View Full Version : Granpa DJ, Tell me about the good old days

03-08-2006, 11:14 AM
This topic idea came from a reply I posting to another question.

For those of you who worked as a mobile DJ back before CDs & MP3's became widely available; What did your mobile DJ rig consists of?

When I first got in the mobile DJ biz equipment and things where very differnet. My first experience as a DJ was working for Mike Todaro who Owned Mike's Mobile Music. Mike was one of the only 3 police officers in the small town where I live and grow up. When I first started in this biz I helped Mike set up his DJ rig & ran the show when he had to work over at the police station. Mike did all the school dances and was the only mobile DJ around back then I believe Mike was making a whopping $100 to $150 a gig. Mike's music collection consisted of all the top hits on high quality albums,45's, and 12" singles you could stored in the best Borden milk crates one could find.

Mike's state of the art DJ rig consisting of a pair of homemade speaker boxes with the best two 15 inch woofers, one 10" midrange, and 3 chrome pizos Radio Shack sold in each box, two Technic 5200 turntables with great torque and a rotary wheel for the pitch control(5200's where what the 1200's where designed from), Numark 1775 sampler mixer, tape deck, reel to reel, and 2 mail-order mono tube power amp kits. That's right TUBE Power amp Kits that you had to assemble yourself and glowed / flashed bright red when you where pumping out the tunes. The light show consisted of a couple of old busted up traffic lights that blow down during a hurricane, two strobe light, and a 20' mirror ball mounted on two knight light stands, and a strand of Christmas lights to outline the table with to really set the mood. Mike had the best sound and lighting system in all the county. It only took about 30 trips to the van to drag it all in....The young DJs today just don't know how great we all have :D

03-08-2006, 11:58 AM
After spending nearly 20 yrs. as a musician with a local top-40 show band, I stepped into DJ'ing using about 200 LPs and some 500 45rpm records, two Technics Sl-1200 turntables, a 4 channel ATUS (Audio Technics US) mixer, one QSC Series1 1700 stereo amp and a pair of EAW FR-153 speakers that weighed a ton!


03-08-2006, 12:33 PM
Back in the day.....or......I remember when...

I was using 2 Technics Sl-1200 turntables (same as Nick), a Numark 1550 Mixer (non-rackmountable) AB Systems amp (so long ago, I can't remember the model number) and a pair of EV-1502s.

The first mixed "tape" I ever made was an 8-track. What does that tell you....

03-08-2006, 12:35 PM
Just one question for you, Nick. Did you ever forget to change the speed when switching from LPs to 45's, or visa versa?

03-08-2006, 03:50 PM
My first set up in 1987.

No lights.

pvs speakers, floor with 2 15" woofers a 6" mid and 4 2" tweeters each.
2 technics 1200's
sony variable speed tape deck (home unit) in custom case
autus (audio technica) mixer
peavey cs 800 amp.

about 6 crates of records, 4 boxes of 45's and a 120 case of cassettes and unknown boxes of cassette singles.

HEAVY, bulky, and 2 cars to put all the crap into.

Miss spinning and mixing the vinyl, but don't miss any of the other stuff.

I eventually cut 1 of the 15" woofers from each custom enclosed the bottom so I could put the speakers on stands.

I still have every bit of that "old" stuff. Just to remind me of the "good ole days".

BTW I am NOT a grandpa...yet. Although their are days that I sure get up in the morning and feel like grabbing a cane!

I still believe in the OLD phrase:


03-08-2006, 03:56 PM

If you really wanted to make things confusing, I remember some of the first 12inch singles were pressed at 45rpm.

Yes, I've shown the picture 1000 times before. this is for anyone that has missed it. The picture is 1974 circa. Music source is a Akai reel to reel. Peavey PA amp and Peavey speakers are used. The box on the left with all the wires was a home made switch box for the home made light columns.

Yep, I'd say most folks today have no idea of the way it use to be.

03-08-2006, 03:58 PM
One more photo a couple of years later. Things were getting better.

03-08-2006, 04:15 PM
I remember those days . . . using home stereo gear and damn proud of it!

