Ray "Pinky" Velazquez was actually born Ramon Joseph Velazquez in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
Ray explains to me [Discoguy]; "I was born 'Ramon' and Ramon is a Spanish name, the Spanish
translation to English is 'Ray'. So here in the States I have always been known as Ray, but when talking with primarily
Spanish people, they usually call me Ramon and the spanish only speaking family members call me Ramon. Mom, though she only
speaks Spanish is the exception. She calls me 'Pinky'."
Ray was brought up in a very musical family and his mother, Gloria Colon Velazquez, was a celebrated vocalist who
regularly performed on Puerto Rican radio throughout the 40ís, while his father, Ray Sr., was a very skilled
Spanish guitarist and has been invited to participate in Spanish movies to play his guitar.
In 1956, when Ray was just one year old, the family moved to the US and settled down in Spanish Harlem, "El Barrio", of New
York City. It was Ray's parents who made the decision to move to the US in order to try to find work and provide a home,
but also so Ray's mother could be with her three sisters - Lydia Arce, Estrella Saville and Esther Torres
and even her mother, Paula Villanueva who lived in the lower east side of Manhattan.
Ray, how did you get the name - "Pinky"?
"'Pinky' was a name that I got in the third grade. The tallest guy in the class was called Eric Arzola.
I was the shortest guy in the class and just to make fun of me, he would call me 'Pinky' and, you know, it started catching
on in the class room and then some of the students would come home after school and at home those class mates of mine would
start calling me 'Pinky' and eventually my mother started calling me 'Pinky' and then my father and so on... I guess 'Pinky'
came from the fact that the pinky finger is the shortest finger on the hand and I was the shortest guy in the class so...
that's where the 'Pinky' name came from and it became catchy and I used it music and it worked well for me."
During his youngster years, Ray was exposed to all the different styles of music that was evolving and was popular in the
Metropolitan New York. He listened to everything, from the Classical music his father played, to Soul, Pop, Rock and R'n'B,
all the music that was popular and played on the radio. He especially liked the Motown Sound with nice piano line
rhythms, something that has been dear to him throughout his career. He loves the sound of the piano.
In addition, Ray has always had a good ear from music and he remembers; "Back when I was about five years old I remember
listening to the Beatles. I remember when they first came out with their single on Capitol Records 'I Want To
Hold Your Hand'. I remember there was a little guitar lick, in the record between choruses and I'll try sing it to you...
[start singing] 'Oh please say to me --- [One guitar hit for emphasis occurs here] di-di di-di dam di-dim oh let
me be your man'. Well that little tiny guitar hit, I could hear it very clearly at age five, my brother that's actually
younger than me, I would ask him if he could hear that guitar lick, but he couldn't hear it! As I had the actual 45, I would
play the record over and over again until he could finally hopefully hear that guitar lick that I was mentioning. And he
could never hear that guitar lick - I would get very upset over the fact that he could not hear this lick and it was so
loud and clear to me. I started noticing over time that I had this ear for picking out details in records and I guess that's
the start of me noticing that I had some type of an ear for music in general."
So, how come you started DJ'ing? Was it your ear for music that made you realize DJ'ing was something you
wanted to do, or did it just happen by chance?
"Well, as far as my ear for music leading into a DJ career, obviously at age five that was not gonna happen, but as I got
older, into the 1960's, I got into listening to Latin Salsa recordings on the Fania label. Artists like Ray
Baretto, Larry Harlow, Johnny Patcheco, Eddie & Charlie
Palmeri, Willie Colon and so on... I started liking Salsa, basically because I grew up in a
Spanish area of the city - Spanish Harlem - and you would hear a lot of Salsa, which is the street music of the Spanish
speaking community just as Rap music is the music of the Ghetto areas. Either on the streets, on cassette players, on the
radio, I became fully absorbed in this Salsa music.
The lyrics were funny or seriously relating to specific issues that related to the latino community. The messages were
personal that only latinos directly related to even though the music had universal overtones to any music appreciator.
Eventually as I got older the arena of the discotheque became a curiosity to me. There were underground Clubs forming in
New York City in the beginning and eventually I started collecting 45 records that had a dance flavor to them. The dress
codes were relating to the 40's and 50's that I liked and some of this Club music was very Pop and very song structured
with dance rhythms. Songs like; 'Mr. Penguin' by Lunar Funk on Bell records, 'Beware Of The
Stranger' and 'Dance To The Music' both by The Hypnotics on Warner Reprise Records, 'Ride Sally Ride' by
Denis Coffey for Sussex Records, 'Listen to Me' by Baby Huey, 'In The Jungle'
by Black Heat, 'Melting Pot' by Booker T & the MG's, 'What's Going On' by El Chicano,
'Life And Death In G&A' by the Abaco Dream on A&M Records and 'Honky Tonk Popcorn' by
Bill Dogett on the King label.
Most songs were either 45 rpm records or LP cuts. There were no 12-inch singles at this time. This was the early beginning
of Dance music or Disco - the early creation stages, chemistry in process, of what would be an incredible evolution to
follow. This was early 70's - pre-Disco - or even the late 60's.
My first interest in DJ'ing was when a couple of friends had been going to these underground Clubs and would come back and
informing me about the music, the equipment, the turntables that were being used in the Clubs, the 45's that these DJ's
played by collecting two copies of one song on 45 rpm and playing them back-to-back and extending the original versions of
these songs. I became very curious about that and I started going to some of these clubs just to listen to the music. I
would hearing things like James Brown's 'Give It Up & Turn It Loose', 'Stoned out of my Mind' by
Lionel Hampton, 'Brothers Gonna Work It Out' by Willie Hutch, things of that nature
and I became very curious about this new world of Dance...
Eventually what happened was when I was a student at City College in New York City [CCNY] and in 1969 I got my first
job DJ'ing for a Latin Club I belonged to in the College. The Latin Club was called 'Latinos Unidos', which means United
Latins and they had parties every once in a while and I was the DJ for their parties in their large Grand Ballroom that
would hold 700-800 students at capacity.
Here I was given an opportunity to spin at a Club in the Bronx, for the first time in a real Discotheque. The Club was
called the Stardust Ballroom and was located at Boston Road. It was a huge ballroom and I got my first opportunity
to spin records for a larger audience and I was spinning both Disco and Salsa. A combination of both things, but a little
bit more of the Disco side. And from there I got my first job spinning at a Club in Manhattan, up in the 80th/82nd Street
and 2nd Avenue, the name of the Club was Court Street. It was like a bar, restaurant and Discotheque
and I played things like Gloria Gaynor's 'Honey Bee', a lot of
early Barry White, Zulema, Creative Source's 'Who Is He And What Is He To
You' and Dance things of that nature."
In 1972 you started working at the Ipanema, in 240 West 52nd St, how did you get that job?
"What happened was that my father Ray Velazquez Sr was working at a store selling audio equipment on 6th Avenue, Avenue
of the Americas, on 43rd Street. A store called Leonard Radio Inc and he was in contact with a lot of television and
radio personalities. Mitch Miller was a personal friend of dad as was Madison Square garden, New York
Knicks organist, Eddie Layton. Popular Club DJ's also visited dad at this store, including
Tom Savarese, Bobby "DJ" Guttadaro and the actual DJ of the Ipanema at that time,
called Ronald Soares. Ron was a Brazilian DJ, nice guy, thin looking guy about 5 foot 5 and very very
technically efficient behind the turntables as far as mixing abilities.
Ronnie was working seven nights a week at the Ipanema, but was really kind of 'burning himself out' working too many hours
and too many days. Besides he also had a local record store on 45th Street off Avenue of the Americas where he sold Brazilian
music to all the Brazilian people living in that area. So, he was selling a lot of Brazilian music and running the record
store and working seven nights a week at the Ipanema.
Ronnie knew my dad, because Ronnie would always go to my dad's store to buy reel-to-reel tapes for his TEAK reel-to-reel
machine at the Ipanema. Ronnie used to sell those tapes to clientele at the Ipanema. Ronnie was telling my dad he was very
tired of working seven days a week at the Ipanema. My dad mentioned to him that 'My son is, you know, a DJ. He's not working
professionally at a Club, but he is very good and people seem to like him. Maybe you'd like to talk to him? If you want to
I'll have him call you and see if he might be able to help you out, working one night a week or something like that? Then
you might not have to work seven nights a week.' Ronnie told my dad; 'Well OK! Have him call me and I'll set up an interview
where I can talk to him and maybe hear him play.' So when my dad gave me that information, I was very excited and at the
same time very nervous about the fact that, you know, we're talking about going to middle Manhattan for a big Club, very
established with its clientele and big following and so on...
Nevertheless, I called Ronnie and he had me come down to the Ipanema and I talked to him and kind of convinced him that I
had some kind of an ear and some kind of power to spin records. Ronnie gave me a little try-out of about half an hour behind
the turntables at the Ipanema during a quiet afternoon in the middle of the week. I took maybe about a hundred records with
me in a milk crate and he gave me a try-out. After 20 minutes Ronnie came to me and I thought he was actually telling me
that he wasn't going to take me. But actually he stopped me early because he was convinced that I knew how to play records.
I had a pre-programmed format when I went in there and it worked perfectly for 20 minutes anyway and he told me that he
would give me the job after a short but impressive audition. He would talk to his bosses and let me work at least Wednesday
nights, which was the slowest night of the week at the Ipanema.
