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Detroit Beatdown Interview

Ken Collier playing at a private party in 1980

This is the original transcript of Dan Bean’s 2005 interview with Mike Clark, Norm Talley and Delano Smith. An edited version appeared in issue 16 of Wax Poetics Magazine in April/May 2006.

The interview focusses on the trio’s memories of Ken Collier and the birth of electronic dance music in Detroit in the 70s and 80s.

For the sake of context the introduction to the Wax Poetics precedes the transcript.

Charts from Mike, Norm and Delano can be found at the bottom of the transcript, with contemporary photos and flyers included at various points.


Introduction from the Wax Poetics article:

Ask music lovers what Detroit means to them and you’ll probably hear mention of Berry Gordy or Norman Whitfield, perhaps George Clinton or Yusef Lateef. Were you to point out that there’s a direct link between these styles and the pared down machine funk of the city’s latter day sound (known by some as techno), you could safely expect incredulity from all but the most dedicated fans.

Yet there is a link, forged in the high school social parties of the seventies and the clubs and radio shows of the eighties by a few key figures. These musical visionaries shepherded their dancers and listeners from disco, via hi-nrg and italo through to the earliest house records, not forgetting a healthy dose of the leftfield and unexpected.

This sound, or maybe this ‘feeling’, is known as Beatdown and owes a great deal to the eclectic, boundary defying styles of DJs such as Ken Collier and the mysterious radio presenter Electrifyin’ Mojo.

The modern inheritors of this style are the present day Beatdown DJs of Detroit. Three in particular have channelled the vision of the godfathers of Beatdown, both through their DJing style and the release of documents such as the Detroit Beatdown Volume 1 compilation. They are Mike Clark, Norm Talley and Delano Smith.

The day after Detroit’s annual electronic music festival we met at Mike Clark’s apartment to discuss the origins of their music, the advent of drum machines and story of DJing in an era that pre-dated labels such as house and techno.


Interview transcript:

Dan Bean: Firstly, if I could just start the interview off by you introducing yourself, saying who you are, where we are, what we’re doing.

Mike Clark: OK, Am I introducing it host style or am kinda…

DB: Just yourself.

MC: OK. Ready? Hello this is Mike Clark Agent X sitting here in Detroit, kicking it at the house, enjoying myself. How you doing? (pause) Good. I’m at home by the way, that’s why.

DB: Did you grow up in Detroit?

MC: Yeah, I was raised on Seven Mile, Greenfield Southfield area. A lot of the people that are part of our set grew up in Seven Mile, Six Mile, a little further in and out. I guess you know, coming from that area everybody just had their own thing that was going on, but mostly a lot of Detroiters grew up on Mojo, listening to that eclectic radio show that was really grabbing ears. We had another radio station called WJZZ that was at the time the most celebrated jazz radio station and they played all different forms of jazz. Me myself, my influences came from listening to JZZ ‘cause they was the days when they played early Herbie Hancock and Azymuth and a lot of those jazz classics that we dance to today they were playing on the radio station on the daily. And Mojo came out during that era and he was another free spirit that pretty much played anything he wanted to There’d be no given night where he’d do what you call Micheal Jackson versus Prince and he’d just play Michael Jackson all night then he’d start playing Prince all night and he’d tell the voters to call to see who won. You know, just eclectic stuff like that. Or he’d just play like some rock or he’d play Parliament all night. He’d just play some cool stuff and he had Detroit right where he wanted us.

DB: So do you think he’s one of the reasons all this groundbreaking music came out of this city?

MC: He’s definitely one of the ones that helped catapult it because the radio was very fixed back then. I was doing radio early on, doing stuff with him you know, thank goodness, but at that time we couldn’t speak, we really couldn’t enter the radio sometimes. We would give them the cassettes, they’d grab them and go in. We couldn’t talk on the radio, they couldn’t use our names on there, so you were just kinda caught up in that. But he was able to just make a lot of stuff happen, he opened up doors and minds. So a lot of us were, by the time that particular law was lifted, we were able to express ourselves more on the radio station and he was one who did help because he had a team. What was the name of that team Mister Norm Talley, the name of that team when he put us together and was doing the Cotton Club and all that stuff? That was me, Norm Talley, Terrence Parker, that was like a whole bunch of people. This was the late eighties right?

Norm Talley: Yeah right, I’m trying to remember….

MC: Because you were in one group called ‘Streetbeat’ but that wasn’t it. Mojo…. do you remember the name of that? Mojo had a name…. well we’re sorry, it was the eighties and we’ll have to get back on that one. But Mojo actually had a street team of DJs that he put out there and was giving parties at various clubs that we had out there. On that note he was very much a part of… you know influenced a lot of good things, because everything triggers people to do different things, so it speaks for itself.

