was a huge hit. Whenever I played it, the dance floor would get packed. The only problem was that there was only one version. And that version was a short, three and a half minute track on the Saturday Night Fever album.

The way I started mixing was by using two copies of the same record and mixing in the beginning of one back into the end of the other to make the song last longer. The very first record I tried this with was “Night Fever”.

I found it to be very easy because at the end of the song, the Bee Gees sang the chorus over and over, which is exactly how they started the song. One thing theses ancient turntables did have were slip mats. This enabled me to slip cue one copy of “Night Fever” from the beginning, at the exact point where they started singing the chorus, into the end of the copy that was playing, exactly where they were singing the chorus on that record. I eventually learned to do this so well that I went back and forth several times making the song last for as much as fifteen minutes. And no one knew any better.

Since “Night Fever” was the biggest hit at the time it always got every last person up on the dance floor. Well, once I got them there I didn’t want to let go of them. And it seemed like whatever I played after “Night Fever”, I would completely lose the dance floor, meaning practically everyone would sit down.

I was very frustrated trying to keep people dancing after “Night Fever”. So one night I decided to see how long I could keep them dancing to the same song. If they wanted “Night Fever”, I was going to give them “Night Fever”!

They had no idea that I was able to make a song last longer. If the song was longer than they were used to, they just assumed it was a longer “D.J. version”. 12” dance mixes, which were nothing more than edited long versions, were starting to become popular at that time. And tonight they were going to hear the longest version of “Night Fever” they had ever heard.

I played it over and over again. Mixing it together so cleanly that not one person suspected what I was doing. Peter would play the same song over and over again. But he would just fade one in while the first one faded out.

Back then, people would dance until the song they got up for was finished. Since they didn’t realize that I was making the song last longer they just kept on dancing, and dancing, and dancing. After fifteen minutes not a single person had sat down. Although I was starting to get some dirty looks.

I realized that I was torturing these poor people and I finally ended the song after a full twenty minutes. They actually applauded as I faded it out and segued in a slow song.

That was my first feeling of the power that the D.J. has.

After several months I started to get my regulars. These were people who came in often when I was spinning. And I started getting compliments on the way I was playing the music. They had never heard it mixed that way.

Marvin started liking my style too even though he wasn’t sure what I was doing. All he knew was that my crowd danced hard, which meant they drank hard. Peter’s crowd was sitting more than they were dancing.

One weekend, after about a year, Peter had to be out of town and I would be filling in for him. I had never played to a crowd as large as a weekend crowd. I was petrified and ecstatic. I knew about it the week before and had been telling my regulars so they would all be there for moral support. Friday night couldn’t come soon enough.

...to be continued

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cameron Paul Tells All
Pt. 2


The night I was hired at Broadway Power & Light I was ecstatic. I raced home to tell my parents that I was now a “Professional DJ”! They were astounded that I was actually hired. Their son had actually turned all that noise and pounding that came out of his room for the last several years into something that would actually make some money!

Broadway Power & Light was open Wednesday to Sunday nights. I worked the slowest nights at first which were Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday. Peter Brown was their weekend guy. The owner, Marvin, wanted me to hang out on weekends to listen to him, his music and his “style”.

My first night I came in to listen to Peter was a Saturday night. I had never been in this club except to audition when there was barely anybody in the place. Then it looked cavernous. But when I walked in that Saturday night it looked like a completely different place. It was packed, wall to wall. The music was blasting, lights were flashing on the dance floor and there was one more thing that was impossible not to notice. I was the only white face in the whole crowd.

I realized just then that this skinny white kid from the suburbs was going to have to keep a club full of urban African American customers dancing and happy. To say a little panic set in would be an understatement. But I decided right then and there that I would make it work. I would listen to Peter and pay very close attention to the music. But hearing the music would be a challenge.

Peter Brown was a very large black man who could barely fit in the tiny booth. He was the epitome of what Marvin wanted in a disc jockey.

Mixing? He never heard of it. Talking on the microphone? Boy could he. In fact he wouldn’t shut up. He talked in between the songs. He talked over the introductions of the songs. He talked over the breakdowns and over the endings and he talked over the singing! He could have been playing polka music for all anybody knew.

