It’s four years this month since the sad demise of the legendary Blues & Soul, the world’s longest-running black music magazine. It ran for 41 years and published 1,000 issues before going out of business. Another sad symptom of the times. Respect to anyone who used to check it on the reg.
In light of that, here’s the colossal feature that Stretch Taylor and myself produced in 2007 documenting the 40 most essential black music DJs of the 40 years of B&S’s history, according to the mag. See if your favourite legend’s in there! (And RIP to Froggy who’s died since the feature was produced.)
When you set out to establish the 40 most influential DJs on the British black music scene, you don’t expect it to be an easy ride. Followers of our music take their stuff very seriously, and such a list is bound to raise contention, and cries of ‘why isn’t such-and-such in there’, or in some cases, ‘why aren’t I in there?!’
But we expected that. Which is why B&S’s Mark Devlin and Stretch Taylor garnered opinions from many different quarters, all of whom know their onions – to come up with the following. We’re pretty sure that few would argue about the status of this lot as truly influential. We do concede, however, that it would be impossible to apply any kind of ranking.
So here – in no particular order – are the 40 DJs from the past 40 years, without whom the black music scene in the UK today would just not be the same.
Gentlemen, take a bow.
Long before Trevor Nelson, before Pete Tong, even before Jeff Young, the first ‘specialist’ black music DJ to earn a coveted slot on Radio One was Robbie Vincent. His ‘Sound of Sunday Night’, (and latterly ‘Saturday Night’,) provided the audio inspiration for a generation of soul/ jazz/ funk/ black dance fans, and gave the entire nation a taste of what Londoners had been getting from Greg Edwards on Capital Radio. Robbie was an odd contender for such a role, not least in his appearance. He was a former journalist until his covert fanaticism for his music pushed him in an alternative direction, first earning him a soul show on BBC Radio London. In the ensuing years, he was credited with launching the career of Maze, and was one of only a handful of UK radio presenters to have interviewed Marvin Gaye. When his Radio One stint ended in 1989, he took up a talk programme on London station LBC. .
Who would ever have believed that a DJ could get an MBE? And it couldn’t happen to a nicer fella. Norman Jay’s always been one of those DJs who’s hard to classify; like B&S itself, he’s tended to represent the entire spectrum of black music, from old-school soulful nuggets, funk, disco, reggae and jazz, to the genre for which he’s probably best known – soulful, uplifting house and garage. The first thing many a London raver will think of is the Good Times sound system run alongside brother Joey, a main attraction at Notting Hill Carnival for more than 20 years. Equally celebrated was his High On Hope club night. Clearly a man with fingers in many pies, Norman also helped run Talking Loud Records, had a long-running show on both the pirate and legal Kiss FM, (pretty much creating the rare groove movement of the mid-80s in the process) and was a key player in the London warehouse parties in the pre-acid house era. All that, and he still found time to meet The Queen.
The Godfather of soul … James Brown? … Nah, don’t be silly, it’s Hilly! From The Goldmine to The Lacy Lady, and as founder of the original Caister Weekender in 1979, South East ‘soul mafia’ kingpin Chris has been tearing the ass out of clubs for over three decades. Along the way he helped introduce the world to Incognito, Eddy Grant, Light Of The World and even Bob Geldof’s Boomtown Rats. There are few who’d argue with his status as ‘legendary’ as a result. And with Caister still going strong in 2006, there’s still life in the old dog yet!
Although his successor has attained far greater heights, it was Jeff Young who paved the way for Pete Tong’s phenomenal rise to prominence at Radio One. His long-standing status as a knowledgeable and credible soul/ black music DJ in the South East stood Jeff in good stead to secure a highly influential weekend show on BBC Radio London. Although this was termed a ‘breakfast show’, its 8am start meant it was ideally timed for ravers gradually stirring following a night on the tiles. As very early house music from Chicago and New York started laying the foundations of what’s known as ‘dance music’ today, Jeff was in just the right place at the right time to be snapped up by Radio One in 1987 to host the new Friday night ‘Big Beat.’ This saw him playing music right across the black music spectrum, from Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley to Public Enemy, but his soulful roots were always evident. Jeff handed the baton to Pete Tong in 1990, and, apart from a stint on Capital Radio shortly afterwards, has kept largely behind-the-scenes roles since.