DB: So there’s a bit of a gap now. Is there going to be another Mojo? Can there be another Mojo?

MC: You know one thing you got to understand, even though people constantly say, “we wish we could take it to where it once was,” that will never happen because that was another time. Now you just have to have a new influence, like to say, “will there ever be another Bruce Lee?” No, but there’s a Jet Li. There’s a lot of different people out there and we do need somebody that we can either look up to or that can help keep inspiration here. A lot of us are trying to do it, we’ve got a lot of local heroes here, unacknowledged.

The gap that we had that was even a bigger situation during that time was the inner city outer city, urban suburban gap. Now that gap has started to bridge because now a lot of the suburbanites and urbanites are partying together and the DJs are coming together. That was an issue we had in the nineties and early 2000s and now its starting to blend in so hopefully that will create a much better broader scene because Detroit as a whole can operate much better when everybody’s talking together. That’s what we’re trying to work on ourselves.

DB: Do you think Detroit is on the up at the moment? That’s the message I seem to be getting from a lot of people, they seem to be optimistic about how things are going at the moment.

MC: Yeah, I think it is, you know honestly there is a lot of money being put into the downtown area, there’s a lot of stores being put up, they’re trying to build up the image, which was destroyed unfortunately by a lot of different things. It has its good and bad points: from a business level, and I just have to speak on this being part of the community, they put a lot money into the city, and they brought a lot of workers in. But at the same time there’s a lot of money being took out. I’m not necessarily going to say because of that, but a lot of the money that probably could be made for the city, for us to spend within ourselves. It feels like the inner city is being pushed out by the new scene, or whatever’s going on. Kind of like if you go to Atlantic City…. the big bright lights, the big city, but go across the street and all of a sudden it’s a bad situation. It feels like that could be pushed here but…

DB: You feel like people are trying to sanitise the area?

MC: Maybe, maybe, and you know I’m not saying for sure, but like I say it just feels like that because being here I feel like I’m being pushed in another direction trying to make stuff happen. It could be anything from just no real communication with the people in the political field with us directly, so we can’t stop it from happening, but at the moment that is what it feels like. I’m hoping a lot of things will come into play, because with electronic music that was one bridge that was able to help us to celebrate our own music in our own city with the world, with the authority of the city and that’s done well. So right now I just started working with Motown Museum and they’re trying to bridge the gap between old Motown and the new community and I’m trying my best to help out with that. To me I’m optimistic so I hope it keeps building from there

DB: Can you explain how you got to be doing what you’re doing at the moment? What was your route into….

MC: ….To the music industry or Djing, or just everything in general?

DB: To the music industry and Djing. What led you to be where you are at the moment, producing and Djing.

MC: You know I would probably say that was like a time issue. How I started out was actually at a very young age going to parties with my older brother. I was at one of those ages when anything you see right there will cling to you hard, and I saw this party life. It’s not like the party life now, it was more of this…. kinda like the atmosphere where everyone’s just enjoying themselves, dancing and it was just totally new to me to see it in this kind of environment. And seeing that, that just made me want to… “I would just love to do this for ever.” And then I started paying attention to DJs a little more, and the DJs were a kind of glue that held it all together. You know Delano Smith was one of the guys I used to look at, saying: “I wanna be like that.” In High school I started doing it more, I was loving it, I was liking it. How it became a career thing was pretty much when the whole house techno thing blew up. We saw what could definitely be a career situation, because just take any local DJ and he branches so far. Either you go and get a real job and do something, just do it on the side… or you do it, work hard at it doing terrestrial life.

But we just did not really perceive the star global situation before house and techno. And once that came about just different things started coming about, you know like pretty much if you want to DJ round the world you pretty much have to make music. So OK, that’s motivation to brush up making your music. Then plus two, if you can make a hit record you make a lot of money: “OK that’s another thing for my living that I’m going to get into, OK I can do this.” Those are the things that started to influence me just as time went past. I recognised me for being who I am: an artist. I just said, “I need to hold on to these skills.” And that’s pretty much the motivation, it has nothing to do with stardom, trying to become the star DJ or whatever. It’s just strictly me loving what I do and knowing that I can make a living off of it. That’s my motivation.

DB: Can you describe the atmosphere of those early parties?