I started working Wednesday nights and the two owners of the Ipanema - Roosevelt Ramos and
Carlos Wattino - also owned another sister Ipanema Club in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hired me based on
Ronnie's recommendation. Anyway because Ronnie had given me the Wednesday night, they put me on payroll and I started
working Wednesday nights and eventually over the next six months, the Wednesday nights started drawing more people than the
Thursday nights. At that time the owners asked me if I wanted to work Thursday nights also. So I said 'Sure!'. So I started
working Wednesday and Thursday nights, eventually what happened was that my Thursday nights became as good as the Friday
nights. And when that happened, the owners asked me if I wanted to work Friday night... I was beginning to feel that I was
passing into Ronnie's weekend. The main base for him was going on and I mentioned to the owners that I did not want to cause
any problems with Ronnie, the man gave me the job and he knew my father and that I didn't really want to do that unless it
was OK with Ronnie. But the owners told me; 'No, no, no Ray! This is something that we, we're the bosses here, we would like
you to do this! We're telling you that it's OK!' But I still talked to Ronnie about that and Ronnie said that 'It's OK!' and
the extra day would be a lot of rest for him and more time to work in his records store.
So, I took the job and Friday became over years time an incredible event where even before midnight they had to close the
doors for the public because it was just too crowded inside. Too many people coming in and at that point the owners asked me
if I wanted to work Saturdays as well. One thing led to another, eventually I took over most of the nights and Ronnie left
the Ipanema quietly and focused on his record store. He still worked Sunday nights, which was all Brazilian music and
eventually over time I was asked to take over that too, because on the weekends we had a large Brazilian crowd, so I started
playing Brazilian music just to make sure that that audience was satisfied with a little bit of what they were accustomed
to. I started looking into Brazilian music and I would even go to Ronnie's store and look up all the Brazilian dance stuff
and Ronnie would give me an insight on much of the Brazilian dance stuff. I started doing my own research on Brazilian
music. There was one song that I remember that I picked up as an import from Ronnie's store, a song called 'Batacuda 2000'
on RCA Records, Brazil. It was on red vinyl and it was an LP and was a great Brazilian Samba with a lot of drums, a
lot of percussion, a lot of breaks and a great Brazilian dance track. I would play that record Friday, Saturday and Sunday
nights and the Brazilian people would go crazy with that. You know, when you're a DiscJockey, you notice what people like
and what people don't like. You try to also lead people in a direction with your music and try to cover their curiosities
about music they don't know, and try to educate them at the same time and give them what they want as well. I think I got a
little bit more curious about Brazilian dance music because of the response I was getting from this 'Batacuda 2000' record
and I actually built up quite a Brazilian collection. I remember there was one other artist from Brazil that I would play a
lot - Jorges Ben - and he did a record that sounded a lot like Archie Bell and the
Drells 'Tighten Up' called 'Forca Bruta', which translates from Portuguese to English, 'Brute Force' in Brazilian
lyrics. This track was an instant floor hit for the Brazilian crowd and something that I literally picked out myself as a
test of my ability to through something new to the Brazilian dancers. This action were bold on my behalf and led to future
endeavors of always testing new and unheard of music for my audiences.
Eventually over time the Ipanema shifted from a Brazilian crowd to more of a Disco crowd, at this time I was getting more
involved with the record companies, getting a lot of free records from the local record companies in Manhattan like
Atlantic Records. I met frequently with Ronald Coles and
then Izzy Sanchez at Atlantic. I became close friends with Ray Caviano at
T.K. Records and was getting a lot of records from Ray. Ray was always a
supporter of mine. He displayed a liking to me because I had that Latino insight to the dance market that was very important
for him at T.K. I started creating a name for myself with the record companies and I was able to give a lot of record
companies insight of the records that I thought would not only be dance floor records but radio hit records as well. So
that's where my insight for this came in. And when my insight on these new pre-released tracks eventually became a national
truth I became a very special part of the chemistry behind the scenes. I could actually predict the middle of the road where
a song was both a club and radio hit."
I know you stayed at the Ipanema till around 1978 and then you switched field so to speak... From Latin,
Samba and Disco to move to Cartune Alley, which was a Rock Club!
How come? Because that's quite a difference...
"Yes, that's quite a difference. Behind what I would call 'the black door' of the Ipanema in the DJ booth I began to look
ahead into the future. There was a shift going on in the world of dance music outside of the Ipanema. Fusion was occurring.
Rock was becoming danceable. The music that was coming out of the underground Clubs in the U.K. and Germany was quite
intriguing to me. My time off was spent visiting Ed Bahlman, owner of 99 Records in the Village
in New York City, where I would hear some incredible progressive Dance Rock. Tunes like 'Moody' by ESG, 'Shoot You
Down', 'One Day', 'Rainy Day' by APB, THE THE, early Tears for Fears,
Endgames, New Order, lots of Reggae things like 'Night Nurse' by Peter Tosh,
Yellowman, 'Big Ship' by Freddie McGregor and much more. I knew there was an underground current
for Dance Rock evolving and that national radio was translating the now Disco boom into Dance oriented Rock'n'Roll led by
the Rolling Stones with 'Miss You'.
I felt Dance music was changing. There was the 'Disco Sucks!' campaign and Rock'n'Rollers didn't like Disco and it was THIS
big clash or perhaps jealousy going on as Disco was peeking with Casablanca
and T.K. Records setting the visionary tone, leading the way with all this Disco stuff and a lot of this stuff was Pop on
radio. You had the Village People on Casablanca, you had
Donna Summer and you had all these artists on T.K. Records like
Voyage, USA-European Connection, T-Connection, Peter Brown,
and I was on top of all of that and I still felt that 'Hey! It's not just Disco, this is Dance!' And Dance incorporates
Disco, it incorporates R'n'B, it incorporated a little bit of Reggae and Rock. There were Reggae artists like
Denroy Morgan, Eddy Grant and Third World that had R'n'B or
Disco hits. You know, the world of Dance, just opened up to me.
I would go to Rock Clubs and listen to Rock DJ's spin. I visited the Mudd Club, CBGB and original Madonna
producer and still good friend of mine - Mark Kamins at
Danceteria. Actually I was a guest DJ two times at Danceteria.
I would listen to Justin Strauss at the Ritz, on 13th Street in Manhattan, who played Dance Rock.
I was amazed at the music selection even though he was not technically a good DJ. That really did not matter at all. His
music selection of Rock and Reggae made Justin great. What I mean by that was that his mixing abilities, to be able to mix
beats per minute [BPM] on top of beats per minute, was not there. It was non existing. He would mix a record that was
a 110 BPM into a record that was 140 BPM and then go from a 140 BPM down to 103 BPM. And this was his format, BUT his
records were a mix of Reggae, Rock and a little bit of Disco. That got me very curious and people danced to that. Rock
audiences were not into this beats per minute thing. They were Funky and wanted variety. Motown stuff, James Brown
and music from the UK and Germany and some Disco with Rock overtones. People loved dancing to 'Rock', so I became very
curious about shifting a little bit of what I was doing into more of a Rock and Reggae flavor, even though Disco was still
pre-dominantly the scene at the Ipanema and the main drive and pulse on my Technics SL-1200 turntables.
And I started looking for records that had that kind of a flare to them. Again, like the Rolling Stones' 'Miss
You'. That's a record that I would play and kind of get away with because it had a Disco feel, even though it's Rock.
'Superman' by the Kinks, another record that I would play. I could get away with things because I believed that the
world of Dance was expanding! Basically I had always liked listening to Rock'n'Roll in my early years growing up, artists
like Elton John. When I was a little boy, my brother, Marvin, had an ear radio for Pop Rock and was
always playing that kind of music at home when I was growing up; Elton John, Electric Light Orchestra,
James Taylor, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Al
Stewart, Rod Stewart, Warren Zevon and others.
Anyway, I kind of wanted to expand and play more Rock'n'Roll and I saw that at the Ipanema I could only go so far, so my
heart started shifting more into Rock'n'Roll, Dance and a Reggae flair. Cartune Alley gave me that opportunity and even
though at Cartune Alley I would still play a lot of R'n'B, a lot of Disco, but also had the flexibility to play a lot more
Rock'n'Roll and New Wave. I even became a member of the New York Rock Pool down on Delancey
Street where Mark Fotiadas and Geffen Records A&R man - Danny Heaps, led the
Rock Pool. They let me join because I was working at a 'Rock' type of Club and was already a popular Billboard Magazine DJ
with a good reputation that could enhance the image of the Rock Pool. Nevertheless, the new Rock music was another fresh
start into something new, interesting and exciting."
Since you were a classic Disco DJ, have you got any comments on how the DJ was regarded in the beginning
and how it has changed over the years?
"Well, just like anything, there's always gonna be a lot of tension, a lot of obstacles, a lot of surprises when you
start something new along with the initial excitement. So, in comes the Disco DJ with a new fun toy of spinning records and
creating excitement for the Dance floor. I can imagine early spinners like David Mancuso at
the Loft here in New York. David had an incredible
collection though he was not a technical DJ. Technical DJ's were part of the evolutionary process. Spinners like
Walter Gibbons, Larry Levan,
Larry Patterson, Jellybean, Paul Casella,
Tee Scott, Tony Smith, Preston Powell, Eddie Rivera,
David Todd, Roy Thode and Jim Burgess,
were all technically electrifying Club spinners - they all knew how to keep the Dance floor alive with the beats per minute
chain of music and knew how to creatively play 2 songs at the same time and have the dance floor dance to both as if it was
one song, while building an emotional climax at the same time.
