In the old days whether it was a formal ball with the band
playing waltzes and foxtrots etc, or a knees up round the
piano everyone loved to dance. Many homes would have some
kind of musical instrument and everyone had a party piece,
a song or a story to tell at a party, people where forced
to make their own entertainment. But when the first music
recordings were made on wax cylinders in about 1880 and
then on flat disc records shortly after, things would change
forever. This is a brief history of the mobile DJ by
Pro Mobile Disco DJ Jim.
The now infamous Jimmy Savile is said to be the first person to
host a dance when the music was played on disc. This was
in 1943 at the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds in Otley.
About the same time and in Nazi occupied Paris, Jazz bands
were banned and young people with no choice, gathered in
basement bars to listen to recorded music. Maybe because
it was cheaper than a live band, or the post war youth craved
genuine American music, after the war this trend continued. The first night club where a DJ would play records (whiskey a go go) opened in Paris
1947. La Discotheques the French word for record library
However its more likely that recorded music was used to entertain the
party going public much earlier than this. Between the wars
people had a hunger to live it up and Dances were hugely
popular, the band would strike up and people would take
their partners for the next foxtrot or waltz or whatever
they did back then. My grand father told me of a dance he
had arranged back in the mid 1930’s in London's east
end. The venue was near were he lived in Hoxton Shoreditch
and a band was booked to play. Unfortunately the band were
late, so with an angry crowd to deal with he ran home to fetch the family
record player. He played records amplifying the sound by
putting the singer’s microphone in front of record
player. The crowd were kept reasonably happy until the evening
ended in a massive punch up. My granddad hid under a table
while Joe Spinks the local champion boxer from Hoxton, stood
guard knocking out all comers. Its a little amusing to think that one of the first disco party's ended in a riot.
I am quite sure this story is true, and
must also assume the occasion of recorded music being used
to fill in the breaks taken by the band was not unique.
When my great uncle died, himself a drummer in a jazz band,
he left a huge collection of pre war recordings. On the jacket sleeve of each record
there were instructions of when it would
be best to play at a party. In the very early days of recordings it would
have been problematic to use the new technology at parties.
However as the technology developed, just like today, people
would be keen to show off the latest bit of high tech kit
and recorded music must have been part of the entertainment
in early 20th century dances. After all it was almost immediately DJs found ways to connect their laptops and Ipods to the mobile disco sound system so why would it been any different back then.
Unfortunately for my Grandad and others pushing the boundaries of music entertainment, their role as pioneer party DJs will never be reorganised. History has decided there are two
definite occasions accepted as the first time pre recorded
music replaced the traditional band. The Mobile disco DJ first made an appearance in
1942/3. If you can, ask you grand parents when they first
remember hearing recorded music at a dance and if the DJ
was any good.