MC: You know, if you can look at an album cover of Chic, that’s kinda what it was like (laughs). Because you know back in the day it was…you know it’s a whole other world today but it’s just some nonsense, if you feel me on this. Back then everybody used to dress up, everybody used to wear matching outfits, people used to have dance routines. And when you went there it was always dancing, and you know in the club the guy asked the girl to dance. I’m not trying to say anybody was a Grandfather, but that was what I saw when I came up. And that was how it was when we was young. So this was like… to me this was it, you go into a place, everybody having fun, looking nice, enjoying themselves. To me what’s better than that? You know it’s a vacation within itself. That was my image as a little twelve/thirteen year old seeing this. It was just… I can say for me it was just amazing, seeing Delano up in there, busting them tracks out at Park Avenue Club or Sherwood Forest in the back yard, and everybody just coming together, say three or five hundred people. We didn’t have videos back then so you didn’t have that on film. Some people have pictures, and to me you can’t really capture with the pictures, you can just look at the fashion and laugh.

We got some flyers, because the most creative part during that era was the flyers people were making, the names we had and the flyers we was making. If you can get a collection of those flyers it would kind of help, you’d understand where we came from because our influences, and I have to say this, along with Mojo was another guy named Ken Collier. He was another one of our major influences. We had like a lot of other different people that was just amazing that I can name, but that would just be going into too many different things, but the bottom line was as we were coming up we had good people that gave us this incentive to do all kinds of good stuff. That was the size of it, it was highly competitive in nature and I guess like all Detroiters being individuals we all tried to see who could outstrive each other and who could be the best or who can be the man or whatever you want to call it. The bottom line, it helped us hone our skills to become what we are which is what I’ve heard to be the most respected DJs in the world. And you know that’s another blessing.

DB: OK, moving on to Norm, what’s your involvement in the Beatdown project?

NT: My involvement is making tracks and shopping tracks, compiling tracks and er…. all the artistic end.

DB: Where does the name come from, what’s the story behind it?

NT: It stemmed from three DJs throwing their own name to a style of tracks they liked, a style of tracks we liked, we kinda used the name loosely and then we decided to really put it out in the world market, to let other people share it.

DB: Presumably you were trying to catch a particular feeling or some kind of vibe, what is that?

NT: Sure, it’s a feeling that we enjoy and that’s how we describe the tracks that we enjoy.

DB: So for someone who hadn’t heard Beatdown records, if you had to describe it to them what would you say?

NT: Well I wouldn’t want to put it in one genre so tightly fit. I would describe it as good music because it could be anything so I wouldn’t want to put it in one category to name it this or that. I mean it would be limiting to the music. I would just say it’s good music regardless of whether it’s downtempo or if it’s uptempo, if it’s harder or softer.

DB: What kind of stuff can you hear in it, in terms of maybe the stuff that inspired the people to make it?

NT: Well it’s most definitely vibey and I think it’s rooted in the history of dance music most definitely, but I think it’s more about the vibe and the feeling rather than trying to put it into a certain category.

DB: What do you hope is going to happen with the sound, what’s your aspiration?

NT: Well I kind of like the way the sound is going now, I’d like to continue that sound, and hopefully it can get us more exposure than we already get and we can do some successful tours and things of that nature and you know, put the music out there and let the people enjoy it.

DB: In terms of your involvement in playing records and producing, are there any key events or moments?

NT: Well I had one influence that influenced me to make tracks and that was Eddie Fowlkes. He encouraged me to make tracks so that kind of….. so I did my first track on his label. That was one of the things that stemmed me to make tracks. You know I had always been a DJ but I hadn’t always made tracks so he influenced me to make tracks, Eddie Fowlkes did yes.

DB: In terms of your playing style, when you’re playing to an audience what are you trying to communicate to them?

NT: I feed off them as well as them feeding off me, I want them to have a good time. Because I play different styles, so depending on how the club is, how the crowd is, how the mood is set, that has got a lot to do with how I play.

DB: There’s a core of people involved in Beatdown, but there’s new people coming in as well, is there anyone in particular who you’re excited about?

NT: Well I like some of the stuff that is coming out of Detroit right now. I like what Piranha is doing and I like what Omar S is doing, he’s doing some good stuff. I like what Reggie Dokes is doing, he’s got a really good vibe going. I like what Tony Foster is doing so I’m looking forward to working with him. I like what Delano and Mike is doing so there’s a lot of good stuff coming out of Detroit, there’s a lot to look forward to.

DB: Why is this city so fertile, why are there so many people here making amazing music?

