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A Brief DJ History

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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 was born.

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.

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