Born in Blackpool in the 50s, Ian Levine started collecting Motown records at an early age, setting himself the ambitious task of obtaining every record released on the label in the UK. By ‘71, he’d started started DJing, and a certain Blackpool Mecca was the only place around playing his kind of music. His reputation for finding and playing rare records made him a name on the obsessive Northern soul scene. The Mecca and the legendary Wigan Casino were rival venues, and Levine widened the gap by playing modern 70s records at the Mecca, in contrast to the 60s stompers favoured by much of the Northern crowd at the Casino. His attempt to bring the scene up to date famously divided fans of the genre. As a music producer, Levine started making records for the Northern soul market, and later went on to produce high-energy pop hits for bands like Take That. TIM
Truly the ‘Marmite’ man, Westwood tends to polarise opinion. It’s telling that in most DJ polls, he crops up very highly in both the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ DJ categories. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying the guy’s phenomenal influence on the hip hop scene in the UK. The facts speak for themselves – two peak-time Radio One weekend shows for the past twelve years, millions of compilation albums sold, ‘Pimp My Ride’ on MTV and Channel 5, club bookings all over the country, legendary appearances at Notting Hill Carnival. (The young Westwood was also a columnist for B&S back in the day, folks.) Many argue that without him, sales of hip hop records in the UK wouldn’t be half what they’ve now become. From his early days warming up for Steve Walsh and David Rodigan, to his current household name status, it’s clear that Westwood has always lived and breathed the music he loves to the point that it has become his identity. He’s even taken a bullet and several beatings in the course of his job. The term ‘legend’ is one not to be used lightly. In the case of Westwood, it’s impossible to accurately describe his status without using it.
Although Grenada-born and New York-raised, we count Greg as a British DJ because it was on these shores that he carved his niche, arriving in 1969, and becoming credited with launching the British careers of the Three Degrees and The O’ Jays just a few years later. If you were a soul/ jazz/ funk fan in London in the 70s and early 80s, it was a given that you listened to his ‘Soul Spectrum’ on Capital Radio. This was where fans kept up with the latest sounds on the underground, (because there was no hope of any mainstream play for such gems,) and where other DJs listened in to stay on top of their game. Greg’s now on Capital Gold.
Widely credited as being the first DJ in the UK to mix two records together, (properly!), it all started for Soul Mafia man Froggy in the late 70s at venues like the Regency Suite in East London. After visiting New York’s seminal Studio 54 club and being amazed at the crisp quality of the set-up, he came back to build his own, the ‘Froggy Sound System’ and the rest is history. Appearances on Radio 1 led to him securing his own show on Capital Radio, and through his radio remix and re-edit work, he went on to work on tracks by artists such as Change, Cameo and The Real Thing. As for the sound system, that would later become used for the Caister Weekender, and as far as we know it’s still available for hire today.
He might not be the first name thought of by soul-loving Londoners. But up North, Richard Searling is viewed by many as nothing less than a soul music god. As a club DJ at the forefront of the scene for more than 30 years, he’s seen and done it all. Searling’s been promoting soul nights in the North West since 1974. He’s been a mainstay at Jazz FM, (recently reborn as Smooth FM) since 1994, and prior to that, presented on Radio Hallam from as far back as 1980. Add to that his status as compiler of some of the best soul music albums known to man, and his position as co-founder of Expansion Records, and you have one hell of an influential figure. As for retirement? Forget it. He still promotes and DJs at Northern allnighters to this day.
Yes, Tony Blackburn, and no, it’s not a pisstake. Although best known for his cheesy grin, appalling jokes, and as the alleged inspiration for Smashy … or was it Nicey? … connoisseurs know that old Tone’s long been a bit of a closet soulboy. Besides releasing an early Northern soul-style single under the pseudonym Lenny Gamble in 1973, his enthusiasm for the genre first became apparent in the 80s, when he introduced healthy portions of soul music into his daytime show on BBC Radio London. For turning the tide for so many, and for using his high profile to further the cause of real soul music, TB earns his place in our countdown as a true influential black music DJ.