NT: Well I think this city is rooted in music so I think we are just a product of over 40 years of music coming from Motown. I mean we grew up with tonnes of music from when we were babies. When we were in the womb and we were getting music, we was getting beat down by Al Green and we hadn’t even touched The Earth, know what I mean? So that is rooted in why we feel deeply about our music and we gravitate towards so much different music. And to speak on what Mike was saying earlier about Mojo, you know Mojo really broke a lot of records. First of all he didn’t play under a standard format because he blocked his time so that he could play whatever he wanted. He could play a record for as long as he wanted. It wasn’t a formatted radio station like you have to play this, this, this, this, this. He could play a 20 minute version of a record and then just stop it if he wanted to and then talk for 15 minutes. He’d tell you, “turn your lights off,” and you’d see people turn their lights off. “If you’re in your car flash your lights,” and you’d see people down the street flashing their lights. “If you’re in your car right now honk your horn,” and people be out in the street honking their horn, barm barm barm barm! You know no DJ really was doing anything like that at that time, so that’s kind of what made him so different. You know he would communicate with his audience. He had The Midnight Funk Association, you had to be a part of The Midnight Funk Association. He was very cutting edge at that time, he was even playing edits back then. He’d make a long version of a record, of any record that he liked and he would play you know a ten, fifteen minute….

He was really one of the first people to break Juan. I mean he’d play Juan every night to death, you know what I mean? He was one of the people that really put Juan out there on the Detroit level at least back then. You know he played Cosmic Cars and all that to death. And then he would be saying when you be playing Cosmic Cars and you be in the car he’d be saying that: “honk your horn,” and he had a deep voice you know: “honk your horn three times,” and you’d be like barm, barm, barm…. and everybody would be barm, barm, barm. I think that bred a different style of listener who eventually…. who was a young kid, but who eventually that listener turned into a producer or a DJ. I don’t know if other areas had DJs similar to that or radio stations similar to that, but I think that alone kind of bred a different style of music producer I think. As well he would play music across the board. He played New Order, he’d play Rolling Stones, he’d play… if it was a good record he’d play it. It didn’t matter who it was by, if it was a good record he’d play it…. and make you like it! (laughs) And talk to you while he was playing it. On that level this a real aggressive DJ that was into communicating with the community, so that moulded a lot of people’s thinking in my opinion.

DB: There seems to be a tradition of Detroit people being very individualistic, doing things their own way.

NT: Sure, yeah, that’s where all that kind of thinking came from.

DB: Do you think he still has a legacy now? I was talking to booty DJs over the weekend and they don’t just play booty, they said the point is that they play everything, they’ll play a soul tune, then some house, then some booty, then some Drexciya. Is that a legacy of his?

NT: Well yeah, but that’s what I think is just the history of DJing in general. Actually that’s where Djing really kind of evolved from. A lot of DJs really played a variety of music, back then in the early eighties you’d play a variety of music. I think that’s a good thing, you keep it interesting, not just one style. So I’ve kind of drawn away from putting music into a certain genre, because once you’ve put it in there you’re stuck there. You kind of want to be able to touch all genres of music and just call it music, because music is music and it’s good music. It doesn’t have to be a certain type of music to sell to a certain type of person, for a certain type of person to listen to it. It should be music and you decide what it is. If you want to call it that fine, as long as you like the record then…

DB: Another thing I noticed over the weekend is that the music has quite a unifying effect in the city, which is otherwise quite a divided place in some respects.

NT: Well I think it’s true, yeah sure, I think Detroit has a lot of people that have been working together for a long period of time. I think in full circle a lot of that is going to come to the forefront because a lot of the DJs and things in this city have been working together for over 20 years. Eventually it’s all going to come together because we’ve been knowing each other since high school or before. Essentially it’s all going to come back to the forefront I think and that’s a good thing.

DB: So you’re also optimistic?

NT: Sure, very, there’s a lot of good music coming out of Detroit in the near future.

DB: Is there anything else you want to add or comment on?

NT: What I want to add to it is that we’re doing it in full circle like what we were saying. We’re doing on a Sunday night all Detroit music, all night, all Detroit artists and it’s a really a good vibe. We have all the artists and we play their music and they get a chance to really hear music played at a party, which is a good party all in one night, which is a positive thing. And it gives you a shot in the arm as far as if you’re making music and you might not feel like people are really playing your music. Now you really get the chance to come down to a good party and hear some good music and you can hear your music played to a crowd, get a good crowd response off of that music, so it’s a positive thing. And it’s advertising and promotion for you too because now when everybody points at you and says, “hey that’s his record right there,” or “hey he made that, where can I get that from?” …..Record Time, Vibes music, Melodies…. So now that gives you a promotional avenue as well to come out, even promote your music. You can say “hey, I got a record that’s coming out, can you play it?”. You see that’s what usually ends up happening as well, you get a lot of newer music because people will bring you down a CD and say, “hey, I’m working on this record, you should tell me what you think, pop it in and take a listen to it, can you fit it in there? Cool, OK play it.” Now it gets a good crowd response he’s going to go back and say, “I got to put that record out because you know we were at the party, that shit rocked, I want to put this record out.” So that gave him the wherewithal to do that, where normally he may just have been sitting in his car listening to his track over and over again, he may have never really jumped on it or do anything that he really wanted to do, but that’ll give you a shot in the arm to do it. That’s what we really want to gain from that, give the Detroit artists some exposure in Detroit, in their own hometown.

