Interview: Danny Krivit

From the DJ History archives: Bill Brewster talks to the New York DJ about the Loft, re-editing and his friendship with Larry Levan

Courtesy of Danny Krivit

Since DJing professionally for the first time in 1971, Danny Krivit has been a constant presence behind the decks in New York clubs. He got his break playing at Ninth Circle, a hip Greenwich Village bar turned discotheque owned by his father, before bagging a residency at another family-owned club, Ones.

It was merely the start of a long and storied DJ career in the Big Apple, which included residencies and regular guest appearances at the Roxy, Danceteria, Red Zone, Shelter, Twilo, Laces, the Limelight and the Loft. The latter had been a regular stomping ground for the DJ since the mid-1970s. Krivit built up strong friendships with the man behind the Loft, David Mancuso, and similarly legendary Paradise Garage resident DJ Larry Levan.

Alongside two other New York DJ friends, François Kevorkian and Joe Clausell, Krivit established Sunday party Body & Soul in 1996. These three DJs remained behind the decks for the club’s lengthy existence, and still get together occasionally to throw reunion parties. To this day, Krivit is the resident DJ at the 718 Sessions, a regular event in NYC that celebrates its 12th year in 2017.

In the world of the illicit, DJ-friendly re-edit, Danny Krivit is held in seriously high regard. He’s been cutting up and reshaping tracks since the early 1980s, with many of his earliest bootleg edit releases becoming collector’s items. In recent years, compilations of his reworks have been released by Strut Records, while 7" and 12" singles continue to appear in stores on a regular basis.

In October 1998, Krivit sat down with author and journalist Bill Brewster to talk about his musical journey, focusing largely on the disco era and his passion for re-editing records for the dancefloor.

DJ History

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I was born in New Jersey, pretty much moved here when I was four or five. I was born in 1957. Pretty much stayed in the Village my whole life. In fact until moved over here [on 14th between 2nd and 1st] I’d only moved about four blocks in 30 years.

My stepfather owned a place called the Ninth Circle, which he started in 1962. In the ’60s, it was one of the main Village spots. When I was growing up I was really around there a lot. There were a lot of rock & roll people there, music people. When I was seven I was already doing brunches and working as a waiter. During that time I served Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. In the Village it just wasn’t that odd, I suppose. And they had a very happening jukebox. So without even knowing it, before I was even into music, I was surrounded by music. My mother was a jazz singer, my father was into jazz and I had an older sister who was into pop.

Did your mother perform?

She really performed on the black circuit in New Jersey. I remember we went to Puerto Rico when I was a kid and Dionne Warwick was really happening then. She had seen her there and she said, “Let me introduce you to her,” because she had worked with her. And Dionne Warwick remembered her because she was a white girl doing this thing and she just stuck it out. But she never really made it.

The Ninth Circle was kind of dying out by about 1970 or so. A friend of his owned the Stonewall and when that closed he said to my father, “I know you’ve had this great thing for years, but you know, the Village has really turned gay. If you just turn your place gay, all your troubles will be over and you’ll be a success overnight.” And literally that’s what he did.

The Ninth Circle went gay about 1971. He turned the restaurant downstairs into a disco and I started programming tapes for him. He also got tapes from clubs like Le Jardin, Le Hippopotamus... happening places. I got in the door like that. Then he opened up a place called Ones. If you’re down near Vinyl on Hudson, there’s a Korean fruit store down there. That’s the location of Ones. I started working in 1974. It opened in ’75.

That was a proper nightclub?

Well, back then, it had food and it had dancing, but Ninth Circle was definitely a disco downstairs. But there were no turntables ever there [at Ninth Circle]. At Ones it started out the same thing with tapes but then it progressed to a DJ booth with decks. We didn’t have a Bozak [mixer] – we had something cheaper. Probably AST, as they’d just started outfitting everyone downtown. I remember even the tapes I was making were segued.

Basically, when he played these other tapes from the clubs, they were segued. I was like, “I can’t do the radio mix thing.” I didn’t understand at first, but I was going around checking things out. At that time, I was probably a little more into drugs than the music, so I’d be going to clubs to get drugs and things and I’d be standing outside waiting for somebody and I’d be hearing all this great music.

