It the world of music it’s not difficult to name some of the most influential recording artists of the last century. Miles Davis and Charlie Parker defined a style of Jazz that has continued to flourish and influences many artists in genres other than Jazz today. Elvis Presley is widely regarded as the person who gave the world Rock n Roll and Bob Dylan is cited by every songwriter who has emerged over the last fifty years. But they all had help getting there.
Where would The Beatles have been without Brian Epstein? Where would The Rolling Stones have ended up with Andrew Loog Oldham? The musical map of the last century could have been so different if it wasn’t for the people behind the super groups and singers, and they doesn’t end with managers and promoters. The unsung heroes for many are the DJs who played the music. Early use of DJ equipment brought the news sounds into peoples homes and individual styles and techniques created a following that the music industry was happy to exploit.
Those early DJs with their basic DJ equipment of turntable, transmitter and record collection and the shows that they produced were often the only way some artists could get heard. As with any new sounds, even today, people were reluctant to take a chance on an unknown and so people like Elvis Presely, Johnny Cash and BB King found it difficult to get airplay. There were however a few innovators who saw something special in the new sounds.
Alan Freed – Without Alan Freed, or Moondog, as he was also known we might not have the term ‘Rock n Roll’ in our vocabulary. He coined the phrase on his radio show in 1950’s and is also credited as playing records by many of the artists who are household names today. With only rudimentary DJ equipment and a collection of rhythm and blues, country and Jazz records he gained a large following among the youth of America. He is also credited with one of the first people to promote integration amongst ethnics groups through music.
Wolfman Jack – Robert Weston Smith was a big fan of Alan Freed’s radio shows and followed in his footsteps as a DJ playing the latest pop and rock songs. He move from station to station gathering an ever greater following each time. In 1962 he moved to XERB-AM which gave him the opportunity to work with some of the latest high powered DJ equipment. The station’s signal was so powerful it could be picked up across much of the USA.
Casey Kasem – There are many reasons to thank Casey Kasem when it comes to pop music. During his time as a disc jockey in San Francisco he acquired a wealth of knowledge and trivia on music and musicians and used that to great effect on his shows. He developed the idea of a top 40 music programme and was not only a pioneer of DJ equipment but also VJ equipment. His face was known to millions os music fans long before the arrival of MTV.
Superstar DJs – Although there are avenues for all sorts of music today the role of the DJ is still an important one. People like Fatboy Slim and The Chemical Brothers use the latest DJ equipment to showcase the latest tunes but have also become artists in their own right with their innovative use of techniques like sampling and mixing to create new version so other peoples songs.
Find out more about DJ Equipment and DJ techniques.