DB: Do you have any plans for Europe?

NT: Well I’m looking forward to it (laughs), well maybe we could have this guy speak about our plans in Europe (laughs and indicates Guy McCreery)…. well I’m waiting for my call. (laughs), should I put my telephone number and email address? (laughs)

DB: Oh, and can I get you to introduce yourself, I know this should normally come at the beginning…

NT: Norm Talley, DJ producer, born and raised in Detroit, born at Kirkwood General.

Delano Smith: That place is now tore down!

NT: Yes, it’s tore down, yeah sure, yes. I’ve been spinnng over twenty years in the metro Detroit area, you know from here to there. Some overseas stuff, you know, Switzerland, Paris, London, er not London, Italy…. but I’m still waiting on London. I’ve had some state wide travel, some international travel, had some good parties and looking forward to doing some more.

DB: Thanks very much. Now Delano, can I get you to introduce yourself?

DS: I’m Delano Smith, born and raised Detroit Michigan, started DJing about 1978, I’m like the old dog of the crew

NT: Uncle D!

DS: Yeah that’s right! (laughs), I’m like the Grandfather of it all, I mean not of it all, but of the crew.

DB: You’ve been doing this for quite some time….

DS: Right yeah, well I was actually a witness to the inception of it all. Back in like 1977 I saw Ken Collier play at the Rathskeller, that was the first time I ever saw a DJ mix two records together. And that was during the time that disco music was just everywhere, it was just disco fever everywhere and that really kinda inspired me to actually be a DJ. I’m like: “I wanna do THAT!” (laughs) “That’s what I wanna do!’

And the way he mixed the records together, and even back then Ken Collier was the ….and I noticed as a kid, I was what fourteen, I was fifteen….even then I could notice the quality of the sound system and the way he programmed his music and everything, it was nothing that anybody there had ever seen. It was a high school club that actually gave the party there. Their name was ‘Pierre La France’. It was at the Rathskeller of U of D [University of Detroit], and I think that was the straight crowd’s introduction to any type of progressive music, because we were listening to as kids coming up Earth Wind & Fire and The Ohio Players and you know, Brass Construction, stuff like that, all the old soul funk stuff which was really good stuff and I think disco was inspired by that music even. When I first heard Ken Collier I think everybody that was in the place, that was their first time experiencing it too and we were like between…back then I was fifteen, I was in the ninth grade so I was partying with seniors in High School and probably people two or three years after that. That’s when the GQ era hit, when the…. The first year that everybody cut off their big ‘fros and with the straight leg jeans and stuff like that, it was that year that set this whole thing off, it really was. When the disco music hit and that beat, that driving beat hit and everything…

NT: High top fades….

DS: …Oh and that bass…that’s what really set this whole thing off. And all of us, Norm, Mike, Derrick, Kevin, Theo, Kenny, Darryl Shannon, all the Detroit legends, Dwayne Montgomery, Duane Bradley, all those guys, Stacy Hale, Al Ester, all those guys were inspired by Ken Collier. I don’t care what nobody tells you, this music, if it hadn’t been for Ken Collier it would be totally different scene than it is now. Actually that music was on the gay scene like back in the early seventies, it was called Loft music and Ken drew his inspiration from somebody else! Back in…. you know the pre-Ken Collier, that’s the guy that I want to find out who that was and what kind of music was he playing that inspired DJs to play disco music and you know stuff like that. That’s what I want to get to, that guy there that was in 74, 73, that’s the guy that really set this off because he inspired Ken, and from Ken spawned all of us in Detroit.

NT: And Ken is passed yet.

DS: Yeah, Ken Collier, he recently passed…well not recently but he passed back in the nineties, you know rest in peace. We all loved Ken Collier, we all loved him…

NT: A good guy.

DS: He helped us all, Mike, Norm, everybody…

NT: I bought my old record collection from him.

DS: He helped us all, that’s were we all drew our inspiration from, that’s Ken Collier.

Delano Smith (playing), Ken Collier and friends, early 80s.

DB: So when Ken Collier started doing his thing, how did people respond initially?