Mancuso at the Loft could not do this. Nor could Bacho Mangual at
Plato's Retreat. But both Mancuso and Mangual would have
more of the untapped and unheard of music that all of the best technical experts never had but craved for. They could create
the emotional euphoria with their untapped music, sound system and Club decor and loose Club environments.
Today's Club DJ's play CD's and have incredible sound systems and their music collections are current. They are not
technical maestros. The disco era had technical maestros and spinners, though not technical, had untapped and unheard of
music that would compensate for the lack of technical expertise. Creativity was part of the disco era. DJ's led their
audiences on an emotional journey, to a mental land of freedom and happiness and euphoria inspired by the attitude of the
rhythm tracks, the music and the implied lyrics. Today, DJ's just play the music with no emotional direction."
But how would you describe your DJ playing style? Would you say you had any kind of "trademarks"?
"That's a very good question. You know, when you think of the great DJ's that have been out there, you think of names
like Larry Levan, David Mancuso at the Loft, who started the first Record Pool in New York City and I was a part of that
and I would listen to guys like David Mancuso play.
David Mancuso at the Loft was not a great with technical mixing - beats per minute, but he was great selecting songs, songs
like the Mighty Clouds of Joy 'Mighty High', Deodato's 'Caravan' from the First Cuckoo LP and
Diana Ross 'Love Hangover'. I mean, he had great selection of songs. This along with the incredible
Loft sound system made a loose atmosphere and made David appear immortal in the 2nd floor DJ booth. And it didn't hurt that
he was thin and appeared to look like Jesus Christ with his hair, mustache and beard. He appeared 'Godly' behind the
turntables with all of this new music.
Larry Levan was more of a mixer and also had a great selection of R'n'B type of songs.
Davis Todd was technically excellent, mixing beats per minutes into other exact beats per minute songs. He also has a great
ear for Jazz and R&B Dance rhythms, things like Lee Oscar's 'Haunted House' and 'Feeling Happy', as well
as 'Nowhere/Cant Hide From your Love' by Hokis Pokis really intrigued me. David could take an R&B
audience, gay or straight or both, and drive the audience crazy emotionally. He was a true inspiration and a great friend
When thinking of styles, yes a lot of the great DJ's had their own signature. I mean, if you listen to tapes without
listening to the DJ you can actually pick out the DJ from the tapes even if all of the songs could be the same. At least I
could. There was a 'signature' to each DJ style like watching a movie produced by Steven Spielberg.
There is a style that Mr. Spielberg has that identifies his movies. And so this held true for the Club DJ. Audiences came to
Clubs to experience that one-of-a-kind signature. The DJ was the drug, if you will, and the audience wanted it all!
My signature I would say, was that I was able to not only play different types of music, for example at the Ipanema on
Thursday night - it was all R'n'B. I had nothing but a black crowd coming, so they would hear a lot of Teddy
Pendergrass, a lot of Michael Jackson, WAR, a lot of artists on the Philadelphia
International label and Motown. Artists like G.Q. 'Disco Nights'. Things of that nature - a lot of R'N'B.
Saturdays I had more of the Latin crowd, Sundays the Brazilian crowd, so I would mix all these things in depending on what
day and crowd I catered to being just Pinky behind the turntables.
But my signature as a Club DJ and as a Billboard DJ, besides having the capability to introduce new and unheard of music I
would say was the ability to mix technically beats per minute perfectly. I could mix two records on top of each other for
two or three minutes. Something that would lead the crowd into frenzy when I was doing that. I was often using records that
they knew from the radio mixed up with records that were unreleased and not heard of before. Imported records that takes
them on a musical journey to euphoria. And I think that's what people came back for every night. I think that was what built
up my audience, I took people on a journey through out the evening and it became a situation at the Ipanema where people
would take their shirts off, people would scream when I turned off the lights and left them screaming in total darkness, it
was a total show and I was basically an entertainer..."
No doubt that Ray was a true entertainer, just the fact of mixing two songs together for some two-three minutes, that really
demands that you're fully on top of things to keep a steady beat running throughout such a long time. Keep in mind that an
average mix might last for some 20-30 seconds. So what Ray did Live - really claims its man to pull off!
So, what do you think - Do you think it was easier or harder to be a DJ and to actually beat mix back in
the Disco days compared to today?
"Well, I think it was a lot more difficult in the pioneer days of Disco, back in the 70's and the early 80's because
DJ's first of all had to use the turntables and spin vinyl and used pitch control to either increase or decrease the speed
of the record that they were playing or increase or decrease the speed of the record that was going to be played next. DJ's
had to pitch their records, use the pitch control, to segue their records perfectly on beat which took more time behind the
Today's DJ's throw on a CD and just mix the CD with the other CD that's playing and the idea of mixing perfectly is not a
big issue. The issue of sound quality, equipment and having a collection of music is more important than the old technical
aspect that the DJ's went through.
I mean, DJ's years ago, including myself, we spent a lot of time perfecting our craft. Learning how to mix records or
practicing at home or after hours in the Club, spending lots of hours mixing our records. Finding out what records mixed
well with others, even to the point that there was a 'Disco Bible' with all these records having beats per minute so that
DJ's can actually look at this 'Disco Bible' and know what records can possible mix with others based on beats per minute
of a song. Beats per minute was very important because it created a natural flow on the Dance floor from one song to
another using the same tempo as one song leading into another song at that same tempo. Today DJ's would spin from one slow
tempo to one fast tempo, from one fast tempo back to a slow tempo and go back and forth and the beats per minute is not
really an issue. Kind of a short-cut to get the job done and, you know, years ago it was much more technical."
Yes, I agree with you. I also think it's a bit easier now because the beat is steady and it wasn't in the
old Disco recordings when live drummers were trying to keep the beat at a steady rhythm...
Of all your nights in various Clubs - Do you remember which was your best DJ gig ever?
"Boy, that's a tough one. I can recall 2 memorable events Claes.
Event number 1:
Right after Dan Hartman stormed the disco scene with 'Instant Replay' and 'Countdown/This Is It', the blockbuster
track 'Vertigo/Relight My Fire' created almost a National Dance anthem across the board as far as Club and radio play along
with high sales. All clubs were pumping the track (Gay, Straight, R'n'B, Latin Clubs). Dan Hartman's carrier had now
re-blossomed after his days with the Edgar Winter Group. He was now center spotlight in the disco scene.
I forget if it was Dance music promoters Jane Brinton at CBS Records or Vince
Pellegrino who called me at my home during the week to ask me if they could bring both Dan Hartman
and Loleatta Holloway to the Ipanema so that they can view the Club and
just 'hang out' for a while. No problem!
I had a table reserved for them right next to my both on the second floor. The club was very crowded that Saturday night
with over 1200 people. Dan and Loleatta were introduced to me in the both and I shared with them how fond I really was
about his new 'Vertigo/Relight My Fire' killer track. I had mentioned to Dan that it was a perfect record and well conceived
giving all Clubs what they wanted and giving urban radio high satisfaction as well.
Dan was such an emotional personality and displayed smiles all night long. With a couple of drinks, he and Loleatta decided
to take their emotions of joy to the Dance floor, right in the center. Dan was dancing with Loleatta and laughing with her
and they would communicate to each other ears things that would make each other laugh some more. They were enjoying
themselves and absorbing the energy of the room and the chemistry of the Club, while I watched them from the second floor
behind the black door, in the DJ booth.
I was reading their emotions. I believe that that they were dancing to 'Don't Stop The Feeling' by Roy Ayers.
I dimmed the lights a little. I lowered the music a tiny hair. I began to introduce a new song with a long intro. Dan and
Loleatta keep dancing and laughing. The Roy Ayers track was fading out and the new track was taking over the floor. This was
a 2 minute mix coming in and the dance floor did not clear nor change. The mix was complete. Dan and Loleatta stayed on the
floor with everyone else. The transition was perfect.
At some point shortly Dan whispered something into Loleatta's ear, this time with a lot of feeling behind it. Both looked up
to me and waved their arms to me and started jumping up and down and actually hugged each other. 'Vertigo/Relight My Fire'
electrified the whole club and quitely electrified me too! What an emotional high to see Dan Hartman and
Loleatta Holloway dancing to their own National smash and acting like little kids in the process! I announced
their names right after Loleatta did her cameo solo on the track. The whole place went into a roar in applause and whistles
for both of them. Afterwards, they came up to the both and gave me a hug for the pleasant surprise. I never forget that
Event number 2:
I DJ'ed one night at Studio 54 and it was a party for
Sylvester Stallone. He was having a private birthday party during the summer. I believe it was a Tuesday
or Thursday night back in the late 70's and that night we got a lot of people and there were lots of friends of Sylvester
Stallone there. Actors and actresses. There was media coverage there, I mean, it was a great party and I played a lot of
records and people really enjoyed it. It felt like a New Years Eve event. There were balloons, there was confetti, a lot of
excitement and enthusiasm everywhere in the room. I remember watching Sylvester Stallone, because he was very noticeable
walking around the side off the dance floor. I do not recall him ever dancing that night, to the best of my recollections.
I do remember that he was on the dance floor, near the center, amidst the dancing herds, and I guess he didn't want to be
photographed for one reason or another, and some girl photographer; I remember her walking up to him wanting to take a
picture with a yellow sports type of camera. Stallone didn't want his picture taken in this private affair, so he had put
his hand up on the camera before the flash; I could see that from the DJ booth as I looked down. He had given the girl the
indication not to take his picture and she agreed and didn't. But she came back later on and tried to do that again and I
remember that he was very upset the second time and had taken the camera away from her by hand. Sly was a little tempered
and hot at this second gesture.
