DISCO is really magic word for me! Please, tell
me what that word means to you?
Could you explain what is «Disco Step-By-Step»?
How did you manage to get this show on television?
I approached a couple of different local broadcast television stations in the Buffalo New York area but they were not interested.. so ... I talked to a friend of mine who worked for cable television -- which, at the time, cable was just getting started. They were looking to put cable in the hotel where I wanted to tape my show. The hotel had a disco called the Club 747 (which was the actual interior of a Boeing 747 jumbo airliner). The owner of the hotel did not want cable because he wanted people out of their rooms and spending money into his disco, restrauants, and night clubs ... not watching HBO movies! So the cable company jumped at the chance to begin a relationship with the hotel owner and decided to give me all the necessary equipment, crew, and air-time to properly produce my show. The show first aired in black and white and later the cable company purchased color equipment.
Today it seems (only seems because i was born in 1970) that
period between 1970 and 1980 was the the most important music period in history.
Late in that decade Disco music was born but you were very active from early
1970 and earlier. Marty, please describe the 70's to me. I know it's not easy
to tell much of your thoughts about that big period, but maybe if you could
tell me your most important thoughts?
I think people my age back in the 70s were very thankful just to be alive. We had just come out of the Woodstock era .. and most of us feared the end of the world was right around the corner. We were at war ... and the college campuses around the U.S. were in turmoil. We thought for sure we would wind up blowing ourselves off the face of the earth ... so turning the corner into the 70s bought us a big sigh of relief. I think that is why a lot of people accepted disco. It felt good to dance, clean up our hippy images, and learn how to live without the fear of dying from some nucular diaster.
Marty, you are witness of something what was going on before
Disco music came on the scene, did you have feelings that «phenomenon»
Yes I did. When I saw a dj spinning records in a night club back in the late '60s I had a feeling it would become popular. It would take some work ... but I remember after a band would perform, the dj would get the people in the nightclub more excited and out on the dance floor than some of the live bands. This really stuck with me .. and I used the same concept in Buffalo a couple of years later. When I read in Billboard Magazine a year after starting up the first nightclub dj sound system in Buffalo... I really learned that disco would grab hold and stay. Billboard reported that from just playing records in the local discos people were running out to their local record stores looking to buy them. Some songs were selling over 100,000 copies without any radio station airplay. This was un-heard of at the time. Usually record companies had to pay a small fortune to get their records aired on radio. That is why the record companies jumped at the chance to get involved in the local dj record pools. It was a very cheap way to bring their product to the consumer.
According to your biography on the Internet you are producer,
writer, deejay, creator so the most relieable person to tell me about Disco
music and its quality?
Disco music made people dance. And once it really caught on everybody and their brother started to release disco records. Most of them were not bad at all.. even Ethel Merman and Frank Sinarta's disco records had people on the dance floor. But .. along with the good came the bad .. like any other genre ... record companies have a tendency to release hundreds of records and it is like throwing them at a wall .. whichever one stuck to the wall they would go with. And the record pools were overrun with listening to the hundreds of records that came their way each month. It was hard enough to listen to them yet alone play them. It was overkill ... big time!
Please tell me what is the meaning of each of your following
producer - responsible for everything related to my tv show.
writer - I wrote the script for each show .. right down to timing it out for commericals to be added while it was broadcast .
deejay - I spun records in many local discos. I was the first club dj in Buffalo NewYork back in 1970.
creator and concert promoter - I created my TV show. A creator is a separate title the industry gives to those who actually comes up with the idea. A Concert promoter is just that. I promoted concerts in various venues through out the Buffalo area... I booked many top acts at these shows..such as BB King, Santana, Rod Stewart, etc.
host of tv show - That title was one I never really enjoyed. I liked being behind the scenes and even as a dj I did not like to talk much. So when I produced the tv show ... someone had to host it ... and it turned out to be me. I could never remember what to say .. so I wrote everything down on cue cards and had my floor director hold them up next to the camera anytime I had to talk in front of it. Most of the times I never looked into the camera at all .... I just stared at the cue card .. and read it vebatim. It was hirarlous to watch .. but very embarrasing at the same time. When the show moved to a broadcast station they supplied a professional host and it made life much easier for me. I still came on each show and did a segment called Make it or Break it ... but the host helped me get through it. He was great ... his name is Kevin O'Connell .. a former radio dj and local tv weatherman. A real pro!
I don't want to talk with you just about Disco music but also about your work, your shows, Buffalo New York Record Pool etc. etc. To be honest I don't know where to start actually :-) Could you give me some chronological events in your professional life with some explanation about each? I think this will be a long answer but please, I really want to learn about you more and other readers want the same.