DS: Well Ken Collier was actually, he was um…. well he played on the gay circuit and it wasn’t until that Pierre Lafrance party I mentioned earlier when straight people started to get a whiff of this music and mixing and stuff like that. And that’s how it all came about, when it got to the straight people and they learned the technology of the turntable and the mixer thing and we had record stores here that were selling disco twelve inches and stuff like that, there was Detroit Audio, Professional records….

NT: Byrite

DS: No no, this was pre-Byrite, that store on Fenkel…

NT: Kendricks Records

DS: Ah Kendricks Records, all those stores were selling these disco twelve inches. And you know even as a youngster, you know fifteen years old catching a bus to Professional Records on 7 Mile to buy these twelve inches. I had a record player, not a turntable but a record player, that we would play these records on with the two little speakers with the wires coming out. Old school, didn’t know what a mixer was. Then we started buying, and when I was in the eleventh grade that’s when my buddy bought a mixer and we just started mixing all that stuff together, well trying to learn how to mix it all together.

DB: When did you first start spinning in public?

DS: In public I was in the eleventh grade, I was in the high school social club, actually in two high school social clubs, and we gave parties, we rented out halls and we gave parties and we used to DJ at those parties ourselves. But we would call Ken Collier, he’d cost us an arm and a leg, but we’d call him and he’d come in and play with us and that’s how we actually got started. We were kids, I was sixteen when I first played in front of people, these were all high school kids, I was probably horrible you know, but that’s when we started actually playing out, this was ’78 and we started playing music. And then the New Wave era hit and that’s a whole other story….

DB: What kind of music were you playing? Obviously you were playing disco…

DS: Well we were playing disco music back then, disco music and progressive R&B, like the Brass Construction, things of that nature, but primarily we were playing disco…. disco music when we first started. When everybody first started, well I know when I first started playing I was playing disco music, the most hard to mix shit ever! (laughs) Pre drum machine!

NT: Pre-sync, Pre-midi.

DS: Right, pre-midi yeah. We played a lot of Giorgio Moroder, Cerrone, Suzi Lane, you know Sylvester, all that kind of stuff, that’s what we rolled.

DB: Shortly after that the electro and techno stuff came though, with Juan’s stuff, how did that impact on you?

DS: I really… even at techno’s inception, I really didn’t feel it until Derrick’s Strings Of Life. The Juan stuff, though I have great respect for Juan and everything, that’s really not my style of music you know. I can respect it for what it’s done for techno but that really wasn’t my taste ever so I really didn’t embrace techno.

DB: So at that point what route did you follow?

DS: At that point, really when techno hit I was kind of on the last stand of the…. it was about ’82, right when house first broke. I’d been playing since I was a kid, and all the way up until I was twenty or twenty one. When house first broke was when I got out of it. I went to school, got a job and stuff like that, because I had been in the game for so long. After I got out everybody I knew was a DJ! It was kind of hard to make money because for so long it was just me and two other guys who were the only DJs mixing in clubs and at parties. Then everybody started sprouting up and everybody had mad skills and different styles and everything and that’s when I got out of it and I didn’t re-emerge until the late nineties. That’s when I got back on the scene.

DB: What inspired that?

DS: Well when I got back from school and after I had been working for so long and I hadn’t you know… I went over to a buddy of mine’s house and he remembered me from back in the day, we were childhood friends, came to a lot of parties I did when we were kids. You know I guess that inspired him to buy some turntables and the music. He had been over in Germany, in the service, you know in the armed forces and he was over in Germany and they were playing a lot of the house stuff over there and that inspired him. So when he got out of the service he bought some turntables and everything and we were at his house, you know just drinking and getting buzz whatever and we went into his basement he had some turntables down there. I’m like, “Man I haven’t seen these in years,” and I touched it and it was over! I touched it that one time, I’m like, “give me two records man,” I touched it and man it was like…. and I tell you I didn’t miss a beat, it was right on! Because you know I was always… I could, you know I’m not trying to brag or anything, but I could really mix when I was younger, beat match, beats cancelling you know, tight, when I was kid. And I did that on belt drive turntables, pre 1200s, on belt drive turntables, on B1s! The Technics SL b1….

NT: It was a whole other story with those.

DS: Exactly, and before I got out I played at…. man, one of the hottest teenage clubs in Detroit was ‘L’Uomo’, was called ‘Club L’Uomo’, I started on the one in Six Mile Road in Detroit, then it moved to the Eastside and I started playing there on Saturday nights. I played there for two years and I think that’s what really rose my popularity as far as progressive music went. Then when I got out my name still kind of stayed out there, so when I got back in people who were in the game then or younger still remembered me from back then and everything. So thank god I still had the respect of a lot of the players that were in the game back then and I just got back on again. And these guys here inspired me to make tracks and here I am. (laughs)

DB: What’s your take on the scene at the moment?