But it was a great evening, I mean, on the dance floor it was a great musical evening. I remember playing things like;
'Everybody Dance' by Chic and 'That's Where The Happy People Go' by the
Trammps as well as older things like 'Who Is He And What Is He To You?' by Creative Source, 'Get
Ready For The Future' by The Winners and so on. A Great party! People had a great time and it was very memorable
because of that 'Sylvester Stallone meets the Photographer event'."
WOW, Those are really some wonderful memories! But when did you retire as a DJ and which was you last gig?
"I think my last gig was in early 1985 at a Club in Westport, Connecticut called Backstage. I recall spinning
Disco, R'n'B and a lot of New Wave Rock for that audience, a lot of progressive Dance music. I also played a lot of Reggae
tracks there too. And that was my last year spinning records, something I enjoyed very much."
You also went into remixing, as some of your DJ peers... How come you started remix songs?
"It's the old natural story of Evolution. The tadpole becomes the frog. It's like a child who gets on a bike for the
first time and falls off. The second time the child get on the bike it falls off again, and again and again and a few hundred
times and eventually learns how to handle the bike and become a confident bike driver, so to speak. And that's a natural
progression, in other words... Once you're spinning records and you're turning your crowds on and you're playing for
different types of crowds and kind of mastering or kind of perfecting the issue of learning what turns a crowd on, based on
what they like and then taking what they like and taking it up a notch and throwing in new things and have that crowd enjoy
these new songs you're spinning based on the fact that you're giving them what they also like. Once you've mastered it
spinning records 'blindfolded' so to speak, then you want to start taking things to next level... the level of making
records or getting involved in some aspect of the actual creation of the music that you are totally absorbed in.
Obviously as a DJ you're constantly saying to yourself; 'God, This record will be a greater record if it had a better
introduction for segue mixing so I could introduce this record a little bit better on the dance floor.' Or... 'If this
record that I'm playing here, it's a great record, no one knows about it but, boy, if they had a couple of Dance breaks
this record for Dance purposes it would be a even greater Dance record.'
The idea in my mind of having a better version, started when I would go to visit record companies during the week; T.K.
Records, Atlantic Records, Mel Cheren at West End Records,
and give my feedback on these records that were coming out. A lot of the record companies would listen, at least jot down
my notes and my opinion on some of these records and what happened was... I was a member of the International Disco
Record Center, IDRC, in New York City, run by Eddie Rivera. This was after I left the very
first record pool, the Record Pool run by David Mancuso, located at 99 Prince St, in the Village, NYC, and became member of
IDRC. Eddie was always so fond of me, always a believer of me and he would actually come and listen to me at the Ipanema.
He, himself was a big Latin DJ at a Club called the Cork & Bottle in New York before starting IDRC.
Eddie always had a fond respect for my ear and had referred me to Vanguard
Records, because Vanguard Records was beginning to get into dance market in the 70's and they had little
understanding of what made Disco sell. They came out with a few early records and didn't do well so they started looking for
more experience, more expertise on this field of dance and so they communicated with Eddie Rivera and asked Eddie if there
were any DJ's that Eddie could recommend to them that could help them. Vanguard was beginning to open up its doors from the
classical/jazz era into some of this dance stuff - Disco stuff. Eddie recommended me because I had a good report and he
liked me and he saw that I had done an incredible thing at the Ipanema over time. This is how, in a quick nutshell, I got my
call from Vanguard Records to come in and have a little meeting with the 2 Soloman Brothers, Maynard and Seymour and with
Jazz expert Danny Weiss, which I took full advantage of."
OK! But when you first started doing remixes, I know you did some which you pressed on acetates on
Sunshine Sound. How did you make these early remixes? Did you splice up reel-to-reel tapes or?
"A very good question Claes. Let me share with you one thing about me and that's very very honest. I can not play an
instrument and I can not cut a piece of tape. I am very bad with my hands when it comes to actually creating music. I mean,
I have great hands when it comes to playing two or three records on two or three turntables and technically mixing records.
That's where my hands were great, but as far as creating music - I can't play an instrument nor cut a piece of tape.
BUT... In my mind I can do those things and as long as I can create the finished product or the vision of the finished
product, I can always find the other experts to do the splicing/editing of tape or the musicians to shape my vision. This
is the same principle that led Henry Ford to create the automobile. With the vision create longer versions of
extremely short songs at home with my reel-to-reel and had other experts do the editing for me and subsequently I would go
to Sunshine Sound and put these new extensions on acetate.
I could not wait to play these items live for my audiences and create a new awareness of these untapped songs - untapped
because they were originally so short to play at a Club and therefore I don't have to go back and forth and mix the two
original extremely short versions. For example; there's an LP called Cooley High and there's a song on that LP and
it's called 'Two Pigs & A Hog' [by Freddie Perren] in it there's a little drum break and it runs
for about 30 seconds. So, said and done, with this editing I got one long four minute version which I had created out of
this drum break. Now I could have a little bit of rest and was better prepared to find my next song.
So I would spend my time during the week with friends of mine who were great editors, friends who would piece the item
together for me and then I would take that tape to Sunshine Sound on 1650 Broadway, I believe it was the 5th floor. The guy
who run the Sunshine Sound studio was named Frank Trimarco and he would take my tape and put it on
acetate and I would test it, and if it played great - well, then I started using the acetate for the audience at the
Download the FREE basic RealPlayer...|
CLICK to hear some Ray "Pinky" Velazquez remixes...
Born to be alive
Can't get away
Over like a fat rat
Till you surrender
You've got me dancing in my sleep
CLICK to hear some Ray "Pinky" Velazquez Disco favorites...
Doin' the best that I can
Goin' up in smoke
Love in C minor
Love is the message
No one gets the prize
Evelyn "Champagne" King
That's where the happy people go
When you wake up tomorrow
You can't hide from yourself
Young hearts run free
CLICK to hear some related songs...
All night passion
Billie Jean [Denniz PoP rmx]
Blame it on the boogie
Come into my heart/Good loving
Da ya think I'm sexy
Disco night (Rock freak)
Do what you wanna do
Don't stop, keep movin'
Don't stop 'til you get enough
the Greatest performance of my life
Haven't stopped dancing yet
Hit and run
Jukebox (Don't put another dime)
Leave that boy alone
Love to love you baby
Relight my fire
Shake you body (down to the ground)
Stubborn kind of fella
Walk right now
Click to buy from
Love Hangover - The Players Association
The Get Down Mellow Sound - The Players Association
Mysterious - Twilight 22
Over Like A Fat Rat - Fonda Rae
Till You Surrender - Rainbow Brown
Can't Get Away (From Your Love) - Carol Williams
Can't Get Away (From Your Love) - Carol Williams
Dance To The Music - Junior Byron
Too Turned On - Alisha
Baby Talk - Alisha
All Night Passion - Alisha
(The Best Part Of) Breakin' Up - Roni Griffith
Click to buy from
White horse - Laidback
Problems d'amour - Alexander Robotnik
Bostich - Yello
Aspectacle (Holger Czukay edit) - Can
Ciguri - Material
Get down - Connie Case & King Sporty
Timewarp - Coach House Rhythm Section
Let's go swimming - Arthur Russell
Sting - Barry Waits
Fourteen days - Lex
Radio clash - Clash
To follow up on the remixes - How many tracks have you remixed?
"I would say I've made about 25-30 remixes, there may be ten others that were never released, for one reason or another.
But around 30 that I have been involved with that have been released. And obviously most of them have been with the Disco
people at Vanguard. This does not include any acetates from Sunshine Sound Studios."
Ray's first officially released remix was a track he mixed for the small Dynamo Records label in 1977,
the song was called "Childhood Forever" by a group called Recreation-Harmony. He was even
nominated for Billboard's 'Best mix/edit of the year' for his work with this release. Not a bad start for a first
release. Ray also consulted and worked as A&R for Dynamo briefly.
He pursued Santa Esmeralda's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and MBT Soul's
"The Chase" as import European records that he felt were USA hitbound.
Some of the most famous of Ray's remixes include classic tracks and acts like; Fonda
Rae's classic "Over Like A Fat Rat", the Patrick
Adams' studio act Rainbow Brown, which featured Fonda as lead vocalist in their hit
song "Till You Surrender". He also remixed Carol Williams' wonderful "Can't Get Away (From
Your Love)" [more on this one later] as well as one of my own personal favorite Disco tracks - "You've Got Me
Dancing In My Sleep" by Frisky, which was the B side track of the "Burn Me Up (With My Love)" 12" single.
"Naturally" Ray also mixed the A side along with tracks by Endgames, Junior Byron and Top Hits
like "Electric Kingdom" and "Siberian Nights" by the rap act Twilight 22 and produced and
mixed Public Enemy's first track "Lies" under the original group name Spectrum
City. The B-side of the 12" Rap release entitled "Check out the Radio", also produced and mixed by Pinky
and Timothy Olphie who is now President of Vibe Records, was used in the Oliver
Stone produced movie South Central and re-released on the movie soundtrack LP.
Other tracks include Eddy Grant's classic "Walking on Sunshine", Base - "Big Noise",
Double Feature - "Boogie Down", Metropolis - "Cloud Nine", Ian
North with "Rape of Orchids EP", "Ghosts" by Comateens, El Futuro's
"Rikers Island" [which is a never released New Wave groover] and others.