It could easily have been so different for Oakenfold. The young South Londoner was a promising chef before going on to dominate the world. He started playing soul and rare groove in a Covent Garden bar in his spare time. By the early 80s, he’d been heavily inspired by Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage in New York, and by ‘87, had made ‘that’ famous visit to Ibiza with friends Trevor Fung, Nicky Holloway and Danny Rampling, inspiring him to bring the Balearic sound back to England. As an A&R man for Champion Records, he signed Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince and Salt ‘N’ Pepa, and went on to work at Profile and Def Jam, before starting his own Perfecto label in ’91. Now, as possibly the most important name in club culture, he’s done it all, from film scores, to albums, to adverts and remixes for Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Moby, Snoop Dogg, and of course U2.
For a large percentage of electro and hip hop fans in London, it wasn’t Westwood who introduced them to the genre, it was Mike Allen. Circa 1984-87, Mike’s Capital Radio show was the first proper hip hop show on a commercial radio station, and his pioneering early interviews included Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, Run DMC, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Ice T and the Beastie Boys. His Groove Records chart run-down helped the Soho record shop of the same name become the only place to buy your import vinyl from. He was also an important player in the success of Morgan Khan’s ‘UK Fresh’, the first hip hop festival on British soil. This was held at Wembley Arena over two days in July 1986, and featured Mantronix, DJ Cheese, Grandmaster Flash and Just Ice. Those wonderful days go down as some of the most important dates in hip hop history, at a time when excitement for the ‘real’ art form was at its peak, and with the music truly inspirational, defining and full of social comment. Oh, and what a voice!
As our recent B&S Spin Doctors feature assessed, ‘eclectic’ is a word that could quite aptly be applied to Gilles Peterson’s musical style. Never afraid to champion genre-defying sounds that fall outside of other DJs’ collections, his left-field approach has led to many a tune being described as ‘a Gilles Peterson-type record’. Radio-wise, he’s enjoyed a long and progressive career, starting with the South London pirate Radio Invicta in the 80s, to his current ‘Worldwide’ show on Radio One, with stops at Radio London, Jazz FM and Kiss FM en route. He brought his open-minded, but always jazz-tinged approach to music to bear with the formation of his own Acid Jazz label, and later, Talking Loud, which spawned hits for the likes of Young Disciples, Incognito, Brand New Heavies, Jamiroquai and Galiano. And he still plays clubs globally, seeming to enjoy a particular affinity with Brazil, a country whose jazz output inspired him to compile two further albums.
South London soulboy Gordon MacNamee’s enthusiasm for soul and reggae stood him in ideal stead to become one of the founding members of Kiss FM in its early days as a pirate, and subsequently, as its managing director when it went all ‘legit.’ With his distinctive dreadlocked appearance, he became possibly the least likely looking MD in radio history. In Kiss’s most influential years, you’d be more likely to find Gordon broadcasting his own show than pen-pushing behind a big desk. When Kiss was sold to Emap Metro in the mid 90s, Gordon departed, cropping up soon afterwards with his own show on Choice FM. Nowadays, he owns the Z Bar in Brixton, one of South London’s most celebrated black music party spots. And the fact that you’re more likely to find him behind the decks here than hiding away in a back office shows that this guy’s love of the music hasn’t waned one little bit.
More commonly known as ‘Doctor’ Bob Jones, the veteran DJ’s ‘Surgery’ club nights and radio shows have been among the most highly respected in London’s soulful circles. He’s presented on several stations, including Jazz FM, Kiss FM and BBC Radio London, and from his first club appearance in the 70s, he went on to become a regular of the Caister and Southport weekenders. You might even remember him as B&S’s very own jazz correspondent in the 80s, or a force behind the remixed Temptations hit, ironically called ‘The Joneses’. Present day sees him running things at Chilli Funk Records, and rumours of retirement have proved unfounded, as he continues to spin at clubs and festivals throughout the land.
Roly-poly and bearded, with a large charisma to match, Steve’s appearance marked him out as one of the soul scene’s most distinctive DJ characters. It was no great surprise that he went on to have a chart hit in 1987 with a chantalong version of The Fatback Band’s ‘I Found Loving’, one of his most favoured weekender anthems, complete with the nagging ‘you wot, you wot’ hookline. A hard-working pioneer of the soul/ jazz/ funk movement in the South East, Walsh enjoyed radio spots on Invicta, JFM, Surrey’s County Sound, and latterly Radio London, where he was the focal point of its famed ‘Soul Night Out.’ He was an inspiration to many – even a young Tim Westwood, whose first DJing break was as warm-up for the big man. Tragically, Steve died in 1988 of a heart attack, brought on by a car accident in Ibiza. He was only 29.