They had a Limelight [club] on Sheridan Square and David Rodriguez used to play there. I didn’t know him at the time, but I’d be standing outside waiting for someone and the music I’d be hearing was not the regular stuff. He’d play some really rough old stuff, but he was also mixing. I was really paying attention to that. I knew what was expected of me.

Were you actually going into any of the clubs, or were you too busy waiting outside for drugs?

Back then I wasn’t really going into the Limelight. I was looking old for my age, so I could get in, but I was a little more into concerts than clubs – especially the Fillmore East. As far as clubs go: I went to the Hippopotamus, Le Jardin and the Dom, which was below the Electric Circus. I ended up buying their speakers when they closed. They had these beautiful Altec Lansing cabinets: really nice wooden cabinets. I nearly killed my mother with these speakers. I showed no mercy!

I remember when “Doctor Love” came out and I played it to death. A few weeks later, I met my neighbours in the elevator and they said, “You know, we never really say anything. You play music loud, but we like music. But this song, “Doctor Love,” we can’t get it out of our heads. You’re really doing a number on us with this song.” I said, “I’m sorry.” Six months later, my music’s off and I’m hearing “Doctor Love.” It burned into their heads so much they had to buy it.

First Choice – Doctor Love (Tom Moulton Remix)

What are your memories of the Loft?

Well, I never went to David Mancuso’s first one, I went to 99 Prince Street. I just remember it was unique. Before that, my idea of a club was more “dressy” – the Saturday night out feeling. The Loft was the opposite of that: It was a professional house party. These were eccentric club people who were really into dancing. They knew music, not just the top ten hit parade, but they knew music they never heard before. That impressed me. The type of music that was being played it just had a lot more substance to it.

At first, I remember congregating with a few people. There would be a regular crowd that I’d meet with: François Kevorkian was one of them, Steve D’Acquisto, this girl Freddie Taylor from Pearl Distributors. We’d just be hanging out critiquing the music and bringing David some new records. David was very friendly with me.

When he had the record pool, I tried to get in it when I was DJing at Ones. It had just opened and I wasn’t actually spinning there. So he said, “I can’t really do anything for you there.” But he hooked me up with some of the record companies. By the time I was ready to come back to him, he was shutting his doors and I was one of the first members of For The Record.

At the Loft it was that true feeling of, “I’m not on drugs, but I feel like I’m tripping. The music is really taking me somewhere.”

What records do you readily associate with the Loft?

I remember things like War’s “City, Country, City.” If I heard it somewhere else it was not a big record. Here it was a record that people went crazy to from the beginning to the end. When the disco stuff started to come in heavy, it was extremely different, especially as David had it on reel-to-reel: it sounded better than when it came out on vinyl. I remember in general hearing the depth of the production in stereo. It was that true feeling of, “I’m not on drugs, but I feel like I’m tripping on music. The music is really taking me somewhere.” These people are just dancing. All night. Seriously.

War – City, Country, City

How did the Gallery differ?

It struck me as quite a bit more gay. It was definitely less about the hi-fidelity sound and more pumping. There was more mixing. More lights.

And Nicky Siano as a DJ?

He was certainly more about drama. He would be like, “I’m in the DJ booth. This couldn’t be a tape. This couldn’t be just a record you like. I’m playing this record.” He had a presence. He also was very much about drugs himself. There was a whole thing about him, especially towards the end. He was high, but not too high to play the music.

There’d always be a point where it seemed like he’d collapse in a very dramatic manner. He’d fall on the turntables and stop the music. Everyone knew what was going on and they’d be patient and know that somehow, somebody would help him get it together and an even better record would come on. And usually it did.

There was a story being woven. With Nicky Siano, it was a vocal story. With David Mancuso, it was a mood story.

Certainly, both David and him, their clubs were very different to the other clubs I’d been to. Very “vibey.” He’s picking a record that’s not just a hit record, but he’s picking a record that’s timely for these particular people. He’s also talking a message, creating a vibe. There’s a story being woven. With Nicky it was a vocal story. With David it was a mood story. David in general was always about love and he’d always try to stay with that. But there were a lot of instrumentals: more percussive, Latin-esque things.

How did your DJing progress from there?