He cracked lame jokes. He talked to fine women on the dance floor. He talked to any woman on the dance floor. He ordered his drinks over the mic. In fact, one time, I could have sworn he was reading from the dictionary! And the amazing thing was the dance floor was always packed and no one seemed to mind the verbal barrage.

As I listened it dawned on me that keeping my mouth shut and actually mixing great music was going to be my claim to fame at Broadway Power & Light. The club may be packed and not an inch to move on the dance floor but these people can’t possibly enjoy this aural assault. I knew that if I could build up one off night to a sizeable crowd, Peter Brown’s days would be numbered. It may sound devious, but I wanted weekends. And I wanted them now.

...more to come

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

If someone has a specific question for me, please leave your email address so I can give you an answer directly. I won't be posting answers to questions I'm asked on my blog. If I did, I'd have to post the questions too so readers would know what I'm talking about. And that could get tedious and boring, turning my blog into nothing but a Q&A page.

Of course you can email me with a question too. Just remember that anything you email me could end up being posted on my blog. And please be patient for a reply because I might have a lot of email to reply to.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

INSTRUCTIONS FOR DOWNLOADING FROM
MIXX-IT.COM


As promised we have posted some tracks on Mixx-It . We're still working out some of the details but we'll be refining the download procedure in the near future, including track lists.

I'm sure some of you may not be aware of how to download certain types of files without it opening a page in your browser. For instance if you just normally click on the "Push It" link, it'll open a page with a Quicktime player and may or may not start playing "Push It". To download the mp3 file to your computer, in Internet Explorer right click the link and select "Save target as...". In Firefox, right click the link and select "Save link as.."

Some files are compressed in the RAR format. To access the mp3 files in a compressed file you need to extract them first with a utility called WinRAR. It's free to use for simple extractions. In the future we hope to offer files that are self extracting so all you need to do is download and play them. We wanted to get these online for you as fast as possible.

We're also planning a separate page for downloads that'll have all track info like title, artist, time and BPM. Untill then here's what's available now on Mixx-It:

"Push It" - Salt n Pepa - This is an alternate version that I produced at the same time I did the one that was released. I thought I had scrapped this version but I found it several years later.

Two rare segments from my KMEL mix show. Each one is about 15 minutes long. I don't have the track listings for those right now.

Mixx-It Issue #1 contains:
"In the Mixx '86" - Various Artists - 16:00 - A medley of most of the dance hits of 1986.
"Twenty Four/Seven" - 911 - 08:20 - This was a big hit in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"Electric Cafe" - Kraftwerk - 05:58


Friday, January 27, 2006

I've chosen the first tracks which will be available for free download on Mixx-It.com. They will be the entire issue of Mixx-It volume 1. It includes "In the Mixx '86", a power medley of all the dance hits of 1986. On the B side was "Twenty Four/Seven" by 911 and "Electric Cafe" by Kraftwerk, all mixed by yours truly.

In 1986 I was still producing Hot Tracks which was the most popular remix service at the time. I didn't own Hot Tracks but I was employed as their producer. I did one or two remixes for each issue and I compiled the other remixes from DJs around the world.

Some time during 1986 the owner of Hot Tracks, Steve Algozino, passed away and the company was taken over by a woman who I really didn't see eye to eye with. I'll just leave it at that.

So I did something that really pissed her off. I started Mixx-It. I had created a large fan base through Hot Tracks and I knew I had to kick off Mixx-It with a BANG! So I planned my first power mix and decided to call it "In the Mix '86".

I created the term "Powermix" to describe a way of mixing that you can't do live. It's a mix of songs, in a medley, that's done in a way so that you can barely count the number of songs in it. Sometimes I'd have three tracks overlayed at the same time and then they'd mix into a fourth. And I would only include a couple bars of the song so the mix would fly by.

But it had to work for the dance floor. That was the number one priority. Every song had to mix into every other song flawlessly and without any abrupt tempo or rhythm changes. It also had to include all the dance hits, or most of them at least, of 1986. And it couldn't be any longer than fifteen or sixteen minutes. The longer the tracks on a vinyl record the smaller the grooves get and the shitier the sound quality gets.