If every musical movement needs a central figurehead, there are few who would argue that the Northern soul crown belongs fully on the head of Russ Winstanley. It was Russ who instigated the idea of the legendary Northern ‘allnighters’, playing rare and in-demand recordings of 60s/ 70s uptempo soul music to dancers, in a scene that predated the styles of breakdancing/ hip hop culture by a clear decade. The key venue was the much-missed Wigan Casino, operational from 1973 to 81, and considered by many at the time to be ‘the best disco in the world.’ Russ kick-started the careers of other notable DJs at the venue, including Richard Searling and Kev Roberts. The years since 1981 have seen him DJ/ promote on a smaller scale, but he still spins the music that made him a master in the game.
The grief expressed by the DJ world at the tragic loss of DJ Swing from multiple myeloma earlier this year was more than just dutiful empty words. Anyone that had known Swing, or witnessed one of his performances, understood that this was of one of the greatest all-round DJ characters in the game – some would argue the best that ever did it. Making his name as part of London sound system The Boogie Bunch, Swing broke free and went solo in the mid-90s and never looked back. His diversity, breathtaking technical skills, and ability to connect with any crowd, was matched by his natural charisma, and positive attitude to life. In a B&S mag tribute, columnist Bigger recounted the time he shared a gig with Swing where the crowd simply stood around the edges showing no signs of getting on the dancefloor. Swing, with characteristic charisma, got straight on the mic and announced that not one further record would be played until people put their drinks down and started enjoying themselves. Of course it worked, but it was a major gamble, and it’s hard to imagine any other DJ getting away with it.
The new skool guv’nor of R&B, Trevor has risen to the top largely as a result of his high-profile Radio One shows and presenting slots on MTV. But there’s so much more to his story. In fact, his rise to prominence has been something of a a fairytale story since being taken on as a founder presenter for the pirate Kiss FM back in 1986. Did you know he did his first gig at a sixth form disco, was former assistant manager of Red Records in Soho, and signed the wonderful but sadly deceased Lynden David Hall when he was A&R manager for Cooltempo Records? And who can forget the early club gigs when he was known as Trevor Madhatter, and played at the likes of Respect at The Wag and Club Yo Yo at Shuffles? Now hosting everything from the MOBOs, to Prince’s Trust concerts, to one of the last ever ‘Top Of The Pops’ shows, Trevor shows a great versatility both in front of the camera and behind the mic.
On the surface, David Rodigan’s one of the least-likely characters to have become a successful and highly-revered ambassador for all things reggae. Born in Germany of Scots/ Irish parentage, and with early work in the theatre, it was never an obvious road to pursue. But the young Rodigan’s fascination for the music pushed him towards becoming a ‘selector’, and the hard work and commitment paid off. He can ably hold his own against the most challenging of sound system clashes, and counts the biggest reggae artists in the game as his personal friends. He’s consistently held spots on the radio for over 25 years, first with a highly influential show on Capital Radio, followed by a long stint with Kiss FM from 1990. He also broadcasts to British forces overseas with a show on BFBS. Now into his fifties, he shows no signs of stopping, continuing to blaze up reggae dances at home and abroad.
JAZZIE B / SOUL II SOUL
Formed out of the London sound system movement of the 1980s, Soul II Soul took up residency at Covent Garden’s legendary Africa Centre for a famed Sunday night session, and this became the catalyst to signing a record deal with Virgin. Jazzie B’s life changed forever once ‘Fairplay’ had inflamed dancefloors across the country, and the crew’s profile grew quickly with their own chain of shops, and via Jazzie’s radio show on Kiss FM. By the time the Caron Wheeler-featuring ‘Keep On Movin’ and ‘Back To Life’ were released in ‘89, it was game over. The Soul II Soul brand went on to become a hugely successful UK export, and you can still often see Jazzie and his cohorts playing their diverse brand of music at a club near you. Their catchphrase ‘a happy face, a thumping bass for a loving race’ couldn’t be more relevant today.