DS: Well at first I thought we were kind of dying out because back then for Black people in Detroit there was no really true house outlet here.

DB: What is ‘true’ house?

DS: Well prior to…and I have to give a lot of respect to a guy named Bruce Bailey, he did these things over at this club called ‘246’ back in the Nineties and I think that’s kind of what really kept house alive. Then Norm would do some things over in Livernois and it kind of kept it alive. But you know now with deep house it’s a different story here in Detroit. You had to be raised in it when you were younger because we’re not getting the new kids now. The new kids they’re gone to hip hop and they ain’t coming over here! You had to be raised in it. And the people that were back then, they still remember us from back then, and with our Sunday nights we’ve gained a huge following. But it all stems from the history all of us have in the game, from way back in the, you know, late eighties, early nineties. I mean all of us have different…. we’ve contributed differently to the game, we all of us contributed differently to it. I was like one of the first ones, and Norm has been beating them down perfectly, you understand what I’m saying! We had a couple of radio shows here, Theresa Hill, yeah the mix shows had a lot of say in it. But it’s like Detroit…. really the main stream stations don’t really…well we have one station that supports it now but it’s like… shit, fucking three in the morning man, who’s going to on a Saturday night…. I mean a lot of people forget that it’s on, I know I do. We really don’t have the support from the radio like we should. If we had that support form the radio we’d be…

NT: Because that’s where it came from for us….

DS: Exactly, right….

NT: Hearing it on the radio….

DS: Hearing it on the radio and maybe that will inspire some kids that want to hear something else other than hip hop. We got to introduce them to something, but these programme directors they don’t want to let it happen.

DB: That was actually going to be my next question, do you aspire to reach a younger audience, aside from the people that have come up with you?

DS: Well no, I’m trying to reach the people that’s in it now because… well I would like to, if I could actually sit down with a programme director and say, “Hey look man, this music is happening you know, and it has feeling and emotion behind it, it’s not about disrespecting anybody or anything, it’s all about love and emotion and feeling.” And that’s what it is, that emotion and everything comes from progression in the music, there’s all different kinds of house, gospel, deep house, you know, everything. And there’s a lot of different styles of house music that young people can aspire to, produce or you know DJ or listen to. It’s just a different animal from hip hop.

DB: But they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive, people that like hip hop can also like…

DS: Yeah, don’t get me wrong, I like hip hop too, believe me. But when the stations here just play the same record every hour with nothing else, I mean with nothing else…. Detroit radio, it’s like Monday through Friday it’s hip hop, then it’s old school and love songs at night, that’s it! But we have 107.5, you know they do Jazz and they do a lot of the classic good stuff too that’s really good, that you can categorise as some lounge shit, you know what I mean. We beat it where we at, we riding in the car we still beat that kind of stuff down but the radio here is not letting it out man.

NT: That has a lot to do with why the younger generation have all went to hip hop.

DS: Exactly.

NT: Because you can only go for what you know.

DS: That’s right.

NT: If you don’t know it how can you go forward.

DS: Exactly, if you don’t know nothing else and they keep feeding you…like, give them an analogy Norm.

(Everyone Laughs)

NT: Sure: if all you get is hamburger you never know how a hot dog tastes!

DS: That’s right, keep getting hamburger, they giving you hamburger, hamburger, hamburger….

NT:…hamburger, hamburger, you never gonna know what a hot dog tastes like, ‘til you taste one, then you might come back and say, “Hey, I don’t wanna hamburger, I want a hot dog.”

DS: Right, exactly….. (laughs)

NT: It’s on of my fortes. (laughs)

DS: Norm is the King of analogies, I’m telling you for real!

DB: In the future what are your hopes?

DS: In the future I would hope to….. I would like to broaden my production skills. I would like to make really good music, really good dance music, really good abstract pieces, really good jazz music with professional people. High production quality you know. I’m aspiring to that now, I’m getting there but I just don’t have the money to do it like I really want to. But we all know what we’re striving to do, you know what I’m saying. We’re going to get there very soon, we’re almost there now, we just need to add that element too, our production you know. We’re fortunate in that with us being DJs and the crowd that we play for, they’re very educated and the music that we play they have a keen ear for everything. For every mix, for every beat, for every song, for everything. They are educated to the…. you just don’t understand!

NT: To the sample in the background…

DS: That’s right, we have fine conoisseurs of house music that we get every week. They know what’s happening and we try to bring them something every week. And the music is so good now, everybody is producing really good tracks and you’re able to hit them with everything. It’s really a good time right now and I’m just sad that a lot of the house heads we’re all getting older, like I’m old as Mummidus (sp?) and I just hope that I can be around to witness when it really hits, so I can see it. Like I saw it at its inception, I would like to see it when it rises again, you know what I mean?