So I went through all my records and selected the tracks I would include in the medley and got to work. I think it took me a week or two to finalize "In the Mix '86".

At the time I was spinning at Studio West, the hottest club in San Francisco. In fact it was probably the hottest club that ever was in San Francisco. I tested "In the Mix '86" at Studio West, on a reel to reel tape deck, at about 2:00 in the morning. This was the peak hour at the West since it was open until 6 A.M.

If it held the floor until it was finished then I knew I was done with it. Not only did it hold the floor but it kept on building it! And as every new song came in, the screams grew louder and louder. Which is saying something since the West had the best sound system I've ever heard with bass so low you felt it from the inside out.

Mixx-It Issue #1 was released in 1985 about a month before new years eve and it was an immediate sellout. And soon you'll be able to download the entire issue free from Mixx-It.com.

Another track I'm including real soon for free download are a couple of fifteen minute segments of my KMEL radio mix shows. Any part of these shows is very very rare. Unfortunately 99.9% were lost. In fact if anybody has recordings of any of my shows I would really appreciate getting a copy.

This is just the beginning for Mixx-It.com. I plan on offering different downloads weekly or monthly depending on how much traffic we get. In the near future I'll be reviving Mixx-It, with the help of my great friends Douglas and Tina, with brand new remixes. And of course you'll get all the latest news right here and all the music at Mixx-It.com.

If there's anything in particular from Mixx-It that you would like to see made available for download please let me know by posting a comment to this entry or by sending me an email.

Right now I want to give a shout to an old friend of mine, Billy Vidal. He's doing some special things to help me get started on new stuff. I was deeply moved by his generous offers. More on Billy and myself later.
Cameron Paul Tells All
Part 1


As far back as I remember I’ve always been into music. I was playing the piano by three years of age and probably making up little tunes just as young. I never took lessons or learned how to read music but I learned how to play by ear and could usually play anything after hearing it a couple of times. Not that I could play it all that well but you could recognize it.

Throughout my childhood and into high school I was very much into music, both playing and composing. I got into the guitar when I was a teenager and became known as the high school balladeer with a following of groupie girls all wanting to hear my latest love songs. Remember, this was in the early seventies (bell-bottoms and tie die). I learned very young what music did to women and I never forgot!

My love of music and my desire to be a DJ converged in my early childhood, about eight or nine years of age, when I would use my father’s reel-to-reel tape recorder and pretend to be a radio DJ. I had all my favorite top forty 7” singles (45s) and promotional records of product jingles that you could send away for or win with so many cereal box tops. The jingles you might hear in the popular commercials of the day. 7-Up, Coke, Chevy and whatever ads I could get my hands on.

I would start recording and I would be on the air with KCAM! First I’d play a song and then say a little something like, “Well, that was ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ by B.J. Thomas and now a word from 7-UP!” Cut me some slack, I was only ten years old. Then you would hear the needle drop on the record that had the 7-Up jingle on it and so it would go. No mixers back then. Hell, I don’t think we even had stereo. Well maybe just.

Of course, my parents would say I invented scratching because when I could barely walk I would waddle over to the family record player and grab the tone arm while one of my Mom’s favorite Jack Jones’ records was playing and slide the needle back and forth over the entire surface of the vinyl, ruining yet another of their precious albums. Before long there was a chain and padlock around the phonograph.

In January 1975 I graduated from Serramonte High School, in Daly City, California (just south of San Francisco), a semester early at the age of 17 and went immediately to San Francisco State University. Up to that point I thought my vocation would be filmmaking or television production because one of my hobbies as a child and into high school was super-8 filmmaking.

I was enthralled with the whole process of movie making. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area gave me a lot of opportunity to see a lot of location filmmaking and I really believed that is what I was going to do.

I was always involving my friends and family in my latest amateur project. I wrote the scripts, did all the editing and added music to dozens of little epics. One of which won me a Kodak Teenage Movie Award.

So off I went to college to pursue my Hollywood career. The only problem was I had to learn how to be a good student. I always felt like I had faked my way through high school. Doing just enough to get by with decent grades. The mental attitude that, unfortunately, most students have at that age, just get through it and graduate!

