My first “rig”…

I had been bugging the cover band the Hitmen to let me DJ with them for a few months. Up till then I had mainly worked at a mobile DJ company doing all kinds of events (even the Hands Across America event). The Hitmen would play for 40 minutes and a DJ would play for 20 minutes. It was at Maitia’s Basque restaurant which also had a full bar with a dance floor and stage. One Thursday there was no DJ. I saw my chance. I asked again…let me DJ and I will play the similar style music that you play and will not play any songs that you play. They were like will you help set up the PA. “Of course” was my answer. They said you start tomorrow (Friday).

Friday presented a problem. I was still a waiter at the Olive Garden and needed to give up that shift. A bigger problem was I didn’t have a DJ rig to use. I had a decent amount of vinyl but had way more CD’s as I had a nice home stereo and car stereo CD player so I went the CD route in the late 80s/early 90s when most were still lugging around crates of vinyl. Plus the DJ area was tiny…right next to the stage literally on the dance floor.

I took one of my milk crates (vinyl) and spray painted it black. I then went to Rent a Center across from the Ice House on Chester/W. Columbus and told them I needed to rent to own two CD players. They were confused on why I wanted two but they did it. I then went to Front Porch Music and talked to Artie and I think I didn’t have the money but after telling him the story up to this point he fronted me a Gemini PMX-25.

I stuffed the CD players in the milk crate and wired it up and had my first rig that I used for a decent amount of years. I had 2 skate boxes of CDs that I carried around which looked cool but was horrible on the CD cases. Later a friend Kat would give me another skate box so I was up to 3 skate boxes full of CDs.

I DJ’d that first Friday and made 150 bucks for helping to set up the PA and to DJ 20 minutes out of every hour starting at 9pm till 2am. I got free drinks and food too. I took my first two nights of pay and paid off the mixer and took the next weekend’s pay and paid off the CD players.   I DJ’d Thur/Fri/Sat nights at 150 a night. It was the easiest gig I ever had. I lived close to the restaurant so I ate there quite often. If you have never had Bakersfield Basque food you would not understand.

I still have a couple tubs of CDs and am thinking about getting another milk crate/cd players/gemini mixer and re-creating my first setup just to have it around. I have a spot in my DJ room where I could put a small table and set it up with some CDs.

Will DJ for Food!?!

I used to DJ regularly in Bakersfield/San Luis Obispo at any club I wanted to, and I even did guest spots in Santa Barbara/San Francisco. But now, after being away from the club scene for so long I have the itch to start DJing again. I’m starting to do some streaming sets to build up an online audience, but I miss the fun of playing in a club. Being in a new city where I don’t know anyone, I am starting over with networking. I’m putting out some feelers to get to know the other DJs and club owners/managers. My goal is to do 1-2 nights a month, just as a hobby. My dream gig would be to DJ a dark wave or new wave night at a club a couple of times a month, or even to be the DJ who plays the opening set before the bands come on/in between bands. I know I still have the chops to work a dance floor.

Digital Jukeboxes Ruined the Dive Bar

In the 90s, during the dot-com era, I had the opportunity to propose my idea for a digital jukebox at the company that I worked at. Back then, jukeboxes played a significant role in bars, as they often determined whether the bar was a hit or a miss. Each jukebox had a unique selection of songs, providing insight into the bar’s atmosphere and the people who frequented it. Unfortunately, my idea did not come to fruition, as our company, like many others at that time, faced financial difficulties.

My concept involved implementing a digital jukebox system in bars. We would store the music library in a server room and allow bar owners to pick the jukebox’s song collection. The bar owners could choose the songs they wanted, which would then be loaded on the jukebox. Furthermore, they would have the flexibility to add or remove songs as they pleased but it would be a limited number of songs similar to a traditional jukebox.

This approach would have preserved the unique identity of each bar, with different establishments boasting different songs/themes. However, with the advent of high-speed internet and unlimited storage and streaming services, digital jukeboxes now have access to virtually every song or album ever recorded. Consequently, this has undermined the charm of the traditional dive bar jukebox experience. Nowadays, you’re just as likely to encounter a mix of Hank Williams Jr. and Justin Bieber songs in what was once a seedy dive bar where you might have stumbled upon classic tracks by Hank Williams Sr. or Patsy Cline.