The first acclaimed DJ (and club-promoter) was Jimmy Savile who also invented the disco and twin decks. In 1940 he hired a small room in Yorkshire for 10 shillings and opened his first Grand Record Dance. 'I sold 12 tickets for a shilling each. The owner of the dancehall was so impressed he never asked for the rent.' Jimmy eventually met with success several years later when he invited dancers to bring their own records to a free night. Within the first 20 minutes, 600 people had filed through. 'I quickly realised that there was some money to be made and immediately went to the door, raised the entry price to one shilling and got another 600 people in.' Fame and fortune have followed for the world's first and perhaps richest DJ.
Wealth is still abundant in the industry. David Davies, editor of Mixmag, a monthly publication on DJs and club culture, estimates that about 1,500 DJs around the country are making a comfortable living, while the top 20 DJs still make pounds 3500 for about a two-hour set. When you consider that many of these DJs do five or six sets over a weekend alone, that's not bad going.
The cult of the DJ has taken on massive proportions, with the best DJs assuming pop-idol status and commanding audiences of dedicated followers. 'The house scene has always promoted positivity,' explains DJ Danny Rampling, who currently hosts a show on Kiss FM and has just cut a new record under the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym, Millionaire Hippies. 'It has enabled DJs and clubbers to experiment and progress. The whole thing is snowballing.'
Rampling is also aware that self-promotion is a key element of his success. 'A DJ has got to convey his personality through his music. It's a feeling within, a spiritual energy and you've got to be 100 per cent on form when you're playing. Technical ability is a prerequisite, but the choice of tunes is most important.'
This view is held by Smokin' Jo, one of the latest and most popular DJs to arrive on the scene. 'Two DJs can play an identical set. One will have it and the other will fail miserably. It's about choosing the right tunes and playing them at the right moment. You've got to be at one with the crowd to know just when to put on a storming track.' Smokin' Jo, also feels that as a woman she plays differently from her male counterparts. 'I add more wit and sensitivity. I think I'm more uplifting.'
Fellow female DJ, Sarah HB, who plays at her own club, Jus' House, agrees. 'The difference is not just a musical one. Men generally tend to be more obsessive about things, whether it's cars, hobbies or music. I've had to be equally obsessive and determined. It takes a lot of guts for a woman, you have to speak your mind.' But the perseverance has paid off. 'I've worked damn hard at it. I first started at Silver City for a pittance on odd nights. Then through various pirate stations I landed a slot at Kiss and now I'm off to Australia to promote a three-week tour ending with a New Years Eve spectacular in the Sydney Olympic Stadium. I hope that this small success encourages other, as yet unknown, DJs to keep plugging away.'
See the DJs at: Kinky Trax 3 Launch Party at Happy Jax A packed line-up of international DJs including Dana Down (Chicago), Victor Simonelli (NYC) and Sarah HB (London). Sat 4 Dec, 10.30pm-6am Arch 5, Shand St, London Bridge SE1 (0831 568502)
Hot Club at The Cross Hot Creative Management round off their first birthday with Smokin' Jo, KCC, Anthony and Rob & Ricky Williams. Fri 3 Dec, 10pm-late The Cross, York Way, London N1 (071-865 6012)