Since I graduated from high school early I literally started college one day before my graduation ceremony. I brought my high school mindset and abysmal study habits right into my higher education. My whole first semester I was doing just enough to get by. And I found out that you can’t take the real exciting courses, all the hands on stuff, until you get all those dreaded prerequisites out of the way. And there were a lot of prerequisites!

So after two years of playing games with myself I realized that I wasn’t learning anything even though I was getting decent grades. It really hit me when I took a television course that based the final grade on a midterm exam and a final exam. The instructor said there would be a review of what the tests would cover the week before the exams. The only classes I ever attended were the reviews and the exam days. I passed each exam with an A and that’s what I received in the course.

What was I doing? This is supposed to be preparation for my life and I’m just playing games to get through it? I dropped out of college after my sophomore year at the age of 19. Probably if I had taken some time off between high school and college I would have been mature enough to take it seriously. I guess I needed some time off from school to play.

I had been on the course set by my parents since the moment I entered kindergarten and I was on the same course when I entered college. I did it without even thinking. That’s what had been planned for me so that’s what I did.

I’m not saying my parents forced me into going straight into college, or going into college at all. I just didn’t even question it. It was another step in my life plan. Then I guess I became self aware as an adult and realized I was wasting my time at that moment.

The next year I had absolutely no direction in my life. And my parents never pressured me about getting on with my life or getting out of the house. As long as I was working everything seemed to be fine.

I went from one job to another in that year. I was a bus boy at everyone’s favorite local restaurant, Joe’s of Westlake. I delivered Mexican food in my old beat up Datsun and the longest job I held was in accounts services for Wells Fargo Bank at their headquarters in downtown San Francisco.

It was a “real job”. Nine to five, clock in, clock out. Sit at a desk. File checks, bounce checks, talk to branch managers and so on and so on. The same thing hour after hour, day after day, week after week. It was the kind of job that, if you aren’t careful, turns into a career without you even knowing it. Thirty years later you realize that you never wanted to do this, you hate it, and how did you ever get involved in such a horrific, mundane job. I lasted seven months.

My interest in disco music, and yes it was called disco music back then, began when I was in my late teens, around 1976. My friends and I would set off to the hot San Francisco clubs with our precious fake Ids and party all weekend, every weekend. It was the mid seventies and classic dance music was being made and played in early City discos like The City and Oil Can Harry’s.

From the moment I heard and saw Johnny “Disco” Hedges spinning at Oil Can Harry’s I was entranced with what he was doing. It was absolutely hypnotic. I couldn’t tell when one song ended and a new one began. There was a door to the DJ booth that he kept open all night long and I would stand there in awe.

Hedges’ booth was a completely soundproofed room with huge windows that allowed him a complete panoramic view of the entire dance floor. He had two huge monitor speakers that hung over the turntables just over his head. As I stood watching and listening, he would lower the volume of the music on his monitors and I would hear him cueing up the next record. I figured out that he was using the booth speakers as his cue and monitor speakers. I didn’t know back then how difficult that kind of mixing was. I would later learn that most DJs used a headphone for cueing. I never saw Hedges use a headphone.

Johnny “Disco” Hedges was arguably one of the first superstar mixers in the country at a time when there weren’t too many people who knew what a mix was let alone had ever heard one. He would go on to remix some of the classic disco music of that era.
In the mid seventies mixing, along with rapping and break dancing, was primarily a New York art that had just started to make inroads to the West Coast. There were very few places in San Francisco where you could hear the kind of dead on mixing that was already popular on the East Coast. Of course I didn’t have the perspective of history at the time so I had no way of knowing how lucky I was to have one of the best DJs in the country right in my own back yard. And little did I know the influence Johnny “Disco” Hedges’ talent would have on my career. I wanted to do what he did and I wanted to do it as well.

The music was incredible. The first thing I had to do was find it. I started going to the Tower Records store on Columbus in San Francisco where they had this tiny little section for twelve-inch singles. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw an LP sized record with only one song on each side! But they were only priced at $1.99 each.

When I say it was a tiny little section I really mean it. The bin was probably two or three records in width and maybe fifteen inches deep. Tower would post the Billboard Disco Top Twenty and I would buy the first few records at the top of the list on each visit. I had no idea if any of them were the ones I had heard the previous weekend, because I didn’t dare disturb the master with a foolish question like, “What’s the title of that song?” I’m sure he would have been happy to answer because when I finally did meet him he had no ego problem at all. But I was and still am painfully shy so I could never bring myself to talk to someone like that who I had begun to idolize.

