Tuesday, March 10, 2009

DJ Throwdown

It seems that our little shag world just keeps "boogie walkin' " along. This past weekend, Ducks hosted the 18th Annual DJ Throwdown. This event featured a free cocktail party, a Big Money raffle, three white bands on Thursday night, and over fifty dj's playing a plethora of music by white artists. I could write volumes about this event, but like Forest Gump, "that's all I'm gonna say about that."

Throwdown does, however, bring to mind memories of days gone by. Below is a picture that hangs behind my desk in my music room, taken at The Pad in 1986 by Steve Dean from Greensboro N.C. It's a picture of all the dj's, minus Butch Davidson, that played SOS that spring. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don't look at that picture and remember something funny, aggravating, or special about one of those in the picture. Most importantly that picture always reminds me how special those days were and how lucky I was to be there and be a part of those times.

First row L to R -Bo Lee, Richard Nixon, Mitt Starbuck, Gary Gibson --Second row L to R - Jack Moore, Butch Metcalf, Mike Lewis, Joanne Johnson, Bob Bullard, Irvin Ellington -- Third row - Tommy Hamrick, Ronnie Gardner, Ray Clement

Of the thirteen in the picture, two are deceased, four no longer play, one plays on a limited basis, but the remaining six are still at it. Just a note regarding Ronnie Gardner. I didn't know him very well, in fact I barely remember him. I had to ask Butch Metcalf recently, "who is this guy" in the picture. I always sorta thought that he was just one of Joanne's friends from an Airborne Ranger unit out of Ft. Bragg, that she brought along with her that day, and he just decided to get in the picture. I do, however, know the rest of the gang very well and have for many years. I have fond memories of my association with them through the years and I will share some of these memories over the months to come.

The period when these folks ruled the dj booth realm of SOS and the known Shag world, early to late eighties, was a very different, but special time. Every time we played was a "vinyl" party. We all had a hand truck to carry our music into the clubs. For many it took two trips, one for 45's and one for Lp's. Trying to maneuver three or four cartons of records on a hand truck through a honky tonk packed with drunks at SOS, twice, was not as glamorous as you might think. A lot of us did two sets a day, and more often than not, they were at two different clubs. The standard pay back then was $15 an hour and you drank free. We were all much younger then, so free drinks meant something. H Lee Brown paid me $20 an hour, cause I was his house dj, plus free booze, and free pharmaceuticals as needed. When Rock Carter took over the management of Ducks, the money and the free booze stayed the same, but my medical plan went away. Oh, by the way, 26 years later I'm still working for H Lee Brown. My pay is not much more than it was back then, and the free booze and medical plan are both gone.

There are hundreds of stories that could be told by the surviving people in that great old picture, of those days and that era. I have had the privilege over the years to have listened to a lot of them. In addition to the thirteen from the picture there were other pioneers out there. Chris Beachly, Spider Kirkman, Jim Davis, Butch Davidson, Granville Elliot, and Charlie Byrd, to name a few. I wonder how many of the dj's attending "Throwdown" this past weekend, have ever sought any of these folks out, bought them a drink, and asked them to share some of their experiences. I wonder how many of them even know who most of these folks are, and were. In my opinion, talking to these pioneers, would truly be a "Throwdown".


  1. I remember them all, in fact we ( Butch and myself ) talked about them at throwdown. I have asked many of them ( except Spider ) over the years to play but to no avail. They are all more than welcome to play. What better way for the newbies to see some of the pioneers of our industry. Steve Baker

  2. Ronnie Gardner is from Va. Beach but lived in Raleigh for a number of years. I think he may be in Florida now or maybe back in Va. Beach. Ronnie owned Boogie Blues Beach Club in Raleigh, NC for a couple of years.