I came across this with a batch of photos my Parents just gave me and immediately I remembered that day! It's amazing to have a photo to capture that moment. I need to do a post just on the family parties we had growing up!
AND NOW, THE STORY OF THE DAY:
In the final stages of my Pre-Teen years in Stuttgart Germany (Pattonville Army Base), if my older sister wanted to go to the Youth Center Teen parties there was a good chance I had to tag along. Sucked for her, Awesome for me.
Man, I thought I was so cool with my shiny, silver, “racing jacket” that got named “The Disco Jacket”* by the regular doorman. Plus I kept up to date on at least one of the current hot dances of the time so I could bust “The Rock” or “The Pony” something type nice. That made me the “cute lil kid” to the teenage girls so I was sure to get some older girl dance action. The older guys were not amused, once again, awesome for me.
I don’t remember how many of these parties I went to, but in my memory it was 100s! Truthfully, it was probably only a dozen or so at most though. What I do remember is that only one dude was working the turntables at all of them circa ‘81/’82, DJ Nate**.
When I wasn’t dancing to Rolls Royce or Rick James and/or being a nuisance to some guy by taking up time with his girl, I spent the rest of my time in the DJ booth. I don’t recall anyone else ever being in there. I don’t think it was allowed, but I was granted passage. My first job was to collect the requests from people. Then I would dig thru the stacks, find the wax, and hand them off to Nate.
I remember going thru the stacks and always finding the latest Sugarhill, Enjoy and Fever Record releases and I would get excited and be like “You GOTTA Play this, I never heard it!!” Usually he would say something like, “I don’t know, that’s not a hit yet, I’ll see what I can do little man”. I distinctly remember discovering Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five “It’s Nasty” and Sweet G “Heartbeat Rap” in those stacks.
I may have had a knee-jerk reaction of disappointment if he didn’t play it, but it didn’t linger. I’d just commit those records to memory and track them down myself or he’d let me come over to his spot and make a tape of some of the joints on his family stereo.
The overall experience taught me the power of the music and gave me an understanding of the psychology of DJing. Ultimately, the power of music was transferred to the DJ in these situations. When Nate satisfied someone’s request or dropped a certified classic, the people on the dance floor were giving full credit to him. At those moments the original artist was being channeled thru him and it was “HIS” song. I would stand there and watch the reactions on people’s faces or how their necks would snap over to the DJ booth to give some sort of dramatic signal of appreciation for throwing on their jam.
As for the “Psychology of DJing”, even at the young age, I understood how Nate had Power and popularity, but he wasn’t so naïve to think he could do whatever he wanted and maintain that image. He had to deliver what they wanted. The trick was presenting it like he was selecting exactly what he wanted to hear and the crowd just so happened to share his vision. By doing that, it made the crowd appreciate the situation and ultimately put him in full control. He would sprinkle new things in here and there to test them out. The crowd reaction determined how long that record stayed on or if it made back in to the crates next time. He wasn’t lost in spending too much time looking thru records, talking to people, drinking or anything else. His attention was on the crowd, where it should be.
Oddly, as much as I was influenced and intrigued by all of this, I never tried to DJ back then. It was one of the things that I thought I “couldn’t” do because it seemed like such hardwork and I assumed I was too young. I mean, where I was, only 1 or 2 other kids my age were into rhyming and NO ONE my age was DJing.
At that time, the fact I was in the DJ Booth, observing the party from there and on top of that, discovering new music, that was the most amazing parts of the experience. However, looking back, something else stands out, perhaps even more so now. In so many of the Old School stories you hear from the early days the general sentiment was super tough-love on the young cats. It seems like it was always “don’t touch the equipment little kid”, “beat it little brother, I don’t want you here”, “get out the booth young punk” or whatever…ha. I feel so blessed that I never really experienced that. Having the older generation, like DJ Nate, Romeo and my sister (OK, she sort of had no choice in the matter) welcome me into their world didn’t make me want to work any less hard, so I dismiss the notion of pushing people away is the only way to make them hungrier. Trust me, the more info and experiences people fed me, the hungrier I got for more...
I know I can’t be the only person from that time who remembers how much admiration we had for DJ Nate. He was THE MAN, no doubt. Yet, he was humble enough to let me into his world in the booth and even his home. Those experiences replay in my head all the time. Those lessons learned are still applied today when I’m behind the turntables***. When I look out there and see a packed dance floor or when people in the venue look at me with a sign of approval, I know somewhere in there, unknown to them, they are also thanking DJ Nate because that’s where I got it from.
At some point Nate moved away and I didn’t maintain contact so I don’t know where he is or if he continued/continues to DJ. Whether or not he’s still at it, his legacy continues on in what I do and I hope to pass it down to the next generation as well...
Plus I’m sure many of my DJ peers have similar stories and their own “DJ Nate” as a mentor…
*I had every intention of displaying said "Disco Jacket". Yes, I still have it and have even recently seen it, but for some reason it is avoiding me right now. I was trying to post this blog hours ago, but have been digging thru boxes and containers to find that magical jacket...to no avail. I'm sure another one of these stories will call for it down the line....
**I don’t know for sure what his DJ name was. We all called him Nate, but he may have had a fancier name on the wheels. I also, for the life of me, cannot remember his last name…FAIL.
***Accept for the taking requests thing. That’s mad played out yo… You got something you want to hear, play it yourself on the way home…ha. Back then, the music the DJ had was quite often unavailable to the general public or at least the DJ had it early. Plus you had to have a record player at home to get it. Nowdays there is no excuse, if you want it, you can hear it at your leisure, leave the DJs alone… ☺
Written By Kevin Beacham