Here is The Music Doctor DJ system in 1986:


Bryan Durio
03-08-2006, 04:34 PM
Is that a Peavey guitar amp speaker cabinet?? I used one of those for DJing in 1977!! That and an SAE 100-watt power amp, with some sort of DJ mixer (I forget the make and model), a couple of borrowed home stereo turntables (One MM, the other MC), several of my own LP's, and a bunch of 45's borrowed from the radio station where I worked.

DJ Devino
03-08-2006, 05:27 PM
Circa 1984

2- Technics 1200s
1- Numark 1200 mixer(?)
1- Numark EQ
1- Sony variable pitch dual cassette player
1- QSC Amp 700w p/c @ 8^(?)[First Generation]
2 Cerwin Vega full range B-35s

P.S. Mr. Martin, isn't that a siren next to the mixer? I still have mine. 8)

03-08-2006, 05:42 PM
Is that a Peavey guitar amp speaker cabinet??

I used one of those for DJing in 1977!!

Yes it is . . . bought it used in 1978.

I still have it, but the woofers need to be reconed!

03-08-2006, 06:13 PM

I bought the sound system from a nightclub I worked at. Dual Stanton TT's, mixer, mike, 2 Phase Liner 750's, 2 Crown 150's for the top end, 2 sets of 4 horn clusters, 2 midrange cabinets with 16 4" speakers, and 4 Bass bins with dual 18's in each. I could barely fit all this crap in a full size van.

I will NEVER forget the first time I set this stuff up in a HS gym. I turned it all on, turned up the volume and ran my finger over the needle of one of the turntables......BOOM.

Oh yeah! The good old days.....no computers, everything weighed a ton!!


03-08-2006, 08:16 PM
Well I told you about the rig I used with Mike. When I started Tunes -N- Transit in 1989 here is the system I started with. I only has a $1200 budget to buy everything I needed because that was the amount I received as a Pail Grant for college. I had sacked enough groceries by then to pay for the college tuition but my dad had died when I was 13 and we where so poor I qualified for the pail grant so I got the money and started my DJ company. Still remember my first 12" single, Paula Abdul Opposites Attract. If memory serves me right it was one of those 12" that was pressed at 45rpm that Mr Martin mentioned above.

Anyway, here what I started with in 1989 for a whooping $1200 budget.
Sound System
1- Numark 1450 mixer(non rack mountable)
1- silver faced Radio Shack EQ
2-Technic TT (one with a rotary pitch one with no pitch both with no torque, just hold the record with one hand & push the plater with the other hand so the strobe dots stayed still and hope it doesn't run like hell when you released the record.)
1-Radio Shack cassette deck
1- Peavey CS 800 (Only new store bought piece of sound equipment I could afford)
2-Home made speaker boxes with one 15" Pyle Driver Source series woofers and two Radio Shack Chrome pizoe tweeters. I used my Texas Instrument TI 99-4A computer with the tape deck drive and the Radio Shack speaker building book and the spec sheet that came with the Pyle speakers to calculate the enclosure volume then used the golden rule (1.5 High X 1 Wide X .5 Deep) with some algebra to get the shape. I was a Math geek back then.

The Light Show was bought new from Brent Green at High Energy Lighting (now known as Cheaplights.com) back when Brent was located in San Antonio or Austin cant remember which.

8-Par 36 pin spots
1-12" mirror ball system
Lightcraft Mobile 460 sound active light control
1-Double Derby effect light
2-Mini Strobes
2-Knight 13ft light stands connected together with a 10ft antenna pole pained black as a truss with the pin spots, mirror ball and double derby all mounted to it.

Music Collection
Along with the old music Mike sold me that he had pulled from his collection when he bought a new greatest hits of the same artist my music collection was scavenged and put together in two weeks by hitting every Goodwill, garage sale, Salvation Army, and thrift store I could locate. Mike helped me get my first gig that paid $150 for 4 hours at Tubby's Ice House in La Marque, Texas.