After Ones, I opened up an afterhours with this ex-boxer. I started working at Trude Heller’s. It was along the lines of Copacabana, Régine’s. 25-30-year-old club – kind of a hip joint. But it was on 6th Avenue right by 9th Street. All my life I’d lived on 12th Street and 6th Avenue and even though I passed by, I never went in it. They had a Richard Long mixer – a decent set-up. It was a funky little club. Straight black, mainly.

Trude Heller took it over and it went wrong. Even then I was making a bit of a mark; getting my charts out there. Then I got a job as the opening DJ at the Roxy. And I played at a place called Lacey’s in Long Island from 1981 to 1991. I managed to turn some little nights into big nights. That’s how I got the job at Lacey’s. There was something about having the booth elevated and right in the middle, like they had at Lacey’s. There was something infectious about having all the people surrounding you in a circle and you in the middle. It’s not like being on the edge of the floor. The energy is focused at you. It was a rush.

What about the Paradise Garage? Did you go there early on?

I was friendly with Larry Levan through the Loft, but Mel Cheren had told me he was going to do this thing and he described what he wanted. I went the Garage shortly after it opened but it hadn’t really started yet. The main room was just an off-room, but it was very pumping and Larry was kicking. It expanded very quickly. I was very close with Larry and I’d come there in the daytime, because he also lived there.

What, he actually lived in the club?

Yeah, before Michael Brody couldn’t deal with him any longer and bought him an apartment. He used to pay for this apartment just to keep Larry out of there because he was causing too many problems.

Was this around the time of the construction parties?

Well, he was living there during the construction parties. Basically, you’d go up a ramp and the first room you came into was a small room that they used as the disco. What ended up being the main room, right next to that, they used as a lounge. The construction parties were this: just a killer soundsystem and nothing much else. But then there was another room after that which was a pretty good size and these were the offices and Larry’s apartment.

Larry Levan was a record company’s nightmare. He’d show up really late and while he was there it was about socializing and drugs. He would be distracted very easily.

Soon after, that began to be an extra room and he got Larry out of there by giving him an apartment. But while he was living there, I used to come down in the daytime and roller-skate and play him some records from the pool. And he used to come to the Roxy and skate. He told me he used to be a skate guard at the Empire roller-rink. But he was a little crazy.

I remember playing “Girl You Need A Change Of Mind” once and he got so excited, got up, then I couldn’t see him skating. Next time I saw him his arm was in a sling. He didn’t skate much after that. He knew he couldn’t control himself.

Eddie Kendricks – Girl You Need a Change of Mind

I would hang out with him a lot. I’m a passive person and he would, you know, want me in the studio with him when he was mixing. I was in the studio with him when he did “Bad For Me,” “Give Your Body Up To The Music,” “Work That Body” and a few others. So he wanted me to get a handle on this and get involved. His sessions were so stretched out that I was just hanging, not learning.

In what way?

He was a record company’s nightmare. Basically, he’d show up really late and while he was there it was about socializing and [taking] drugs. Eventually he would get to the mix, but he would be distracted very easily. And the mix, instead of taking a day or whatever, it would go on for weeks. This budget would be a $27,000 budget; it really stretched to that. I remember the Gwen Guthrie project wasn’t really even supposed to happen. He was supposed to mix a song and he ended up doing all these mixes.

Gwen Guthrie – It Should Have Been You (Larry Levan Remix)

The famous Padlock EP...

Well, basically, he did “It Should Have Been You.” That’s what he was supposed to do. He did this whole thing. I think he was in there so long that he was actually working on this stuff. It was probably one of the more productive sessions he had. But when he showed it to them, they were so pissed off at the price and how long “It Should Have Been You” took that they just shelved it. For a year or two he was just playing it at the Garage and kicking it.

Had he finished the other Guthrie mixes? And was he playing them?

He’d finished them but they were rough. He was playing them and unlike a lot of other things where he mixed it seven or eight times, he did these and they worked out good rough. He kept them like that. Lots of his things, like “Work That Body,” the one that came out was his seventh mix. He mixed it over and over again and fine-tuned it.

Taana Gardner – Work That Body (12'' Larry Levan Mix)

What was he changing?

Really a lot of things. “This is sloppy,” or, “I don’t like the sound of this bass,” even, “I played it in the club and we need to compress it a little more.”

So he’d be floor-testing at the club?