As a young Kent teenager, Pete Tong surely never imagined his love of black music would take him so far. His early stints with his own mobile disco soon got replaced by more trendy outings as Pete discovered the joys of soul/ jazz/ funk, and became adopted as the youthful member of the South East ‘soul mafia’, alongside much older peers like Chris Hill and Froggy. Tongy’s radio appearances now stretch back 25 years; apart from early exposure as a reporter on Peter Powell’s Radio One drivetime show, he held down an influential Sunday night slot on the Kent station Radio Invicta, followed by three years with ‘The Session’ on Capital Radio, before being recruited as Radio One’s resident dance music guru in 1990. (Oh, and did we mention that he worked as features editor on Blues & Soul from 1979 to 1983?) Tong’s achievements within the dance music field are well documented, and have prompted criticism from certain quarters suggesting that he turned his back on soul music to pursue the riches of more fashionable sounds. But his roots speak for themselves, and whatever he might play on the surface, you know that this guy will always be a soulboy at heart.
No, not the joker out of Monty Python. This is the soulful Terry Jones, a guy who seems to have successfully bridged the gap between the Northern and Southern soul contingents – a kind of Kofi Annan of the music scene, if you like. If you’re a real soul bod, then the legendary venue Norfolk Village will pull at your heartstrings, as this was a clubbing institution for more than two decades. Some label him as Mr. Modern Soul nowadays. An unsung but influential soul music maestro, who you can still catch as a firm fixture on the DJing bill of many a weekender and allnighter.
A regular at the legendary Goldmine alongside Chris Hill, and later the owner of Crazy Beat Records in Essex, reformed smoker Gary has got his fingers in more pies than Fray Bentos! What real soul head can forget the Hadleigh Suite in Essex, where he played a blend of funk, rare groove, soul, jazz and hip hop? Such diversity was unheard of then. Furthermore, as an important member of both the Caister and Southport weekender line-ups, young Mr. Dennis was able to push his style to the masses. And who hasn’t been to the shop and spent a wad of dosh for their love of soul music, only to find that you’ve not got enough money left to treat the missus to a Chinese takeaway?
PAUL ‘TROUBLE’ ANDERSON
‘Trouble’s been a mainstay of the London black music dance scene for well over 25 years, Crackers, Spats, The Embassy, Global Village and The Electric Ballroom just some of the celebrated venues that he helped become legendary. By the mid 80s he’d created his Trouble Funk sound system, which rocked many a warehouse party, later securing a key show on the legal Kiss FM. His Wednesday ‘Loft’ party in Camden ran for over ten years – a huge achievement in the ever-changing world of clubland. Despite his diversity, it’s in the disco-infused funky house genre that he’s earned the most recognition, but he dislikes labels, consistently stating that ‘a house is where you live, and a garage is where you park your car.’, In recent years, he’s become as well known for his production and songwriting work as for his DJing, starting his own Troubled Soul Records label in 2002, and putting out countless remixes and productions.
THE DMC DJs
From its initial incarnation as the Disco Mix Club back in 1983, the DMC organisation has put all its resources into staging its annual competitions to expose the hottest turntablists in the world. In the early days, no-one had seen anything like it, as 80s champs like America’s Cash Money and DJ Cheese, and the UK’s Chad Jackson, Cutmaster Swift and DJ Bizznizz manipulated two turntables and a mixer to their very extremes. The events very quickly morphed into acts of showmanship, with contestants using gimmicks like snooker cues and even kitchen sinks to scratch with, performing little dance routines, and finding ever more imaginative ways of taunting their opponents. A definitive moment was when German champ DJ David performed a full handstand on a spinning turntable platter in 1990. In more recent years, the competition has become more serious, contestants taking their role as ‘turntablists’ much more meaningfully. Although the alternative ITF championships have now become just as revered, ‘winning the DMCs’ was the original dream of many an aspiring DJ, and the ultimate goal to aim for.
When Norman Jay refers to you as his biggest influence, you know you’re a big dog in the game. In fact, in some knowledgeable circles, George Power is deemed more important than even Chris Hill or Robbie Vincent! To many, he’s remembered alongside Paul ‘Trouble’ Anderson as a pioneer of London’s electro scene in the 80s, but he was also a very influential figure to many a soulboy at a club called Crackers in the West End, and was an original founder of Kiss FM and London Greek Radio. Often under-appreciated and under-rated, George Power deserves major props for influencing so many of the original DJs on the black music scene to actually pick up a pair of headphones in the first place.