4-Milk Crates full of albums and 12" singles
2- plastic baskets full of 45" I got from Mike

I hauled all this great gear around in my mothers turd brown 1979 Ford LTD Station Wagon. That old car leaked oil so bad that some of my first repeat clients used to have me a bag of "Absorb All" waiting for me after I finished playing their parties to clean the oil off their driveways.
I had no money left to buy a dolly so I had to carry everything by hand to and from the car. I grossed just over $9000 that year playing music and reinvested every dime of it back into the biz. For a 19 year old kid making $3.35 an hour sacking groceries to support himself and his widow mom $9000 was BIG MONEY. I used my second semester pail grant check to buy my 1200's and a used cargo van then dropped out of college to DJ full time. Since starting Tunes -N- Transit back in 1989 I have grossed as much as $99,000 in one year but normally around $80K per year.

For those young DJs... DON'T DROP OUT OF COLLEGE!!! :evil: Yes, being self employed can be very rewarding but don't let anyone confuse you. To earn a decent living being self employed it is very hard work consisting of long hours with no sleep :sleeping: , years of dedication, financial risk :puppydogeyes: , a lot of luck, and the understanding that your personal life will often be second to your business. This is a hard business for a married person with children as most of the kids events are the same time as the events we play. You have to love the business more than anything. :D Almost anything that is, Love Ya Honey! :x

03-08-2006, 08:32 PM
I got 2 Turntables and a Microphone....Actually, my first DJ setup was 2 Radio Shack Direct Drive/Pitch control turntables, a Radio Shack mixer, a Carver PM-175 Amp, 2 Technics Speakers, and 2 unknown brand speakers I bought at Circuit City (I don't have pictures of this setup). My light show was all mounted on PVC, with tons of extension cords.

I used to lug around about 4-5 crates of 12" records. I still have all my vinyl (about 3000 pieces) in my garage. This consists of 12", Ultimix, Razormaid, Mixx-It, Prime Cuts, and many other obscure imports.


Here is my console circa 1988-1989, with Technics 1200's, Crown PB-1, Gemini Mixer, and the Onkyo receiver for my 'monitor' speaker. I was robbed in '88 after moving and lost my amp and speakers in the theft.


03-08-2006, 08:42 PM
For those young DJs... DON'T DROP OUT OF COLLEGE!!!

At least...do NOT drop out until you've taken some accounting, marketing, and business classes!!! I wish I had known more about these aspects of my 'business' instead of just knowing music, mixing, programming, lighting, electrical knowledge, etc.


03-08-2006, 09:57 PM
Copied straight from the last thread on this topic...

OK, we're going WAY back to the 70's here but my first setup consisted of an amp, speakers and turntables from Lafayette Radio (any of you other dinosaurs remember that chain?) and a "pro" Pioneer mixer from Sam Goody's. I still have that mixer as the Smithsonian didn't want it. We later upgraded to a Dynaco Stereo 400 amp and CV cabinets from Cintiolli's Music in Philadelphia. After a 15+ year hiatus from DJ'ing, round two started with a RS mixer which still works flawlessly after 10 years and a pair of discmen which were quickly replaced by my first real CD deck, a Numark CDN22. The business end was a RS amp and Gemini speakers, all long retired. Numark, Rane, EV, CV and QSC round out things today. Lighting back in the day was a few coffee can floodlights and some ropelights.

03-09-2006, 07:47 AM
We had a Lafayette Radio store in my hometown of Jackson, Michigan!

I think it is still there . . . but under another name.

Bought a lot of stuff there!

Here is that same shot again:


Here is another angle of the same system:


Since I took the photo, I am not in it . . . that is my former partner George!

I've never owned a Technics 1200 turntable . . . but managed OK with other brands!

That box in the lower left hand corner of the photo is the light controler box . . .

Got it at a hamfest in Cinicinatti or Cleveland, Ohio . . . was originally from NASA, we were told!

For 1985, that light show was pretty high tech, even though it was all home made out of 12-volt emergency lights!

And, since the light show was 12-volts, it had a very low power draw and could strobe colors faster than a zenon tube!

Very versatile light show . . . even though it was big and bulky!

The lights moved back and forth . . . thanks to a windshield wiper motor mounted on each tree!

Those lights are still floating around in southern Michigan . . .

By the way . . . that table that the turntables are sitting on is the same table I still use today when I set up my racks!