So I would blindly buy these twelve-inch records in the hopes of finding a jewel among them. One of the jewels I did find was a song called “Lovin’ Is Really My Game” by Brainstorm. It was probably the perfect disco song of the mid seventies. I can still remember the opening stabs at the beginning of that record and how it would pack the floor in a split second. That and T-Connection’s “On Fire” are songs that still give me goose bumps just at the thought of them. I just wish I still had them so I could hear them again.

Slowly I compiled my library of disco hits. My friends and I would throw parties and it was up to me to provide the music we all heard at the clubs. I would make cassettes. I had no way of mixing records together at the time so I would just stop the tape on a beat and press record right when I wanted the next song to come in. It was very crude but it kept people dancing. Wow, what a sense of power that was! My tapes soon became required at everyone’s parties.

After the Wells Fargo job I really had no idea what I was going to do with my life and I was still living at home with my parents. I knew that wasn’t going to fly for long and I had better find something to bring in some income. I was still young enough to not feel any kind of panic about my future or career but I wanted to keep my parents off my back. I didn’t mind living at home at all and my parents didn’t seem to mind either, as long as I was working.

In late 1977, after a few months of partying and stalling I decided to pick up the classifieds and look at the “Help Wanted” ads. After searching different headings I came across the “Nightclubs” heading and I saw, “Disc Jockey Wanted. Experience Necessary. Broadway Power & Light Co. Broadway, San Francisco” and the phone number. Without thinking I called and arranged an audition.

I was ecstatic! I ran to tell my Mother that I had an audition to be a real disc jockey! I couldn’t wait till my Dad got home from work so I had to call him and tell him. I had no doubt that I would get the job. I had observed Johnny “Disco” Hedges very closely and I had all the records. I was ready!

The evening of the audition arrived. I drove up Broadway looking for the club. For people who aren’t familiar with Broadway in San Francisco let me just say it isn’t exactly family oriented. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Hardcore” with George C. Scott you’ve seen Broadway. It was a major location for the film. These days it’s not so bad but back in the late seventies it was strip joint after strip joint broken up by the occasional porno theater and adult bookstore. And of course outside all the adult clubs were the barkers. If you were walking along the sidewalk these guys would all but abduct you to get you into the club.

There was never a cover charge to any of these places but there was always a two-drink minimum. And the drinks were about fifteen dollars each and consisted of watered down booze and near beer. But you would get naked ladies…or so I’ve heard.
So here I am, a twenty-year-old young man in the middle of Sodom and Gomorrah thinking, “I could work here every night.”

I kept driving up Broadway looking for the address and as the strip joints began getting fewer and fewer I came across the big sign, which read, “Broadway Power & Light Co.” It was on the part of Broadway that was right on the border of the Italian North Beach and Chinatown. Well my Mom would be relieved that I wouldn’t be working right in the middle of The City’s sex industry. That is, when I got the job.

I found a parking space across the street from the club and saw a few guys waiting outside. It was about eight o’clock in the evening and it was obvious that nobody was in the club yet. The doors were closed and the neon sign was dark. Being the shy guy I was, I decided to wait in my car until everyone had gone in.

After about half an hour I saw this heavy older man with a head of gray hair trudging up to the club door. With him was a beautiful young woman with a killer body who looked like she could have just gotten off work down the street. “Who are these people?” I thought to myself. Then the fat man with the gray hair took out his keys, unlocked and opened the door. And In everyone went.

I waited a few more minutes until I saw a couple more guys enter the building and decided I better get my butt in there. As I got out of my car, records in hand, the bright neon “Broadway Power & Light” sign came to life and I almost got right back in my car and drove away. But I took a deep breath and ran across the street, almost hoping I would get hit, and entered the club.