DB: OK, thanks very much.


Dan Bean


Mike Clark’s chart:
The Four Tops – Still Waters (Motown)
The O’Jays – Message In Our Music (Philadelphia International)
The Jeff Lorber Fusion – Galaxian (Arista)
Angie Bofill - Under The Moon And Over The Sky (GRP)
Al Jarreau – Alonzo (Warner Bros)
Q – The Voice Of Q (PRT Records)
Carol Williams - Can’t Get Away (From Your Love) (Vanguard)
Mahogany - My Chance To Dance (Mahogany)
The Soulful Strings – Burning Spear (Cadet)
The Quick – Zulu (Pavillion)

Norm Talley’s 78 - 83 chart
Heavy Hitter - Barbara Norris (Nelwin Records)
Sing Sing - Gaz (Salsoul)
Feed The Flame - Lorraine Johnson (Prelude)
Dying To Be Dancing - Empress (Prelude)
Bourgie Bourgie - Gladys Knight And The Pips (Columbia)
When You Wake Up Tomorrow - Candi Staton (Warner Brothers)
Midnight Lady - Cerrone (Cotillion)
Why Leave Us Alone - Five Special (Elektra)
Deputy Of Love - Don Armandos (Ze Records)
Wheel Me Out - Was Not Was - (Ze Records)

Norm Talley’s 83 - 84 chart
Give it Up For Love - Tata Vega (Motown)
Brother’s Gonna Work It Out - Willie Hutch (Motown)
Computer Games - Yellow Magic Orchestra (Horizon)
Love Injection - Trussel (Elektra)
Beyond The Clouds - Quartz (TK Disco)
The Music’s Got Me - Visual (Prelude)
Weekend - Phreek (Cotillion)
Express Yourself - New York Community Choir (Polygram)
Keep Giving Me Love - D-Train (Prelude)
Thanks To You - Sinnamon (Beckett)

Delano Smith’s Chart
Disco Circus - Martin Circus (Prelude)
Don’t Make Me Wait - NYC Peech Boys (West End)
Let No Man Put Asunder - First Choice (Salsoul)
You Don’t Know - Serious Intention (Easy Street)
Use Me Lose Me - Paul Simpson Connection (Streetwise)
Sharevari - A Number Of Names (Quality)
Catch The Rhythm - Caress (RFC)
Moody - ESG (99)
I’m Caught Up (In A One Night Love Affair) - Inner Life (Prelude)
Help Is On The Way - Whatnauts (Harlem International)


Reader Comments (4)

Great article! Love the charts. Thanks so much!

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Gday from down under (australia). Love your werk guys, V intresting to red about this stuff. Dont stop rockin.

October 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpwe

Mad Respect!!!

In the late 1970's the original Lumo's was located on 7 Mile and John R. in-between the train underpass and right before (going west on 7 Mile) John R. The building itself, sits off the street and there were stairs leading up to the front entrance, the stairs are still there. Every weekend I would ride my bike in the summer time from Conant Ave and 7 Mile to hear the music and watch the people going in 1978 and 1979. On the weekends my moms would drive us up to Detroit Audio at Belmont Shopping Center and would pick out all the would get all the latest disco 12 inch records they used to let you listen to records on the turntable in the back. Anyway, I would see people lined up on 7 Mile waiting to go up and a lot of cars in the area. The front of the building had, if my memory serves me correctly, white letters trimmed in an orange-ish color, the building itself, was painted black or a gray. In those days, Lumo's was an underground black disco club I remember hearing Brain Storm's "Lovin' Is Really My Game" blasting from the inside in the summer time. I think it opened in 1977 or 1978 and on any given Friday or Saturday night's in the late 1970's you would hear nothing but loud thumping disco from the inside and people lined up waiting to go inside. Me being a shorty, I was to young to go inside and would always dream of going to a disco. In the early 1980's Lumo's ran into troubles that...let's just say forced the club to close. As disco clubs were becoming a thing of the past, the early rap culture was beginning to root and the original Lumo's tried to embrace that change. It didn't work out, people started to get robbed in the surrounding area's of the club and people were getting shot not to mention the trash. Plus Aruba Palace across the street...that's another topic. And the next thing I know Lumo's was closed. I recall seeing and hearing Tee Scott was going to be DJ their I remember hearing it on the radio on 107.5 WGPR, my cousin talked about the night as if it was his best night in his life.

I vaguely remember the 6 Mile location and I do somewhat recall hearing about this location.

August 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAkidfromDetroit

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