What a question! I have to go back to when I was a teenager. I loved listening to music and I was lucky to be born in a city where the music being played on the radio was rhythm and blues. It evolved into rock and roll. I would run out and buy the R&B records being played on the air and would bring them to parties with me. I also booked bands at some of the parties .. and in high school and college I did the same thing. If someone needed a band for an event they knew to get a hold of me. I also played the piano while growing up so I joined a blues band in the early 60s. I never practiced much so I really was not a very good piano player. When we opened the show one night for a popular local band ..once I heard their piano and organ player I quit playing then and there. I became that group's manager and took them out of Buffalo to New York City. I sent out tapes to many different record companies but the band did not catch on until Beatle, George Harrison sent me a telegram saying he was interested in producing the band for the newly formed, Apple Records. I had sent Harrison the same tape I sent to all the other companies but once the other ones found out the Beatles wanted the band my telephone would not stop ringing. We had our choice of deals. Even when I tried to book the band in NYC I was up against a brick wall. One club owner said to me: "Whatever good came out of Buffalo New York?" He threw me out of his club and told me not to waste his time. I refused to accept his decision not to book the band .. because they were great and knew if other musicians would hear them they would love them too. This club, the Scene .. was a musicans club..meaning ... the patrons were mostly musicians... big stars too! Every big rock star of the day hung out at the Scene when they came to NY. That is why I wanted my band to play there. Rock legend, Jimi Hendrix was there that night so I boldly walked up to him and asked: "Would you like to hear a good band?" I was lugging a reel to reel tape recorder around with me. No cassettes or CDs back then. He said: "Sure .. let's go back into the owner's office." I told Jimi that I did not think that was a very good idea because the owner already told me he was not interested in my band. Jimi said: "What does he know? The guy is just a club owner. I am a musician!" He loved the band and when the club owner walked into his office there we all were sitting. He asked me: "What the hell are you doing in my office? I thought I threw you out of here?" Hendrix spoke right up and informed him that he loved the group, which by the way was called the Raven. And proceeded to talk the owner into booking them into his club. That is the same club where I first saw the dj playing records using two turntables.
Marty, what does it
mean when you say are «Disco Sound System Developer»? Your own sound
I developed the first sound system used as a disco setup when I took my own system out of my house and brought it to a friend of mine's night club. He was using a juke box then and was not convinced a sound system would help enhance his club. I told him I already saw it work in NYC and at least try it. I did him a big favor by bringing my own system .. and setting it up in the back of his club. I used my band's speaker equipments... two Voice of the Theatre A-7s, and two Altec Falancia's (which are the in home version of the A-7) ... a Dynaco amp., two AR turntables, and a mixer I had the guitar player from my band .. make for me. It was the size of a pack of cigarettes. I used all of my own records too. The place went absolutely nuts from the moment I spun the first record. The rest is history. Every Buffalo club owner came in the week I was there (each night my friend asked me to stay another night) and wound up buying their own systems and hiring djs.
New York City is great
city today with lots of night clubs, discoteques, recording studios... Back
in the 70's, what was the situation then?
There were lots of clubs all over NYC. Every time you turned around a new one was opening and another one closing. You really had a big choice. Most, if not all .. played the same music supplied from the area dj record pools.
You became very successful,
what is your secret?
Get a vision and go for it!
As a child did you have
any idea that you would be doing all of this stuff in your life?
I think so... now that I look back at it. I always loved music and television. I did not go to school for it but I learned the business end of it by the skin of my teeth.
I think we must not
miss Studio 54? Please some details if you have them?
There is a lot written about Studio 54 ... I think the best book is: "The Last Party ... Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night" by Anthony Haden-Guest. I suggest you and your readers get a copy of that one and you will be surprised what actually went on in that club. I never hung out there at all. I did attend a couple of their wild parties but I was busy doing other things to become a regular patron.
Which is your favorite
artist and song?
You have got to be kidding asking me that question! There are way too many to name. If you check out my discography on my website you will find I worked on many songs back in the disco era. I would not play a song if I did not like it. That is the freedom all club djs have. So ... to ask which one I liked best is next to impossible to answer. I liked them all.
With which artists you
had cooperation? (Raven and for example Silver Convention maybe?!) Could you
give me more details about each and others?