I know you were not credited for your work on Patrick Hernandez "Born To Be
"Right, but let me give you a little story on 'Born To Be Alive'. 'Born To Be Alive' was a import record that I was
playing at the Ipanema in its original version, a three or four minute version from France. It was actually mailed to me
from some company in France and I was playing it for a long time, for about a month or a month and a half, and what happened
was... I was reporting this record to the triad - Record World, Billboard and Cashbox - in my
Top Ten. So, Ray Caviano, who was a good friend of mine, and perhaps the best ear and visionary expert in the field
of Disco, and A&R executive at TK records, called me one day and said; 'Ray, I notice you're reporting this record for the
last month, this 'Born To Be Alive' record and I see you're reporting it pretty high.' Since Ray always respected my taste
for records, because my taste for dance music records always incorporated things that were, as I believed, Hot for the dance
floor and just as potentially Hot for radio. So, Ray called me and I took the record to him and he listened to it. He called
me a few days later and says; 'This is an incredible record you've got here. It's got radio potential, it's got dance floor
potential.' And I say; 'Hey Ray! I know that, that's why I'm playing it every evening, as I think it's a great record. I
even think it's an incredible record.' So, over time Ray presented it to his radio people and got good favorable reaction
from radio across the country but there were some areas across the country that did not believe the record had radio
potential. So, he got mixed feedback from the radio, but as far as Clubs he got all positive feedback, from key DJ's that
were listening to the cassette he made of the record or he was playing it over the phone for them or they were coming in to
visit him and he was playing the record live for them. The Disco DJ's immediately hit at it, but because radio had a mixed
feedback, they [T.K. Records] decided to pass on the record.
So I had a friend at Columbia Records called Vince Pellegrino who did their
Dance Club promotion and I told him about this record and Vince said; 'Let me hear it!' Vince Pellegrino was not the Disco
'Guru' that Mr. Ray Caviano was, but Vince was tied in with the Columbia company and he had good report with DJ's and, you
know, it was good for me to give the record to Vince and let him see what he could do with it. And the feedback from
Columba and I guess from their Club DJ's was very positive and radio from his perspective was saying that they thought the
record was good and Columbia picked it up.
Now, I consulted on the record. I didn't actually do the mix, I didn't technically do the mix in the studio. I consulted
with Vince Pellegrino and the Columbia staff on what I thought the intro should sound like, what the break should sound like
as I had a three or four minute version and figured, wow, extend the intro, extend the break and let's get this thing to at
least six minutes or so and that would be good enough to enlighten the Club arena with this record. And that's what they
did, someone else actually went into the studio and did it but it was based on my consulting that helped do that.
Patrick Hernandez actually flew in from France and Columbia Records with Vince Pellegrino came to the Ipanema and I got to
meet Patrick Hernandez. He wore a top hat and a tuxedo with tails and a pair of sneakers when he came to the Ipanema. We
took pictures together and it was fabulous. I got to meet him and he was very honored to meet me, so it was great meeting
with the artist from France. So that's kind of the story with Patrick Hernandez and 'Born To Be Alive'.
And obviously Columbia released the record and it became a major hit record Club wise and radio wise! Ray Caviano called me
one day afterwards, after the proven success across the board on this track to 'apologize' for not taking the record for T.K.
We chuckled a bit over the matter on the phone."
Which of your own remixes are your favorites?
"I would say 'Over Like A Fat Rat' by Fonda Rae, it was a great record on the dance floor and for the R'n'B market and
R'n'B radio. That record was great. I like that record a lot.
And Carol Williams 'Can't Get Away From Your Love' on Vanguard. The original dance mix and then the special 10" version
that I did, were both favorites of mine. Carol was such a sweet artist, I mean, Carol Williams was just a sweetheart. She
was very low key at Vanguard. Very quiet, very curious of this phenomenon called Disco. Basically she liked R'n'B, but she
would never demand anything from Vanguard. Kind of running along with the flow thing. Darryl Pain was the producer of that
record and when I did the original mix I talked to Darryl and gave him my ideas of what I was gonna do with the original
first mix of the record. I wanted to create an intro for the record that was exciting, so we started out with a drum break
and just a synthesizer and the hand-claps and the tambourine running for about 20 seconds and then the drums come in. You
know, I like to do that types of intro's that I think are very exciting as they're catching on and catching on and the Club
DJ's immediately like that and it even had a radio flair to it, so that radio can create that dance floor arena on radio
and still have a radio audience listen and enjoy. I always thought about those elements when I did my mixes in the studio -
radio and Clubs - not just Clubs.
Anyway, the mix was successful but as the record was beginning to die down in sales based on the radio play dying down
across the country and the Club charting on the Billboard charts beginning to go down I came up with an idea... I talked to
the Soloman's, Maynard and Seymour Soloman who ran Vanguard, and they were always curious about my ideas and
I mentioned an idea of doing a 10" version of the record because the sales were dying down and Maynard had asked me if
there was anything we could do to help light up the sales. So I said; 'Club DJ's are an entity of their own. They like to
feel that they have something that no one else has. So if we can do something to make the Club DJ's feel special about
owning this particular piece of product, they're gonna play it! Not so much because the record is good, but they'll play it
for that reason, but they're also gonna play it to show off the fact that they've got a 10" record that no one else seems
to have.' 10-inches was a little bit rare, so Maynard listened to my psychology and since he comes back from the Classical
and Jazz arena of music he was kind of questioning my point of view because he mentioned that; 'Ray, aren't we gonna loose
quality on this 10"? I mean the 12" has a lot more quality and let's the elements shine on a 12" and they'll loose a lot
quality on the 10".' I said; 'Maynard, it might be right, you might loose quality, but I believe that the uniqueness of the
10", giving the DJ something unique is more powerful than the actual quality. And don't forget, we're not selling this 10",
we're only playing it. We're gonna have it played by the DJ's so that can increase the dying sales of the 12" and maybe we
can get Carol coming to the studio before we start the mix and say a little Thank you to these DJ's. Again giving the DJ a
little more respect, a little bit more pride in owning such a unique piece that is not going to be released in the stores.'
And it worked!
You know, we released it, the DJ's went crazy, the sales went back up on 'Can't Get Away From Your Love' on the 12", even
though the 10" was the only one getting attention and obviously there were DJ's across the country that were playing both
the 12" and the 10" combined, so that combination created a new flair for Carol Williams and 'Can't Get Away From Your Love'
and it was a memorable event for me at Vanguard."
The 10" version of "Can't Get Away From Your Love" has become a high priced collector's item and it has even been
bootlegged on 12". But as you understand, any 12" version of the NYC Club "Dub" Mix is a fake.
In her spoken intro on the 10" Carol says; "Hi, this is Carol Williams, and I'd like to thank all of
the New York metro DJs for supporting Can't Get Away. I'd love to say this in person, but that is impossible. So we at
Vanguard have prepared a special mix, to show our appreciation for your support. Thank you New York metro DJs!"
Ray reminisces; "OH, another one of my favorite mixes is Junior Byron's 'Dance To The Music', I do
remember the excitement that I had getting involved with that track and also Frisky's 'You Got Me Dancing In My Sleep',
plus another cut from the album - 'Tutty Frutty Booty' was the name of that track along with their 'Burn Me Up (With Your
Love)'. Those tracks are among my favorite tracks too.
In regards to Junior Byron I remember we licensed that track from Canada and I got to meet Junior Byron. A very nice, low
key Jamaican fellow and when we did the actual remix at the Vanguard studios we decided to use a little bit of
Eddy Grant's 'Electric Avenue' as far as the sound effects that track had. And incorporate some of
those sounds on the Junior Byron track. The introduction with that strange sounding guitar going up and down on the track
like on 'Electric Avenue', a 'brrrrr-r' type of sound and that worked well. And we had Junior come in and record a couple
of lines on the track in the introduction where he talks and he mentions a couple of things on the track. That idea turned
out to be a very good mix and the Dance music community was very happy and very satisfied and the record sold very well for
Vanguard. So that was another one of my favorite projects at Vanguard."
Since Ray really got it going reminiscing, I just let him continue; "At Vanguard, we also had the Flip label,
that was a Rock label that we started based on the fact that the Dance Rock arena was beginning to erupt and I believe
we started the label in '81 or '82. We licensed Endgames from Phonogram Records in England and I liked
Endgames a lot. I thought that they had a sound very similar, as far as their production and music, to a little bit of what
the Human League had to offer. Not the same type of vocals or quality of the vocals, but, you know, the
music and the production of the tracks were in that kind of Human League vain, so I thought that it would be interesting
for the Dance market and I thought that the group had great radio potential for whatever we could get of Rock radio at that
Then we had Lex... Lex was a local artist performing at Cartoon Alley and she was looking for songs. The songs that
she was performing at the Club were, as I thought, OK for the local Club market but not good enough to get a bigger
exposure than the local Club arena. So, you know, I found this German kind of Rap song and I felt it would be pretty cool
for Clubs and it also had a little bit of commercial feel and it would be a good track to kind of introduce her and the
band to a wider audience, so I played it for her. The original song was by a German group called Fehlfarben and in
German lyrics the song was called '14 Tage'. Translated to English it was 'Fourteen Days'.