BOBBI & STEVE
B&S, (the other B&S,) have been spinnin’ that good music for over 20 years, and as original self-confessed soul boys, got their first DJing slot at a club in Forest Gate, East London. They went on to hold their own warehouse parties, playing alongside the likes of Norman Jay, Linden C and Trevor ‘Madhatter’ Nelson. Radio-wise, as associates with Kiss FM since its pirate days, their ‘Zoo Experience’ shows championed new uplifting garage grooves for many years, becoming one of the longest-running features on the station. Other spin-offs have included their Zoo Experience record label, and the very successful London club nights Soul Heaven and Garage City. Bobbi & Steve helped to build the foundations for dance music in the UK. And yes, they really are twins!
Shortee’s success story has been a gradual and progressive one. Nothing’s happened overnight. But a combination of spellbinding technical skills, instinctive crowd-rocking ability, hard work and dedication – and being an all-round nice guy – have cemented his reputation as one of the most high-profile and in-demand urban DJs around. Settling in London from Nottingham, Shortee made all the right power moves in his ascension up the ladder; he spent a time running the UK office of Rawkus Records, and secured a slot on Kiss FM with fellow Chubby Kid Big Ted, which led to him getting a second Saturday night spot for his ‘Powermix’ show of non-stop, hip hop mixtape-style energy. He’s been a regular fixture at big London nights like Fresh N Funky, Twice As Nice and Ministry of Sound’s Smoove, and his international gig schedule would make even Michael Palin jealous.
Nicky Holloway was a founding member of the UK house music scene, bringing the Ibiza sound to a new audience. But let’s not forget the importance of his now legendary Special Branch and Doo At The Zoo parties in the mid 80s, and his roots in soul music, inspired by him first watching fellow jock Froggy mix two records together. Through his classic nights including Sin, Velvet Underground and his own Soho venue Milk Bar, people still talk today about Holloway’s parties, always held in unique venues, and usually featuring unusual themes. Nicky went on to tour the world as a headline DJ during the acid house movement. A true innovator.
Ronnie seems to have come a long way in a seemingly short space of time, but real heads know that he’s been tirelessly putting in the work for his love of black music for many a year. A permanent fixture on 1Xtra with his ‘Uptown Anthems’ show since year one, Ronnie also deputises on Trevor Nelson’s Radio 1 show when he’s away. For many moons, he’s been co-director of London’s popular Uptown Records, the shop where all the top DJs come to get their tunes, as well as a familiar face on the DJ club circuit. Mr. Herel has also ventured into the production side of things, and was heavily involved with the 1991 hit cover of Carol King’s classic ‘It’s Too Late’ featuring Dina Carroll, and earning a spot on ‘Top Of The Pops’ in the process!
Tottenham-raised EZ first emerged on Dance FM in the early 90s, playing a selection of hardcore, jungle and house. Following this, he started up his own station called Dimension FM. But it wasn’t until he joined another pirate, Freek FM, that people really sat up and took notice, as he became arguably the biggest DJ at the station. His shows on Freek led to guest appearances on Steve Jackson’s Kiss 100 show, and in late ’99 he was subsequently given his own show on the station. Prime time slots followed, and EZ became a household name on the back of the release of the ‘Pure Garage’ album series, and an ambassador for the UK garage breakthrough of the late 90s.
As reggae dancehall, and particularly the more hip hop-styled ‘ragga’ element gained major popularity in urban circles in the 90s, a vacancy for a high-profile DJ figurehead emerged. It was quickly claimed by Chris Goldfinger, by no means a newcomer when he was recruited by Radio One to host the new ‘Reggae Dancehall Nite’ show in 1996. Having moved to London from Jamaica, Goldfinger was the pivotal member of the Asher World Crew sound system, preaching the reggae gospel at dances and clashes all over the capital and at Notting Hill Carnival for many years before the breakthrough. His years at Radio One have allowed him to expose the many facets of reggae to the masses, becoming a highly in-demand club DJ as a result. He knows all the big reggae artists personally, and frequently travels back to Jamaica to attend the genre’s biggest events.
Rampling achieved an unusual status last year; he became the first ‘superstar’ DJ to formally announce his retirement; he’s now become a restaurateur in London. It was a brave decision, but then it’s hard to imagine how much more any DJ could hope to achieve. Though he’ll go down in the history books for his club night Shoom, and as one of the founding fathers of the UK acid house movement, Rampling’s musical roots were in the London soul and funk scene. His enthusiasm for black music remained throughout his years as one of house music’s superstars, and he became equally celebrated for his soulful, uplifting US-style garage fare as for his hard-hitting electronic sounds. He peddled both on his successful Radio One Saturday show, on which he also ran a feature called ‘The Easy Funky Three’, an excuse to roll out some of the more downtempo soulful sounds which he clearly missed.