I aleady touched base with you about Raven. They were a great band but they decided to split up before they actually made it into the big time. They did not sign with George Harrison and Apple Records but instead with Columbia Records. We were advised the Beatles were splitting up and Apple Records would be no more. It turned out that information was exactly right. But the Raven members could not get along personally .... musically they were geniuses. When I first stated my tv show I was really fed up with live entertainers. I managed the Top 40 group, the Grass Roots after the Raven split up and enjoyed working with real pros who had actual hit records but that got old too. So when I started my tv show I just had artists come on and talk instead of having them perform. It was very interesting. I wanted them to share with the audience about what it was like working in show business. It was not until after the show moved from cable to broadcast did I start having the different guests perform. We even had disco diva high fashion model, Grace Jones on the show and did not have her sing. The host just talked to her and we later played a couple of her records and she watched the dancers dance to them. Looking back on that segment realize I should have had her perform. She was wild back then and I am sure she would have done a terrific job. As far as Silver Convention ... I remixed Romona Wolf's song: "Step-by-Step" and used it as a theme song about nine of my tv shows. Romona was a member of Silver Convention. Wally McDonald, one of Canada's top disco djs at the time also remixed that song with me.
Marty, you have enjoyed
a lot in playing music in your shows no matter if it is on TV or disco clubs
etc.? Could you describe for me please one night in disco club and your show
Typical night in a club for me was lugging at least four milk crates of records in... checking with the club owner, having a cocktail .. playing slow tempo music to get things going slowly .. and moving into faster stuff after the club got warmed up. I only played hustle type songs. I did throw in a few funk tunes but I had a hustle dancer following and that is all they wanted to hear and I wanted to play. The TV show was the same except preparing for it was much different. I had to write the scripts, pick the music, contact the dancers, call the tv station .. talk to the director, arrange for the hair and fashion people, book hotel rooms as dressing rooms, .. you name it .. I did it! Then we taped three .. one hour shows ... from about 10 a.m. till 4 p.m. We never taped at night until much later in the production. I had more control taping in the day. The dancers would bring three changes of clothling. They loved it! If they came for one taping they and their families could watch them for three straight weeks.
Are you satisfied with
all you done in your professional life till today? Would you change something
if you could?
Yes .. I am satisfied with my professional life. And no .. I would not change a thing. What happened back in the 70s is now history and even if I wanted to change something I couldn't and wouldn't.
Could you tell me about
the most special moment(s) in your pro life during your great career?
There were many special moments ... I think meeting the different famous artists along the way is something I will always cherish.
What kind of music do
you you listen to today?
I still listen to '70s disco hustle songs. I am thrilled to see and hear artists bringing back that style. I think more and more will come in the future. Many techno songs .. I understand... are just samples of what we spun back in the '70s.
This interview will
be released on Anfranod «Koto» Maiola's site and I wonder if you
ever heard of Italo Disco Music before this, the style of disco music produced
No. I am not familar with it at all. Yes.. I have seen the words written on various websites but am not quite sure what the music is all about. But I bet it is good.
Koto is one of the greatest
italo artist among the others so what do you think about his music?
I honestly have never heard his music.
In USA at the beginning
of 1980's apperead some great men, like Patrick Cowley, Bobby Orlando and they
made lots of great songs. They called that style of music High Energy. Are you
familiar with that style?
Not really. I was out of the music business after disco faded in the early '80s. I refused to play anything that wasn't hustle music. When the records companies started to push punk music to us through the record pools I knew my disco music business days were over.
Marty, what are you
I am semi-retired and I look after the medical care for my mother who is quite ill. I did the same for my father until he passed away five years ago. I got involved in the stock market a long time ago .. before the internet stocks even were around .. so I saw them coming and got involved early and got out before they sank.
Internet is here, and
thanks to it, we can now talk about various people and we can talk about you.
Thanx to the Internet we can meet and learn about great guys like you are who
deserve many nice thoughts about contribution to Disco music. What do you think
about Internet and his role in music life?
In the beginning I thought the Internet would be an exciting place for music... but like everything else those days have to come to an end. The major lawsuits have stiffled the Internet music innovators .... and I do not see it getting any better down the road. In fact, I think new laws are right around the corner and pretty soon all the music internet sites will be treated just like radio stations ... and will have to pay big time. I guess I can not blame the artists for making the government protect them. It is their only source of personal income.
Can you tell me your
plans for near future?
Sure ... stay retired ... finish writing my book, see the Disco Hall of Fame (tm) come to life, and maybe do some public speaking. I even thought about doing a new dance tv show ... based on the same principles as the last one. The jury is still out on that idea. I would only produce the show as I saw it .. and would not be too excited about including many of the dance music songs out there today. But I think there is a need for another dance television show.. I just am not sure it is me who is suppose to produce, write, and create it. I maybe...as they say: "over the hill." I also want to complete a video documentary.
© Zeljko Vujkovic - 2004