Sometimes that, other times just in the studio nonstop over-producing. So I would be invited in on some of this stuff. Some of it I was getting a little feel for, but for the most part it was so stretched out I didn’t have patience. In general, he wanted me to get involved, but the thing was I was DJing for a living. Working at the Roxy and other places. I always had a weekend job. When it came to the Garage, I always came there after work and after a few years there, there were times when he couldn’t be there because of the studio and he’d have to have somebody fill in a little bit.

“Danny if you could be here a little more often, get this feeling, I could stick you in here a little bit.” I wanted that. But I couldn’t hang out nonstop. So I’d come at my usual time. A couple of times he was like, “Why don’t you put on couple of records and we’ll have a dance.”

Another time there was a pool party for For The Record and I played, Jellybean played and Larry ended the night. I remember I was the last one before Larry. The club was just packing as I played. I had a really good set and it was the first time I played “I Want To Thank You.”

Alicia Myers – I Want To Thank You

I kept telling Larry about this song. He came over to me and said, “What’s this you’re playing?” I said, “It’s that song I been telling you about.” He started playing it after that. Sure enough, Frankie Crocker heard Larry play it. It had already been a big hit on the roller-skating circuit for a while.

Larry Levan was a bit eccentric. He was really like a little kid – very energetic.

Anyway, I had a really good set, but I was a little in awe of the soundsystem: I didn’t want to fuck with the soundsystem too much. He was working the system while I was doing my mixes: really tweaking it and beefing it up. When I came on he had a switch underneath that he flicked which basically took the limiter off and he said, “Only for you.” So I felt really privileged. He really supported me. I was working a lot, so when push comes to shove, he really needed somebody and David DePino was close with him, right there and out of work. He was opening for Larry a lot, a few other people too. Victor Rosado, Joey Llanos.

How did you first meet Larry?

I came to see David [DePino], but David was knocked out. His DJ booth was kind of on the second floor looking down; he had a bed right next to it. So I came up and thought, “Mmm, this isn’t David, he has long hair and he’s white.” Larry wasn’t rude, but he wasn’t especially friendly the first time. He was just, you know. Next time I had a few records. I don’t think he played them or whatever – I think he liked the idea that I didn’t just bring them for David. Then I would run into Larry at the record pool.

What was he like as a person?

He was bit eccentric. He was really like a little kid – very energetic. When Star Wars came out he was like, “Oh we’ve gotta go see the opening!” This whole thing about lights: anything special and big like that, he loved. Big bright things. Disneyland. Even Studio 54, as a club. He liked that sort of thing.

Did he go to Studio 54?

Oh yeah, I think he played there a couple of times. Richie Kaczor was a sweetheart and we all knew him from Hollywood. And Hollywood wasn’t as commercial; it was a little more edgy and more underground. So he had a lot of respect from all the underground DJs.

When he did Studio 54, instead of thinking of him as, “Oh, you’re just playing that commercial stuff,” we thought of him as someone who does this, but is playing the commercial stuff there. Also, the whole time I knew Richie he was so down to earth. There were so many egos going on then. Even the guys that were nice would still be a little like that. But Richie was never that way.

Larry was very friendly with Richie and used to go there and Richie would come to the Garage. The Garage had a very social DJ booth. It was huge, like another club in itself. There was a real scene going on there. And for a long time, I’d find myself in the booth. That was a club experience. You were right above the dancefloor and you’d get the whole feeling of the crowd. The light show, everything.

What kind of drugs were people doing at the Garage?

Well, I was kind of out of my drugs stage by then. I was just a pothead. I would notice a lot of coke, some heroin and people tripping. More of the kids would be into tripping, but there’d be angel dust, too. It seemed like because I wasn’t into it, I didn’t latch on to it so much. There were a lot of drugs [taken] there.

Do you think that Larry’s drug-taking eventually had a detrimental effect on his music?

I look at this way: He was definitely into drugs, but as opposed to the drugs having a handle on him, it definitely seemed like it wasn’t running his life. Towards the end, say the last year or two, it was probably clear to him, it had been said in so many words, ‘That’s it, the Garage is closing this time,’ and even then, everyone else was very hopeful that there’d be another spot. ‘You have this party and the party’s going to go somewhere and when it does, you’re going to be it, so don’t even worry about it.’

Some nights Larry would keep the Garage from opening for an hour or two because he wanted to rewire the whole system.