She agreed to do it even thought she wasn't sure about what these German lyrics were, so we were able to contact the
company in Germany and they sent us the translation of the lyrics and it was basically talking about that fourteen days is
not enough to get to know somebody. When we read the lyrics together, Lex and I, we thought that they were good enough, we
changed one-two lines within the lyrics and gave it a go. I produced and mixed 'Fourteen Days' at Vanguard recording
studios which was only one block away from the actual company on 6th Avenue and 23rd Street here in New York City. For the
background I used a rhythm track similar to Chic's 'Good Times', with their guitar riffs and a little bit of the famous
bassline. We gave it a go and the track turned out well within the Rock Club arena as well as on the Dance floor. Not too
much National radio but many secondary stations picked it up and was playing it very heavily."
"Fourteen Days" was featured on famous UK DJ/Remixer/Producer Joey
Negro's Disco Not Disco 2 CD compilation which he put together with his friend Sean P.
for Strut in 2002.
The compilation is subtitled 'Leftfield Disco from the New York Underground' and besides the Lex track it include songs
like "White Horse" by Laidback, "Bostich" by Yello, Arthur Russel's
"Let's go swimming" and "Radio clash" by Clash, among others.
Flip only had a few releases, can you tell more about the original visions for Flip?
"Our fist two releases were 'First Last For Everything' by Endgames produced by the legendary Steve
Levine who produced Boy George. The second track was 'Fourteen Days' by local artist Lex.
Her real name was Alexis Clark, who resided on 73rd St in the Upper West side of Manhattan.
We were intending to go after more artists on the Flip label. Our Flip in-house radio promotion man, primary college radio,
John Hammond and I would communicate ideas on how to attack and capture the college radio market as well
as the Rock and Dance Clubs with our releases. We were negotiating with the UK in trying to license Musical Youth,
Falco, Tears For Fears... Just those three artists, but the negotiations were too complex and
the labels that were behind these artists abroad wanted an excruciating amount of money for us to get involved in these
albums. Maynard & Seymour Soloman did not want to take that chance 'yet', they wanted to see a little more exposure with
the Disco stuff before we could get involved in Rock material. So we laid back with that. But the first song I really
wanted to go after was 'Pass the Dutchie' by Musical Youth and with Tears For Fears we wanted to go after 'Pale Shelter'
as a 12" release. And with Falco we definitely wanted 'Der Kommissar' and 'Maschine Brennt'. We did license a 12-inch track
from Chrysalis Records in the UK called In 'Memory of Your Name' by Private Lives, produced by
hot producer Tony Visconti. We never released the song here in the States. The track is still circulating
as an underground Dance Rock extended 12 inch.
There was another group called the Burning Puppets, two British guys that were here in New York, great writers and
they had a song called 'Way of Life', which was actually picked up by a Canadian company and released here in the States
and that song was a great one. They were just titled the Puppets as the Burning Puppets was a very controversial name for
the States, so they had to kind of tone down their name a little bit. I forget the two writers' names but I met both of them
at Vanguard Records and I really liked their song a lot and we were so caught up with the Disco stuff that Vanguard was a
little slow in negotiating for this song, because it was a Dance Rock song. Actually it was pretty much a Disco song with
two Rock vocals on them and the local Disco stations were playing their song and it sold well. But we wanted sign them here
in the States but we were a little bit slow in picking them up and I really thought they had a lot of potential for Club
and radio play."
You have told me about how Eddie Rivera, from the International Disco Record Center - IDRC - recommended
you to Vanguard and your close consultant communications with Ray Caviano at T.K records and much about your remixes. But
you actually worked both as an A&R and Remixer/Disco consultant for Vanguard, can you describe what your work as an
"You know, a lot of people that may not even understand a lot about the business wanna know what A&R means. What does the
letters actually represent? What is an A&R person, what does an A&R person do?
A&R represent Artists & Repertoire, in other words, a company has a person that's kind of behind the scenes, looking for the
acts, looking to protect and shape the integrity of the label name, give that label a signature, a direction and a vision
to shape that forming integrity. That's what an A&R man does. Vanguard Records was very well known in the pre-Disco years
as a classical and jazz label with artists like Joan Baez and was started by the Soloman's with about
10,000 dollars and an incredible vision to capture those 2 markets. And boy they did.
Danny Weiss had an incredible ear for Jazz. This is why the Players Association was
one of the original dance projects at Vanguard. Danny also branched out and had a fairly good ear for Pop. This is where
Poussez! came into the picture. But just having a good ear for Jazz and for Pop in the Disco/Dance arena, is not
enough. It becomes a little bit more detailed than this. This is where I became important to the evolution of the Vanguard
dance era. I really really sensed a connection to a classy environment at Vanguard and I wanted to keep that somehow as we
signed artists and looked for artists and did the Disco stuff, kind of respecting the integrity started by the Solomans.
I always tried to remind myself that it's all part of the Vanguard label, part of the Vanguard family and I want to keep a
little bit of integrity, a little bit of repertoire, a little bit of class associated to what I was doing. So to me, to best
do that, we had to sign acts that was definitely geared to the Dance floor but at the same time not so isolated from the
Dance floor that radio could not pick up the vibrations that we were trying to create. So I definitely had to expand and
have a radio base with what I was doing to keep the whole integrity together at Vanguard.
My earlier experience as an award music director for WCCR radio at City College New York helped fine tune my radio
ear with a progressive radio format that college radio is known for."
Let's step back to the Rainbow Brown - "Till You Surrender" release. Originally it was released on
the Vanguard matrix SPV-43 in a remix by Mark Barry & Danny Weiss, then you got to
remix it as well on SPV-48 - why? Or was it similar to the Carol Williams 10" story, to keep the song alive a little
"You hit it right on the head Claes! We wanted to keep Rainbow Brown alive! This was all 1981 with Rainbow Brown, and
keep in mind, Rainbow Brown is Fonda Rae singing the vocals and I thought that the song was a great track. It had the Disco
type violins in there that really was a big key part of the disco signature and an R'n'B flavor to it which was part of the
Vanguard Jazz signature and what we at Vanguard conceived to be Disco and R'n'B incorporated into this track. The track
needed Dance floor magic. It needed to speak a new language to the Club DJ, to vinyl junkies. It needed the long intro. I
took this principle and gave the track not only a long intro but also a long instrumental section before any vocals came in.
The music was so good that it could stand alone without vocals for a few minutes before Fonda did her thing vocally.
Getting back, I originally thought the track was great and when Danny had called me in and talked to me about my particular
view and vision on the first original mix of 'Till You Surrender' done in 1981, I told him that the track was great but it
was missing the connection for the Clubs to actually spin the record. And Danny asked me to elaborate on that point - What
did I mean by 'missing the Club connection'? Because he asked me; 'Isn't the record danceable?' I said; 'Of course it's
danceable. Put it on a turntable and you get up and dance, you can dance to it. But DJ's need a certain introduction, they
need a certain chemistry that works well with what they do behind the turntables to be able to pick this record up and say
- I want to play this record because it would fit well here with this other record.' I explained that psychology to Danny
Weiss and Danny carefully listened to what I was mentioning. I told him it needed a longer introduction as Club DJ's need
longer introductions and obviously radio DJ's do not, but Club DJ's do. And what we were trying to do was revive the record
for the Club arena so I told him; 'Let's create a longer introduction. Let's come in with a longer instrumental segue in
the beginning before the vocals actually come in so that the DJ's get more of what THEY are looking for...' I figured that
the long instrumental would work well with this particular record because the violins were pretty, it would give the Club a
feel, more of a legitimate attention because of the violins and the strings and the R'n'B with this Funky bassline and the
Funky guitar work. I thought that we would give both of those arenas what they were looking for before Fonda came in and
actually sung the song. And THAT was the key to kind of changing that track a little bit and that seemed to create another
excitement for the record and create more sales for the record.
Yeah, Claes, the same principle and psychology as the Carol Williams 10-inch on 'Can't Get Away'. As a matter of fact, a
10" on Rainbow Brown's 'Till you Surrender', even after this second remix, might have pulled an Einstein on this
We have talked a bit about the Soloman Brothers, have you got anything to tell about them?
"Maynard and Seymour Soloman. They started the company years before the Disco craze. The Disco department was a 'toy'
project for them and basically a way to round out their entire catalogue to make them a 'current' label to attract more
business from this arena. Nevertheless, their background was Classical and Jazz. Seymour was the Classical expert, very
sensitive to Classical music and actually had a very good ear for Classical music. Though he himself was beginning to loose
his own hearing, he always had an ear for classical music. Maynard though very astute with classical music himself, also
respected and loved Jazz as well. Maynard Soloman spent a lot of the Disco days at Vanguard behind closed doors writing a
biography of Beethoven. I'm pretty sure that biography was complete, but I know that he was finishing the book on
Beethoven's life history behind his closed doors at Vanguard. He was a very private man who loved to play tennis on his
very well deserved spare time. I have never forgotten the pride and integrity that these two brothers displayed to everyone
that they had contact with in the record business."
So, did the Soloman's like Disco at all, or were they just in for the business?
"When looking back in retrospect to try pinpoint the psychology of the Solomon's decision of getting involved with this
Disco era, I believe that all of the major labels; CBS/Epic, Elektra/Asylum, Warner Brothers and Disco
pioneer labels Casablanca and T.K. created a major awareness within the record industry, the sales were real. There was money
to be made, even for two older and wealthy brothers. Why not get involved and have some fun with this? Disco was beginning
to blossom to the point of Disco exploding into Pop sales and creating Pop artists for Casablanca and the T.K. labels. The
Solomans were definitely reading about it and they decided that; 'Well, we're in business, so stop talking about this and
start making money. Why not open the doors and create a Disco portion underneath the Vanguard label. And see what
happens...' Kind of a toy situation, a fun situation for them. A 'no can loose' situation for them and that's what they
They had Danny Weiss in-house working as a Jazz producer and Jazz A&R man. And they gave him the task to see if Danny could
put things together and come up with some Disco records to release. Wild Cherry got involved with the
Players Association, his first release, which was, better that average. He was a candid expert and he studied
a lot of the things going on with Gamble & Huff at Columbia Records. What they were doing there,
producing the Jazz type of R'n'B and Dance Records. That's were his comfort zone was and he had that as his base."
