We've drafted in Greg Wilson, the former electro-funk pioneer, nowadays a leading figure in the global disco/re-edits movement and respected commentator on dance music and popular culture, to bring us four random nuggets of history; highlighting a classic DJ, label, venue and record each month.
East London-born in 1949, Froggy (Steve Howlett) was a British mixing pioneer, owning the sound system that powered the Southâs Soul Mafia events, most notably the Caister Weekenders, beginning in 1979 and continuing to date. He acquired a love for both records and electronics as a youngster, his father employed by Plesseyâs, who made record players and radiograms.Â
His DJ breakthrough came in 1971 at Londonâs Birdâs Nest and, for a four year span, heâd regularly take his mobile set-up to Lincolnshireâs Scunthorpe Baths to play between visiting pop bands, plus Radio 1 DJs including Johnnie Walker, Dave Lee Travis and, most importantly, Emperor Rosko.
The Wolfman Jack-styled Rosko, one of radioâs most musically astute DJs, with a strong soul leaning, boasted an impressive sound system for live appearances. It was on witnessing Rosko in full-effect that Froggyâs trajectory was set. However, it was Dave Lee Travis that prompted his next moves, approaching Froggy to tour with him, resulting in the DLT Roadshow and a five-year association. Having previously played there with DLT, Froggy began his successful residency at Londonâs Southgate Royalty in 1978, bringing in his sound system and quickly winning over the crowd with his soul, funk and disco selections.
Hooking-up with the Mafia DJs, headed by club legend Chris Hill, Radio Londonâs Robbie Vincent and Capital Radioâs Greg Edwards, his sound system was a crucial component at â78âs National Soul Festival all-dayer at Tiffanyâs Purley, a landmark for the emerging jazz-funk movement. As part of the Mafia, which also included Jeff Young, Sean French, Chris Brown and Pete Tong, he was key to their all-dayer/weekender events.
Although introduced to mixing via Argentinian-born American Greg James at Londonâs Embassy, his epiphany came during a 1979 trip to New Yorkâs New Music Seminar, where he saw Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan close-up. Heâd own the UKâs first pair of Technics SL1200s and co-design the Matamp Supernova mixer (one of which Iâd use myself in 1983 when demonstrating live mixing on TVâs âThe Tubeâ).
His reputation grew via mixes for Peter Powellâs Radio 1 show in the early-â80s, but the Mafiaâs rejection of the new electro direction would impact negatively on Froggy â the Mafia losing relevance as a younger generation of electro-influenced DJs embraced mixing.
His sound system was hired out for rare groove warehouse parties and later rave events, whilst he subsequently hosted his own Capital Radio show, but, despite doing various remixes, his place at the vanguard of mixing diminished amidst the explosion of hip-hop, house and techno that dictated the new horizons. Froggy died following a brain haemorrhage in 2008 â his legacy finally coming to light.
Born in 1958, Italian-American Bobby Orlando, a multi-instrumentalist, played in glam rock bands as a teenager but his attention shifted to disco as the â70s unfurled. Having found work as studio engineer in the late â70s, he turned his hand to production - his debut project the Bee Gees-inspired âDancinââ by Tod Foster.
He first found success with one of Kid Creoleâs original Coconuts, Roni Griffith. 1980âs âMondo Manâ reached #36 on the US Dance chart, improved on by a #30 placing for â81âs âDesire/I Want Your Lovinâ, before â82âs â(The Best Part of) Breakin' Upâ just missed the top spot.
Heâd establish his own distinctive sound, defined by Giorgio Moroder-inspired running electronic basslines, plus his trademark cowbell patterns. This driving New York/European disco assault took the gay scene by storm, and along with the West Coast productions of Patrick Cowley, helped define the Hi-NRG direction that would, in turn, influence wider popular music.
Running parallel with Roni Griffithâs Vanguard releases, in 1980 he began issuing tracks on his own âOâ Records. Harris Glenn Milstead, AKA Divine, an outrageously flamboyant drag queen and actor associated with filmmaker John Waters, most notably the star of the notorious âPink Flamingosâ (1972), became an unlikely dance diva thanks to early-â80s club hits like âNative Love (Step By Step)â, âShoot Your Shotâ and âLove Reactionâ (which shamelessly pilfered New Orderâs âBlue Mondayâ). The Flirts, a girl-group vehicle for Orlandoâs writing/production, enjoyed a healthy run of club hits, their â82 breakthrough coming with âPassionâ, whilst the Shep Pettibone mixed âYou & Meâ topped the US dance chart in â85.
There were also Bobby âOâ solo releases, the biggest of which, 1982âs âIâm So Hot For Youâ and âShe Has A Wayâ, were both remixed by John âJellybeanâ Benitez. In 1984 heâd produce the original âWest End Girlsâ, along with a number of other tracks, for the then unknown UK pop act The Pet Shop Boys (although it was the re-recorded Stephen Hague production that took it to the top of the UK chart the following year). When EMI signed the duo in 1985 Orlando, in return for cutting contractual ties, would receive a settlement entitling him to significant royalties from future sales.
Heâd wind down his music interests in 1987, selling the label to Henry Stone, legendary owner of T.K. Records, and departing from the industry for a number of years.