I think at that point the drugs seemed to be more obvious. He was there less. When he came in, it would be less about putting the record on and there would be a long rainstorm first. Rain effects. He would still turn it out, but he was there less. A lot less mixing. It was just about playing the right record and working the sound. Adjustments, like he was in a studio. Not just feeling it, but going out on the floor and checking it.

Some nights he would keep the club from opening for an hour or two because he wanted to rewire the whole system. He’d always find things for Michael Brody, the owner, to buy: new toys. He really had put a lot into it. A lot of people who went to the Garage really just went that [final] year. And when they remember the Garage, it was really the staples of “Garage” songs.

My feeling going the whole way through was that Garage music was kind of breaking the rules. It was what he felt like playing. He’d turn you on to something. It was really about having no boundaries. A lot of rules were broken there. When “Heartbeat” came out there wasn’t hip-hop on the radio like there is today. There wasn’t any downtempo music like “Heartbeat.” And when he first put on that record, a full club of people left the room to get food. There was not one person left on the floor. He played the record from beginning to end and they stayed off from beginning to end. And you’d hear people saying, “What the hell is this? It’s painful.”

Taana Gardner – Heartbeat (Club Version)

Sure enough, next week he played it and a few people stayed on the floor. The week after, the floor’s not happening, but there’s a decent amount of people there. The week after that, now there are actually people running to the floor when they hear it. By the end of the month, there was nobody left off the floor when Larry played that record. And now, of course, they had to go to Vinylmania and bug Charlie for that record.

Larry would break the rules. He would play things and you’d think, “Oooh, this is a commercial record.” Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield” is a great example. Someone said he could never play that there. That was reason enough for Larry to play it; and make it happen, too.

Pat Benatar – Love Is A Battlefield

Those things stuck out a lot more than the so-called staples that you associate with “Garage” music. That’s Garage music, sure, but it’s the other things that make more of an impression on you. He would take a chance. He would play “Why D’Ya Do It?” by Marianne Faithfull.

Marianne Faithfull – Why D’Ya Do It?

When he played that it was a violent record; it got a violent response. He had this thing with the lights where he had an elaborate light system. Robert Da Silva was his light man and he was a great light man. Larry had this clear arrangement with Robert: Because he had been a light man too, he had a mini-light board on a track with a handle and he would just pull it over in front of him. Without saying anything, he would just start working this song, or part of song, with the lights. Robert would just accept that.

I remember when he did things like Marianne Faithfull. You could tell Larry was doing the lights: very extreme, very violently emotional. He made you remember that song. He would do that with a lot of the music. That was the thing I remember about the Garage. The difference between it and the other places was that Larry was controlling the entire environment.

At the end, it was far less about him. David DePino was told not to play the newest records, but the staples. That’s how the club was then. Larry was more into drugs and even if he played well, you related a little less to him personally. After the club closed, there was a period when I didn’t really see him. Then I started seeing him at the World a little bit, and Tracks, behind the Roxy.

Basically, Tracks was David DePino’s club and it was a huge success, but it was basically built on what he had started at the Garage. At that point, Larry didn’t have another situation where he could control the entire vibe. As a DJ he would come in and do his thing but he couldn’t hit that mark like before. He was an excellent DJ, so he could still play well, and mix it up, bring in a few boxes to beef up the system, play a better selection of music. But it didn’t have what people were getting at the Garage. The system wasn’t there, it wasn’t his people, and you would notice more that drugs had a little more of handle on him. It’s not that he was higher, just that he was more affected by the drugs.

When I had Ninth Circle, my father had passed away and I ran into him. Larry would come by to me and I had so much respect for him as a mentor, he’d hit me up for a bit of money. I knew what he was going through. I wanted him to get out of it in a way, but I couldn’t say no to him. It was a real struggle. More than that, it was because of this: How could I deny him? He was such a major part of what I am and what I’m doing.

Is it true that he kept selling his records to pay for drugs towards the end?

That probably has some truth in it. I knew big chunks of it I would find. In a flea market I found a bunch of records that I was pretty sure were Larry’s. He had his records stored all over and, because he wasn’t playing that much and he was into drugs, the people keeping his records weren’t taking them seriously and they’d just get rid of some of them.