FABIO & GROOVERIDER
As a DJ, your role doesn’t become much more meaningful than when you create an entire new musical genre – or at least play a highly influential part in moulding it. Yes, Fabio and Grooverider are two people as opposed to some kind of Jekyll & Hyde singular, but their career paths have evolved so similarly over the years, that they’re virtually interchangeable, as reflected by their frequent combined DJ outings, and the collaborative show they share on Radio One. Emerging from London’s underground black music scene of the 80s, they were captivated by the youthful energy of the ‘hardcore’ and ‘rave’ scene of the latter part of the decade, before they helped shape the faster beats into the more creative ‘jungle’ movement, later to settle for being referred to as ‘drum ‘n’ bass’. Although still underground in essence, the scene has become a truly global movement, making international stars of F&G in the process.
He could have been a professional footballer, but Steve Wren went down the music route instead, and started spinning at soul events in London and Essex in the early 80s. His radio gigs included a slot on the legendary pirate Stomp FM, before he went legal and moved to Choice FM in 1990, hosting the ‘Rap Attack’ show every Friday. He still resides at Choice, but now as presenter of their successful weekend ‘Club Vybez’ show. Over the years, you might have also have bumped into Wrenny working at Polydor, Avex, running the Urbanstar Record label, or spinning at some classic club nights. He’s also a mainstay at the Southport Weekender.
A pioneer of house music in the UK from its very earliest forms, Graeme Park claims he hasn’t had a weekend to himself in 20 years. Pity his poor missus, then! Scotsman Park witnessed the evolution of dance music while working at Select-A-Disc records in Nottingham at a time when the first house records began to filter through from Detroit and Chicago. The shop owner opened a club, and naturally, Graeme became the DJ. This bought him to the attention of Mike Pickering at Manchester’s Hacienda. The venue would soon become part of clubbing history, and Parky would go on to become a fully-fledged international superstar DJ off the back of it.
He’s the man of countless aliases, Jakatta and Raven Maize among them. But when he’s not Joey Negro or any of these, he’s plain old ‘disco’ Dave Lee, a DJ-turned-producer who’s always been enticed by the more disco-tinged side of soulful, funky house, and has virtually turned the idea into his own distinctive, instantly recognisable genre. His love of the retro sound could be heard in his early productions like ‘Do It, Believe It’, and ‘Do What You Feel’, and continue to this day, (where he shifts infinitely larger volumes of records!) Dave/ Joey seems equally busy behind the decks as behind the studio boards, his name still cropping up at many a big dance music event. Think uplifting, soulful house music in the UK, and Joey Negro will be right there.
It seemed a quick road to the top for the Dreem Teem, as they became chief flag-bearers of a new music style that became trendy almost overnight. Spoony, Mikee B and Timmi Magic were at the forefront of the ‘speed garage’ scene as it was known in the mid 90s. Prior to this, though, they had worked individually for years, before hooking up and securing a radio show on Kiss FM off the back of their successful club nights. This was followed by a stint on Galaxy Radio, before their big move to Radio 1 around the turn of the new millennium. As a collective, they’ve been a bit quiet of late, but Spoony has since shown great diversity as a presenter, with a football phone-in show for Radio 5 Live, many TV appearances and a weekend breakfast show on Radio 1.
…and finally THE B&S DJs
As well as attracting the most knowledgeable, passionate, and in some cases opinionated (!) writers in the land, the B&S staff roster has always consisted of a fair few DJs, who, when they aren’t slaving away to meet a deadline, can be seen and heard playing the music they love to people who need to hear it. You’d expect the UK’s favourite black music magazine to attract some key players in this regard – and you’d be right. Step forward Bigger, Steve Hobbs, Pete Haigh, Jamie Topham, Stretch Taylor, Mark Devlin, Russell Crewe, One Step, Christos & Stel, David Craig, Bob Jeffries, DJ Hix, Wayne McDonald, Rick Starr … and all the many others from through the years!
MARK DEVLIN & STRETCH TAYLOR