Anything on Mark Berry?
"Mark Berry was an in-house producer and a talented engineer for Vanguard. A great asset in the arena of Disco. He could
edit tape. He could edit complicated issues like a magician. He had a great ear for strong melodies and pop basslines. He
liked Pop stuff, he liked the synthesizer stuff that was coming out of Europe; the synthesized music that was creating the
Disco craze and rocking Disco floors across the country. He was young and talented and visited many clubs to support his
European vision. And, you know, he loved Disco!
Mark was not an R&B man. He was not a person that I would say, loved R'n'B and Jazz even though he respected that market and
he knew that it existed. He learned a lot about jazz from Danny Weiss at Vanguard. But his comfort zone was Euro-Disco. This
was his cup of tea. He had an incredible feel for melody and Euro synthesizer arrangements. All of Alisha's song verifies
He was involved with the Alisha productions, and was assisting
Bobby Orlando with "O" Records, which was part
of the Vanguard family. Bobby "O" had a very European sound and this is where they both connected. Listen to Ronnie
Griffith or the Flirts productions and you can interchange and see the likeness with the Alisha
productions, very European in nature. Mark was just a great person to have in the Vanguard days, when it came to the Disco
stuff. And he really helped Danny Weiss expand Danny's vision of what Danny would consider Disco. Because, the two of them
had two different backgrounds. Mark more of the Pop - European sound while Danny Weiss would be more into R'n'B and Jazz
sounds and eventually I came into the picture and kind of tried to bridge both of their sounds as I like R'n'B and R'n'B
Dancing and I also like the Disco stuff and Disco Dancing. Later I crossed over and decided getting involved with the Rock
So the three of us kind of gave Vanguard our initial vision of the Vanguard Disco label."
Since you've been both a DJ and a Remixer, do you think the criteria's for a great remix are - a longer
introduction and a long instrumental Disco break or something else? What components do you need in the remix?
"Well, you know, it's important for the Club DJ's to have long introductions before the vocals come in and long breaks
so that the Dance floor is completely satisfied with the actual dance element. Some DJ's would tell you that the best
breaks, the best introductions are just basically the tracks with percussion. An example of one song that comes to my mind
when it comes to this; 'I Haven't Stopped Dancing Yet' by Gonzalez on Capitol Records. A Long introduction
with nothing but percussion, drums, whistles, Brazilian sounds and same kind of break in the middle. And I always felt that
those types of breaks worked well for the Club, but they became so 'Clubbish', that you loose the attraction for radio a
little bit with these kind of breaks.
I liked creating breaks that were not so much percussion, but more extensions incorporated longer bassline sections, longer
simple guitar arrangements sections so that radio could also enjoy playing these extension brakes on the air without
sounding too 'Discomania' like. I like to apply a little bit of something extra in that break. A little Guitar, a little
bassline, you know, still creating a break. But with the little tiny bit of music like in the 12" version of Carol
Williams' 'Can't Get Away...' where I start the introduction with a little guitar and a little synthesizer running
through, 15-20 seconds and then the drums come in with the Synthesizer. I still think you can create that same euphoria on
the Dance floor just by doing it differently, with a little bit of music and it satisfies the radio and the listeners that
are not dancing a little bit more."
Exactly, but what do you think of today's remixes, where the song is almost a different or a complete new
"Evolution, isn't it? Look at the baseball players from yesteryear. They were better. They played to really win. The
heart was in the game. Willie Mays and Pete Rose played the game with heart. They
probably would have played baseball with no pay if they could. Baseball was their life. Today's ballplayers play for the
money before any other aspect.
In the same light. I think the remixing today has evolved to an area where the song has lost its integrity. You have song
being played; different types of breaks in the records, sometimes you have another song come in in the break from another
record to create these breaks and I think the Club DJ has evolved to the point that he or she are so centered on being
unique that the song has became a little destroyed in the process, just to create that uniqueness on the Dance floor and to
further create more of an obscure identity for the Club DJ himself or herself. To me, compared the original Club mixes back
in the days, I think these new remixes have lost integrity. But evolution says that this lost integrity may be the new
sense of class to the new audiences that are clubbing today. It just IS whatever it IS!"
Yes, I totally agree with you...
"And I think today's DJ's do not concern themselves with all aspects of the record or the production, they don't concern
themselves with the artist the way we did back in the Vanguard days. You know, I would spend many hours talking with
Fonda Rae getting to know her, getting to know her dreams. Same thing with Carol Williams, getting
to know Carol as a human being, as a person, as a low key individual with great dreams for being a recording artist. And
when I went into the studio I would remember these conversations and were they wanted to go with their careers. And I would
try to help them with what I did in the studio, to make sure it did not destroy their records and turned them into just
Dance floor specimens, but more, respecting the Dance floor but at the same time respecting the artist and their career with
making sure these dance mixes still had the song intact throughout the production."
Yes, I feel the same way. Because if you would hear a song on radio today and then would want to buy the
12" version to get a greater listening pleasure, then you might end up with no version sounding anything like the radio
version you heard and liked. OK, today different remixes are a tool to satisfy various kinds of Dance floors, but I often
miss the classic "Extended Versions" where the original components were kept.
"Exactly! It's the equivalent of purchasing a NY Yankees baseball cap. There are so many styles and off the wall colors,
that the original cap has lost some type of integrity. All of the new styles are there to serve the different and constantly
expanding tastes of the consumer. The consumer wants that unique one-of-a-kind cap for his/her sense of identity. This is
the same principle that has evolved with today's dance music, Claes."
So, what about your remixing peers, did you have any favorites among the other remixers of the Disco era?
Someone's works you specially liked or someone's "sound" you liked?
"Well, I would say when I look at the DJ's that were out there, I enjoyed guys like Larry Levan at the
Paradise Garage, who really inspired me with a lot of the R'n'B
Mr. 'Loft' - David Mancuso - really inspired me with his incredible record collection and sound system and his professional
attitude running the Record Pool at 99 Prince St, NYC.
Jim Burgess was a demon spinning High Energy Disco at even higher pitched beats per minute. He loved to play High Energy
records pitched up faster to create more energy for his audiences.
David Todd who I actually had play at the Ipanema as a guest DJ on a Tuesday night. I loved David's feel for R'n'B
and what he did at the RCA label as a Disco remixer and consultant. All those records like 'Shame' by
Evelyn 'Champagne' King and some of her other great tracks and Buffalo Smoke's
'Stubborn Kind Of Fella' which was a great track. David definitely influenced me with R'n'B.
When it came to the Disco stuff I liked listening to Tom Savarese because he had a way of playing a lot
of Disco stuff, but he also had a curiosity for R'n'B Disco and so I knew that his mind was a little bit more expanding
into R'n'B even though he was into a lot of the Disco stuff. I really liked Tommy Savarese.
I also liked Walter Gibbons. Walter Gibbons was a friend of mine and he did a lot of great stuff with the
SalSoul label and I think of Anthony White - 'Block Party',
or of Bettye LaVette and 'Doin' The Best That I Can' which he did for WestEnd Records. Walter was great,
really giving himself to the Dance floor and creating a mass-frenzy. He was more into percussions and really getting the
crowd really fastened with his remixes. But he was very talented with that.
There was also a DJ called Johnny Colon, he might have been a Billboard DJ but I'm not sure. Anyway, he was a good
friend of Walter Gibbons and a good friend of mine and John worked at a Club called Friends Again here in New York
City. A small Club and he would play things like Tavares and 'It Only Takes A Minute' and mix that into
Jackson 5's 'Forever Came Today'. Johnny had a great ear for mixing records on beat, he was just a very
technical DJ and I would go and listen to him spin a lot, just to see what records he was mixing with what and I would pick
up a lot of ideas listening to him spin. He was a great DJ, one of the unknown DJ's of Disco era.
So was Paul Casalla at the Monastery in Queens here in New York. A great technical DJ, he knew
how to spin records technically and efficiently well.
So I got my 'technical expertise' from listening to guys like that."
Since you have been DJ'ing, producing and remixing, which of these three different kinds of works do you
"That's a good question. I got the biggest rush and kick out of spinning records, because I was in direct connection
with the Dance floor. I saw the Super bowl going on live, I saw the reaction on the floor to what I was doing and that
created an internal sense of adrenaline unmatched by doing remixing in the studio which was more of a private, behind the
scenes profession. And even though my studio work reached larger audiences with international club play and radio exposure
unmatched by the numbers of patrons dancing to my show on any given night; the big rush, as I mentioned earlier, came when
I was behind the black door spinning records.
Though as I became more vintaged and seasoned, the studio work was the natural evolution and the more subtle joy."
What about your DJ records collection? Have you still got it, or have you sold it off?
"Well, you know, as a DJ you pick up a lot of records. The record pools are giving you records and then if you go to the
record companies you pick up secondary or third, fourth or even fifth copies of these same records. You get records in the
mail from the same companies, so I always had a lot of extra records that I was able to sell or give to friends and family
members. But yes, most of my records are still intact, I still have them in storage and they're very sacred to me."