I remember finding a bunch of things. I found an acetate of “Can’t Shake Your Love” by Syreeta. It was a remix that only he had. It didn’t play well. When I saw that, I thought this other stuff must be Larry’s collection. I had a done a lot of edits for bootlegs. I saw Larry after that, and I mentioned this and said, “Well, it’s not like they’ve got your name on it, but there’s this acetate of “Can’t Shake Your Love” that I think is yours.” He was like, “I need that.” I said, “It’s unplayable, but I’ve done this edit of it and you can have that.”

Syreeta – Can’t Shake Your Love

How did you get into the editing?

My first mix was Sounds of JHS 126 Brooklyn, “Chill Pill.” It was the first record on Sleeping Bag. We did this and during the session, I knew what I wanted but the engineer kept saying, “Oh, we’ll fix that in the editing.” Towards the end he started to do an edit, but he couldn’t do it. I had a reel-to-reel at home, but I’d never done any editing. I was getting frustrated with this guy – literally half the session was this guy trying to do this edit. We salvaged it. I walked out of there thinking, “I know how to edit,” just from seeing what he did wrong.

Sounds Of JHS 126 Brooklyn – Chill Pill

The same thing happened next time. “Oh, we’ll fix it in the editing.” A good friend of mine, Jonathan Fearing, was into editing and working at BLS. I was telling him about it and he finally just gave me a quick pep talk and said, “It’s really just about the ear.” I went home and I edited “Funky Drummer.” It ended up being “Feeling James.” I gave it to this guy who bootlegged it.

Mr. K – Feelin’ James

What, the thing on Tommy Boy by Fresh Gordon?

No, it was a bootleg. That may have sampled it. Anyway, there was this guy Tim Rogers at Polygram, he was hanging around the Garage. Instead of being a big record exec, he was actually into all this editing and bootlegs and stuff. He found out that it was by me from David Steel and he said, “I’m working on all this stuff and I want to put out ‘Funky Drummer.’ Do you wanna do a mix?”

Whenever I’d do an edit it would turn into a legitimate job. Like I did one of Ecstasy, Passion & Pain’s “Touch And Go.” Claudia Cuseta was working at Sunnyview at the time and gave me a job remixing the song.

Ecstasy, Passion & Pain feat. Barbara Roy – Touch And Go (New Mix by Danny Krivit & Tony Smith)

The second edit was “Rock The House,” which wound up becoming Criminal Element Orchestra’s “Put The Needle To The Record.” I knew Arthur Baker. I’m just a DJ and I’m doing something that just ends up being a bootleg, so I can’t call anyone a thief. But basically, Arthur took “Rock The House” and he had Gail King play it over this drumbeat. That’s all it was.

Mr. K & Special G - Rock The House

When I saw Arthur in a club, I went over to him and said, “Oh, is that your record?” He says, “Yeah.” So I said, “I did that ‘Rock The House’ record.” He got so defensive. “You did ‘Rock The House’? You’re a thief anyway, who you calling a thief?” I said, “I’m not calling anyone a thief, I’m just letting you know that I did that record.” After that I got a few jobs with him.

Criminal Element Orchestra – Put The Needle To The Record

You did the MFSB bootleg as well, didn’t you?

Well, there are two and they both sample Gil Scott-Heron. I did the white one that has “My First Mistake” by the Chi-Lites on the other side. It’s on T.D. Records. It’s just basically “Love Is The Message” and Salsoul Orchestra’s “Love Break” put together. The guy that did the other one worked at Vinylmania. Mine was after the other one, but they were close. They were both early ’80s.

MFSB – Love is the Message (Danny Krivit Re-Edit)

When David Mancuso was playing MFSB was he playing the ordinary version?

Right from the beginning he was probably playing the “quad” mix on the album. The original album also came in quadraphonic sound. I collect quad and usually since quad wasn’t a big hit, they had to make things a little different so that even if you played it on your regular stereo you knew it sounded different.

Sometimes it was a different version of the song. “Rocksteady” by Aretha Franklin is a great example: instead of ending at the fade out, it goes on for another two minutes and slows down to a complete stop. It’s got a completely different horn part in it.

Apparently in “Love Is The Message” there were a lot of loose keyboard parts that they edited out of the final mix because it was sloppy. In the quad mix, they put them in to make it sound different. I played that till the Tom Moulton Philadelphia Classics remix came out [in 1977], and then played that.