It was so dark I could hardly see anything. There were white runner lights everywhere and stars flickering on the ceiling. As my eyes grew more accustomed to the light I could see that this was a very large room. As I walked in further I noticed a long curved bar to my left and tables and chairs as far back as I could see. Right in the center of the club was this large raised parquet dance floor barely illuminated by flashing colored lights. And on one corner of the dance floor was a booth, barely larger than a phone booth, enclosed in Plexiglas.

The old man was behind the bar and the young lady approached me and asked if I was there for the DJ position. I told her I was and she handed me an application. Under the part that asked for experience I wrote that I made professional party tapes for a fee.

After a few minutes she explained that we would each have about fifteen minutes to audition in the DJ booth and that there was someone who would help us with the equipment. She asked who would like to go first. I sure didn’t. I decided I would go last if I could.

So I sat there and listened to my competition. They all performed as if they were radio disc jockeys, each one talking before, during and after each song.
“My God”, I thought, “is that what I’m supposed to do?” I had my idol, Johnny Hedges, in mind and I was going to segue the songs and I wasn’t going to talk! Even if it meant I wouldn’t get the job.

Besides, I had always been self conscious about my voice because I had a speech impediment due to a cleft palate. I had been through years of surgeries and speech therapy but no matter how improved my speech had become I sure wasn’t confident enough to talk over a microphone to hundreds of people. And I wouldn’t know what to say anyway. No, I wasn’t going to talk. I would let the music speak for itself.

And so it was my turn and I was last. I stood up on two shaky legs and brought my records to the DJ booth. It was raised to the same level as the dance floor so I had to climb up into it. We each had several minutes to go over the equipment with this guy who introduced himself as Peter, the weekend DJ. It was very cut and dry. In that few minutes I learned how to cue up a record through the headphones, turn up the volume on each turntable and work the microphone (yeah, right).

The mixer looked quite old. It had round volume controls and two large VU meters. To the right of the mixer there was a light controller and to the left was where all the records were kept. I cleared out some of the club’s records and put my own in their place. Not only wasn’t I going to talk but my music was going to be different then all the other guys.

Since I had no idea how to mix the records beat to beat, I knew all I could do were cross fades. I had made a list of songs from one of my party tapes so the records I chose to play were similar in tempo. At least, I hoped, the cross fades wouldn’t be too jarring.

And so, with eagles flying around inside my stomach, I started the first record. Since the club was open, by the time I started, there were a few customers sitting at the tables. To my shock, as I started playing, they got up on the floor to dance!

“Oh my God”, I thought. “What the hell do I do now? Just follow my play list. It works at the parties, hopefully it’ll work here.”

And that’s what I did. I segued from one song to the next and the customers kept dancing! In fact a couple more came onto the dance floor. I was having a blast. I didn’t want to stop. But after about fifteen minutes Peter told me my time was up and said, “You should have done some talking. That’s what they’re looking for.” I felt like pointing out to him that nobody was dancing to the talk jocks but I bit my tongue.

Well as it turned out, the old man behind the bar was the owner, his name was Marvin, and the fine young lady was his girlfriend. After I was finished I climbed out of the booth and Peter took over immediately, losing the dancers. Marvin pointed his finger at me and motioned for me to come over.

“I really don’t know much about all this DJ shit”, he said. “But I know what I like and I didn’t hear it with you. Where was all the talking and what kind of music was that?”

My heart sank. Didn’t he see the people dancing?

He continued, “But my girlfriend, Rudy here, seems to think you’re it. She says you’re the best. So when can you start?”

I started at Broadway Power and Light in San Francisco in October of 1977.

...more to come

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Welcome to my first post to my first blog. I’ve been MIA for a few years and I plan on writing a lot about what I’ve been up to and what my plans are for music and Mixx-It in the near and long term future. I’ll probably be experimenting for a while until I find my footing so bear with me.

The plan is to have Mixx-It become a community for DJs, mixers, remixers, producers and dance music lovers. Helping me along the way will be my best buds Douglas and Tina. We'll be offering a lot of my classic Mixx-It remixes for free download. Every week or every month we'll change up the offerings that’ll be available. We'll also be making available some Mixx-It complilation CDs. And yes, I will be working on new stuff. But please be patient. I’m an old dog learning new tricks so it may take a little while but I’m in the process of gathering everything I need to get Slammin’, Jammin’, Cameron Paul…In the Mixx...again!