That's just awesome! Many of your DJ peers have, sadly, sold most of their collections off. Something many
of them regret today.
Ray, could you name some of your all time favorite Disco songs for the viewers of Disco-Disco.com? Like
some kind of Top Ten or likewise, but they don't need to be in order or something...
"I can't get a list down to ten, but these are some of my favorites and these are all the original fully extended 12" or
LP versions and not later revisions or remixes of the original Dance mixes..."
|MFSB||"Love Is The Message"|
|Diana Ross||"Love Hangover", "No One Gets The Prize/The Boss (Medley)",|
"Once In The Morning"
|Cerrone||"Supernature", "Love In C Minor"|
|Trammps||"That's Where The Happy People Go", "Hooked For Life",|
"Disco Inferno", "Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart"
|Love Unlimited Orchestra||"Theme From King Kong", "My Sweet Summer Suite"|
|Ritchie Family||"Peanut Vendor/Frenzi/Brazil (Medley)"|
|Candi Staton||"Young Hearts Run Free", "Victim", "When You wake Up Tomorrow"|
|Evelyn 'Champagne' King||"Shame", "Love Come Down", "I Don't Know If It's Right"|
|Chequers||"Undecided Love (Instrumental)"|
|General Johnson||"No One Can Do It Like You Do"|
|Five Star||"Hide and Seek"|
|Teddy Pendergrass||"Only You", "Bad Luck", "You Can't Hide From Yourself",|
"The Love I Lost"
|Eddie Kendricks||"Girl You Need A Change Of Mind", "Date With The Rain",|
"Keep On Truckin'", "Going Up In Smoke"
|Bettye LaVette||"Doin' The Best That I Can"|
|Dr. Buzzard's Original|
|"Cherchez La Femme", "Sunshower"|
Great list! Lots of wonderful music there... But if you could choose any Disco track that would describe
you, which track would it be?
"I would choose one of these two, it would either be 'Love Is The Message' by MFSB or 'My Love Is Free' by
Double Exposure. And the reason why - they are classy, they have a little bit of Jazz tied in with them.
They're good for radio and they have instrumental long breaks, not percussion breaks that signify the Dance Club arena, but
instrumental enjoyable breaks that are long and they add such a class to the dance floor. They are both great to listen to
and it's a combination of both worlds and I think those two songs kind of add my sense of what I try to do on a Dance floor,
which is create a great Dance arena and always add a little bit of class to round out the phenomenon of the dance floor and
tie it to radio a little bit. That was what I was doing.
In addition I have always been the sole believer that any great piece of music, in any category, has a little bit of Jazz
incorporated in it somewhere that smoothes the ear of the eventual listener."
Yes, that's wonderful!
Have you still got any contact with any old Disco acts, DJ's or other people from the era?
"Yes, Mark Kamins is a friend of mine. Mark produced Madonna's first record - 'Everybody' and he was involved in
the mix of 'Our House' by Madness. And Mark did a lot of DJ'ing for Danceteria here in New York. So, I've kept in
contact with Mark and he is working on some private projects which he's involved with mixing and producing. We kind of
touched base on it, but he couldn't mention the names of the artists right now.
I've also met John Morales from the M&M days back in the 80's when he was working with
Sergio Munzibai who used to work at WBRS here in New York and they combined to call themselves
the M&M Mix. John lives in New Jersey and I was fortunate enough to meet with John six months ago and we spent time in his
house and he was in the process of mixing Marvin Gaye's new album on Columbia Records, which is a
collaboration of old songs re-done again, remastered, reproduced with new bits of tracks. I think that CD may be out right
now. So, John has been working on that, John and I have even been talking about going back and communicating with record
companies and getting involved with remixing or remastering and reissue some of this old stuff again with different labels.
So that's another side project that we're collaborating on."
Yes! You're keeping yourself busy!
"Well, it's good. I think in life the name of the game is to keep busy at all times, even as you mature. I think to stop
working and doing something, is something that will happen in reverse effect in life. I think the whole name of the game
is keep yourself occupied, keep going after some type of a goal so you always maintain your health, because you need your
health to go after your goals and to accomplish things. So that keeps you alive and kicking, so I use that formula to
keep active at all times."
Yes, I understand and that's probably a good devise. So, what do you do for a living today? I know you're
still into music but also antiques as I take it?
"Well, my wife is involved with antiques... She love antiques, I like antiques too but she's more involved with that and
that part of the site that I have at ThePerfectBusiness.com
is more geared towards her side of what's going on, the rest of the site is definitely geared to the music and the
Right now I'm secondarily involved in producing Hip-Hop tracks and Hip-Hop artists. If you remember back in the 80's I was
also involved in signing a couple of controversial Rap artists like Twilight 22 and Public
Enemy to Vanguard. They signed under the name Spectrum City, but they were Public
Enemy and I produced and mixed their first record called 'Lies' on Vanguard. I was very curious about Rap at that
time and then I followed them with the Twilight 22 stuff and 'Electric Kingdom' and 'Siberian Night' which were huge Rap
tracks with a Soul Sonic Force 'Planet Rock' kind of rhythm track.
I am currently working and consulting for a lot of these labels that want to put out unique Disco CD compilations. I consult
on as far as what songs should be used for their CD's. If it's something that's gonna be a Columbia Records CD project, then
I will research the Columbia Records label and I will pick out the best disco songs for this Disco CD compilation and always
try to pick out the longer versions which I think are more attractive to the general market that's out there and always
include special versions of these songs that were probably never released."
That's really exciting.
"Yes Claes, and I'm also working on a Ray 'Pinky' Velazquez Greatest Mixes, which would incorporate all of my mixes
for all the labels that I've been involved with and getting funding for this project. I'm trying to work on that right now,
putting that together.
I'm also planning a Ray 'Pinky' Velazquez Greatest Hits using all types of labels with my favorite songs and create
what I think were the greatest mixes that I enjoyed playing and come up with another CD for that."
Yes, that's also very exciting. That's great to hear! Looking forward to those.
"Yes! And a book is in formation about my time at the Ipanema and I will call it 'Behind he Black Door' and kind of give
the reader an insight to the mind of a DJ and what goes on in the mind while the dance floor is experiencing the record that
they are currently dancing to. It will lend insight of the musical journey of the Club's evening and the actual emotional
goal of the DJ for his audience. What's behind the mind of the DJ when he's doing all of this and why."
Wow! You should really do that, it would be interesting.
Finally, is if you've got anything else you wanna tell me about. Any information or fun happenings or
anything else you'd like to share?
"I think when I look back at the whole evolvement, going back to the first record pool started by David Mancuso
at 99 Prince Street here in New York City, in the heart of the Village. I remember becoming one of his members there and
it was very very difficult to become a DJ part of the first record pool, simply called 'the Record Pool'. I remember
meeting Donna Summer there for the first time. Casablanca Records came down and all their executives were there and Donna
performed for the DJ's. She performed 'Love To Love You Baby' at the record pool and I found that to be very exciting and
I found that to be very inspiring, especially when we got the album a month later in test pressing from the record pool.
And we saw Donna Summer evolve into a great artist from that album and we knew then that the connection between David
Mancuso and the record industry was a legitimate connection and that DJ's were going to become some type of force in Dance
music. I was very excited about that, very excited about what was happening at the record pool and obviously there were
times when we would have special parties at the record pool itself.
The record pool itself was huge, the DJ's would come pick up their records at the record pool and the record pool was
nothing more than 'the Loft'. The actual Discotheque turned into the record pool during the week for the DJ's to pick up
their records and on the weekends have their parties. And occasionally there were parties, for example the one that I just
mentioned - Donna Summer and Casablanca Records during the week. We had a party for Donna Summer, and David Mancuso would
spin records at this party and he would spin a lot of new records. Things like the Mighty Clouds of Joy was being spun
there, 'Love Hangover' by Diana Ross. I mean, a lot of things pre-released that was very exciting to hear at David Mancuso's
Loft. He had a great sound system, second to Larry Levan's sound system at 'the Garage'. And it was a very exciting thing
going on there, so when I think back of my history I think back of the Loft because it was the beginning of a great era for
Yes! And that's a very good end to this to this interview as well I guess.
"Hahaha! I guess so."
I have really enjoyed talking to you Ray and...
"I really have enjoyed talking and really touching base with you. You know, Claes, this has been very very nice and
these are type of things I wanna continue doing and I want to expand and help revive the Disco era because it's part of the
past and I know that can never come back, but there is a lot of curiosity about Dance and Disco music today and I want to
be able to be one of those key people to help interviews like this, as well as consulting on Disco CD compilations or even
Disco music for movie projects, to help really bring back all of this stuff."
Yeah! I'm sure you will be influential in doing that.
"Thank you very much Claes. Thank you! Thank you very much!"
OK Ray, Thank you very much for taking your time with me.
"Thank you Claes and sincerely I had a great time with you. I really did. I enjoyed this very much."
So did I - Thank you very much Ray. Take care!
"And you have a good day today."
Ray is still active in the music business, a business he has kept true to for over 40 years, evolving from a hot DJ, to
become a highly regarded remixer before earning success as a producer.
He was right there in New York when Disco was born
and has seen everything from its first steps to becoming a phenomenon.
He has lived, ate and breathed Disco, so he knows everything worth to know.
Ray "Pinky" Velazquez
DISCO Pioneer !!!
Fore more info on "Pinky", visit his web site:
to "Pinky" for participating and making this page possible !!!