Was that when Tom Moulton remixed it without the frilly bit at the front?

The original and the Tom Moulton mix both had that on it. But the original didn’t go on much and Tom’s kept going.

Which other edits have you done?

I’m not in the bootlegging business. I did edits and I got paid for that. And I also stuck to things that were either long gone or not very well known. As far as other ones, there was “Just Us” by Two Tons of Fun, Cymande’s “Bra,” “You Got Me Running” by Lenny Williams and “Let’s Start The Dance” by Bohannon. I had a version that never came out. I just kept going with the guitar.

Is that the “Let’s Start To Dance III” version?

I think it was “Let’s Start II Dance Again” – the one with the rapper over it. I did a version without the rapper on.

I assume that you were doing them to make them better for DJs to play?

Yeah. I’d do something that I knew Larry was into, like “Family Tree” by Family Tree. I have the original version here – it’s one of the most rare records. It’s one of the first 12"s. Something Larry played and it was such a rare record that even if you owned it you didn’t want to play it in case you scratched it up. When I brought him that he was happy. Also it was a really good edit.

Family Tree – Family Tree (Disco Version)

What do you think was the first 12"?

It was called something like “Dance, Dance, Dance,” but it wasn’t the Chic song. It was a terrible record. It was a bad way to try and get into the market. I remember immediately after that, I was getting a lot of stuff in the mail and at that time I was receiving a lot of 7" singles that played at 33. Seven minute long versions on a 7".

When I went to other places I was always amazed at how negative the vibe was. David Mancuso made people realise that the DJ was important.

All of a sudden I started getting these 12" singles in the mail and started hearing that this was the new thing. The next song was Floyd Smith on Salsoul – very Barry White sounding, but it wasn’t a big hit. This was a better example of something sounding good. Then there were a few 12" singles on Motown and 20th Century Fox.

Tom Moulton says he did one that he thinks is the first: Al Downing’s “I’ll Be Holding On.”

If he did that and that was the first 12", then I’ve never ever seen that to this day. The thing about Tom Moulton is, he made a couple of 12" singles himself, because they weren’t going to. I’ve a feeling that if he did a 12" of Al Downing, I don’t know, it could’ve been something that 20 copies were made. If it was the first, it was kind of unheard of.

Al Downing – I’ll Be Holding On (Tom Moulton Mix)

These other things [I’ve been talking about] were promos, but you’re still talking about 100 copies at least. They got around the US. I’m an avid record collector and I’ve never seen Al Downing. Atlantic’s first one was “Mellow Blow” by Barrabas. People weren’t impressed to start [with], because they really weren’t putting the best stuff on them. Everyone was, “Well, there are a lot of hits out there, why are they putting these songs on there?”

It was a marketing ploy, basically.

Definitely. This was the age of promotion and this was how to promote these records. Soon after it was almost like 12" singles were going to be laughed at, so they started putting some good songs on there – “Ten Percent” and so on.

What do you think the legacy of the DJs we’ve been talking about is?

There’s a lot of marks that they made that might go unnoticed but are just there. Certainly, I think that David Mancuso is one of the main ones. The thing that David expressed, and came out in Larry and Nicky, was playing a positive vibe in the club. When I went to other places I was always amazed at how negative the vibe was. They were weaving a message, rather than wandering all over. David made people realise that the DJ was important.

Do you think that they turned records into musical instruments?

Totally. They also broke ground. They didn’t take the new hot record and break it, when it would have been broken anyway. They broke a record that would not have been otherwise. They educated people.

Can you think of any examples?

With David there was such a long line of them: things like “City, Country, City” or “Woman” by Barabbas. Those were Loft records. Without the Loft, they were just records. People would scream when they heard a record for the first time, not the tenth. One of the legacies David, Larry and Nicky left is that fever for hunting down the records [they played] and finding them. These are records that were rare the moment they came out.

There was this guy called Tony Smith, from Barefoot Boy. I met him in a record shop called Daytons because we’d always be looking for those kinds of records. A lot of jazz-funk. They’d play something, and if I liked it, it always seemed that Tony would want it too. It was underground even then. Forget about now, back then some of these records were hard to track down, too.

This interview was conducted in October 1998. © DJ History

By Bill Brewster on October 11, 2017

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