03-09-2006, 08:12 AM
This will be a fun topic to reply to once there's an opportunity to research the photographic archives next week when it's back to reality after a week in Vegas and our two week Caribbean cruise.

It can be mentioned at this point that my engineering position with GE in the late 70's - early 80's was lucrative for that particular time and after several months of investigating and learning what would be the logical purchases for a potential long term career (no consideration was being given for going full time back then), the business launch was with the best available at the the time. That meant that vinyl was not the wisest media to use even though everybody else was. Tape players were evolving rapidly (music search and direct drive high speed spindles) so that was the choice. Making it function for a DJ application was a challenge that was met head-on successfully, to the point where it was possible to challenge any audience that any Top 40 song from any era could be played in 60 seconds or less via tape, or they'd be awarded a free drink.

Looking forward to digging up the old pictures and more so, reading subsequent posts from the "blue hairs" of pioneer DJ world.

03-11-2006, 03:27 PM
Back in the day.....or......I remember when...

I was using 2 Technics Sl-1200 turntables (same as Nick), a Numark 1550 Mixer (non-rackmountable) AB Systems amp (so long ago, I can't remember the model number) and a pair of EV-1502s.

The first mixed "tape" I ever made was an 8-track. What does that tell you....

What's an 8-track? ;)

03-12-2006, 07:53 AM
What's an 8-track? ;)

Isn't it a race track for horses or dogs? :lol:

That Music Guy
03-13-2006, 10:23 AM
1985, 1989......Let's go back to the good ole' 70's.
My brother and I were 16....For our first gig we rented a pair of Shure columns..they were grey, had 4 or 5, 6 inch woofers and a horn at the top (I guess the precursor to line array systems of today). We typically got a Traynor mixer amp. Into that I ran a Radio Shack mixer and a Radio Shack omni-directional mic. We ran two turntables; a Lloyds and an Audio Technica (both home models). We had to run them into Radio Shack pre-amps. We rigged up a switch box to cue, yoy simply shut the switch off, cued and when ready to go, flicked the swich (again Radio Shack). I believe it took about a turn and a third to get up to speed. We rented all the big brands, Peavey was making columns back then as well. Big time was when we purchased 2 Earth Sound Research Speakers. These were massive.....two 12's, with a mid horn and 2 piezo electric tweeters. Crossovers then were just a rheostat knob. Supplemented that with two homemade boxes containing 6 more piezo tweeter for that xtra high.....and bought a Traynor mixer amp. Lugged ..like 1000 45's and 5 crates of LP's to each and every gig.
The light show was all homemade...2 gutted out column boxes contained 12 coloured floods, all switch (house switch) activated ......one guy would do that. We got really brave (stupid) one year..rigged up a "keyboard"; metal strips, in the electrical line that when depressed (like a key on a piano) would contact a bolt below, completing the circuit. That didn't last long...(come to think of it, neither did the light guy). Took Xmas tree lights, through peg board and made "star" patterns..they were 6 x 6..had several of those....just like the discos, the obligatory strobes and some police lights.We even tried to make a mirror ball...looked good, but weighed about 80lbs.....Had a Dodge Maxivan to lug it all around.....
Made $150 buck a gig, which, when you compare it to today, probably equates to a crapload...at least for a 16 year old. And no RIAA to worry about.......
Great topic!!

03-14-2006, 09:24 PM
Started out in 1983 using a mixer from the "Shack", a pair of modified (installed a switch to cut the motor on and off) belt drive turntables w/ pitch controls, a pair of home brewed speakers ( 2 10" pyle driver woofers and 3 Piezo horns in each) and a Peavey M2600 amp (was 130 watts per side). Had several boxes of 45's and 10 crates of 12" vinal including the remixes that were pressed at 45rpm. Eventually got a pair of used Technics 1200's and a Numark mixer.
That system evolved into better speakers (EV 15" 400watts),a crest CA-9 amp, a Rane mixer and denon dual cd player in later years.
I also used homemade lighting rigs up till the late 80's when that stuff was replaced by much better equipment. 8)
All that stuff was toted around in a chevy station waggon.