Whilst everyone knows what a DJ is, few people know the rich history regarding the rise of the DJ over more traditional forms of live music and entertainment. What most readers definitely aren’t aware of is that the history of the DJ goes back to the 1800’s before radio’s were even invented.
The precursor to the DJ was the invention of the phonograph, the first device ever invented to play music. Invented in 1877, it was closely followed by the gramophone records in 1892. Soon after, these records went into commercial production and marked the first time ever the public was able to purchase music.
The tipping point happened in 1906, when the first ever radio transmission was sent. This was not only a defining moment in the world of the DJ, but in human history itself (but we only care about the DJs don’t we).
1909, however, was the year in which the 1st ever DJ spun a record. Ray Newbie from California is officially recognised as the 1st DJ to ever hit the airwaves (and that is a pretty cool name to have by 1909 standards.) Although just 16 at the time, Ray or “DJ Newbie” used to pump the music, as him and his team kept the music going 7 days a week, with the exception of a bit of downtime during World War I.
It wasn’t until 25 years later, however, that the term DJ or Disc Jockey was ever coined. Prior to then, the guys behind the scenes were called “record men” instead of DJs.
Up until this point, the DJ was in charge of selecting music, not mixing it (which, let’s face it, is the key part of being a DJ). The first DJ to ever mix music using twin turntables was a guy (and from hereon will be regarded as the godfather of DJs) by the name of Jimmy Savile in 1947. Not only was he the 1st DJ to do this, but in 1943 he also ran the 1st ever dance party playing the latest jazz classics.
What brought the DJ out of the shadows and into the mainstream however was the growth in bars, nightclubs and discotheques, as well as the fact turntables and DJ equipment became cheap enough for average punters to afford.
Shortly after, DJs were transformed by the Hip Hop culture by Afrika Baambaata who invented the 5 pillars of hip hop music and culture, of which DJing and turntablism is one. (For those who aren’t aware, the 5 pillars are DJing, rapping, breaking, graffiti and knowledge.)
Today, however, the most famous DJs are from the electronic music genre, in particular trance music with DJs such as DJ Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren, and Paul Van Dyk.