Noting that heâd rather âput out 200 records that sell 5000 copies each than one record that sells a millionâ, it wasnât the big successes that defined Orlandoâs career but the myriad of minor successes that spread via gay clubs worldwide.Â
Launched in the mid-â80s by Richard Barratt (AKA Parrot) at Sheffieldâs Mona Lisaâs, Jive Turkey appeared at the perfect moment to break the incoming house sound in the city, heralding the onrushing rave era, and inspiring Warp Records, the cityâs famous dance label (for whom Parrot and Richard H. Kirk would record cult-classic âTestoneâ as Sweet Exorcist in 1990).
Jive Turkey rode the first, underground, wave of popularity house music enjoyed on British dancefloors as music from Chicago labels Trax and DJ International first reached UK shores, and the second wave as Ecstasy hit and the smiley-faced scene exploded on a mainstream level.Â
Arising from the necessity for a good party in Sheffield, the opening Saturday in Autumn 1985 was Parrotâs DJ debut. Having never been attached to the new wave/futurist scene that loomed large over Sheffield in the late â70s/early â80s, he was keen to explore a different musical path, citing DJs like John Tracey AKA Disco John, who later ended up at Manchesterâs HaÃ§ienda, and Northern soul stalwart Richard Searling, who had a show on Sheffieldâs Radio Hallam, as local influences.
Parrot was joined the following year by Winston Hazel (AKA Winni), previously a member of the b-boy crew Smak 19, whoâd started to DJ and was primed to pursue dance musicâs next phase, moving from the electro era to house.Â
As was generally the case with black music venues pre-rave, it wasnât solely one style of music on offer at Jive Turkey, the night providing a spectrum of dance sounds, moving between tracks like Strafeâs âSet It Offâ, âUnder Mi Sleng Tengâ by Wayne Smith, J.M. Silkâs âMusic Is The Keyâ, âRock The Bellsâ by LL Cool J and Fatback Bandâs âSpanish Hustleâ.
The audience comprised of black kids (many with serious dancing skills), Sheffield electronic musicians, old soulies, jazz fans and indie kids â different sounds appealing to different parts of the crowd. Mona Lisaâs changed hands after a few years and Jive Turkey was hosted for a time at Sheffieldâs City Hall until it moved back to its original location at the renamed Occasions in â88, where it continued to thrive. However, as the â80s turned into the â90s, the night gradually began to lose its mojo, finally ending in 1992.
Its spirit would be rekindled at Manchesterâs influential Electric Chair parties, which began in the mid-â90s when former Jive Turkey regular, Luke Cowdrey hooked-up with Justin Crawford to form crack DJ tag team the Unabombers; Cowdreyâs nights out in Sheffield helping provide inspiration for this long-running underground essential, which still hosts one-off events, whilst birthing Croatiaâs Electric Elephant festival.
Taken from his 1979 LP âDancinâ & Prancinââ on Salsoul Records, Candidoâs âJingoâ is a formidable Latin-disco force that probably best exemplifies the ethos behind the label.
When it comes to the congas, Cuban Candido Camero, born in 1921, is the percussion instruments greatest exponent â the most recorded conga drummer in the history of jazz.Â
Moving to the US in 1946, the man with a seemingly endless energy reserve pioneered the use of bongos and congas simultaneously, and his unrivalled skills saw him rise to prominence during the next three decades as a top session player working with everyone from Duke Ellington to Tito Puente to Ray Charles. In addition, heâd release a plethora of his own material during this period.
When Candido found himself without a label in the late â70s New York disco powerhouse, Salsoul, with its strong Latin slant, pounced at the opportunity to sign him up. Candido released two albums for Salsoul, but it was his debut heâs best remembered for, which also contained further dance floor hits in âThousand Finger Manâ and the title track. However, it was âJingoâ, the club oriented cover of a Nigerian classic, that provided the high point.
âDrums Of Passionâ by Nigerian percussionist, Babatunde Olatunji, was a best-selling album in the US following its 1960 release. It included the track âGin-Go-Lo-Baâ, a fiery and raw percussive workout that would become a favourite of seminal NYC DJ Francis Grasso later down the line, whilst also finding favour at David Mancusoâs esoteric Loft parties.
Covered on numerous occasions, including an uncredited 1964 adaptation from Parisian songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, titled âMaraboutâ, and a credited version five years later by psychedelic Latin-rock outfit Santana, featured on their self-titled debut LP, which brought the track to the Woodstock generation when the San Franciscan band performed at the era-defining festival. A later 1987 recording by John âJellybeanâ Benitez would reach #2 on the US dance chart.
Candidoâs version would become one of those rare tracks that remained popular on both an underground and a mainstream level. Despite becoming a firm disco favourite, âJingoâ had no problem in crossing over to the specialist jazz-funk scene in the UK, where it acquired classic status alongside other disco records with a jazz tinge, like Francine McGeeâs âDeliriumâ and âDreaming A Dreamâ by the Crown Heights Affair.
Shep Pettiboneâs 1983 Candido remix, âJingo Breakdownâ, gave the track a new lease of life, but the original remains the quintessential version - having never lost its magic, it sounds just as vital today as ever.Â Â
The clean-living Candido Camero is still going strong at 96 years old.Â
Written by Greg Wilson
Edited by Josh RayÂ
'Froggy' illustration by Pete Fowler
Check out the previous Discotheque ArchivesÂ hereÂ Â