In Memory of Pete DJ Jones

pete-dj-jones-photoWhen I heard the news that Pete “DJ” Jones had passed away last Wednesday, January 15th at age 79, I was instantly taken back to my youth in the 1970’s.  I just knew I would see a bunch of websites and blogs paying respect to this man, but here we are days later and I’ve only seen a few quick notices of his passing.  Well I’m not gonna let him go out like that.

You see, before Hip-Hop was Hip-Hop, there were New York DJs Like Pete DJ Jones, Grandmaster Flowers from Brooklyn, DJ Kool Herc from the Bronx and other innovators laying the groundwork that would go on to inspire many of those who were experiencing a new vibe from the streets. Ask DJ Grand Master Flash, rapper Kurtis Blow, and Lovebug Starski who put them on and inspired them, and they will tell you that Pete DJ Jones played a vital role in guiding and advising them. In fact, both Kurtis Blow and Grandmaster Flash have both said that Pete was the first DJ they ever saw play on two turntables with two copies of the same record. These were not the only protégés of Pete DJ Jones at that time.

In the late 1970’s, after years of casual drawing at home and later getting hooked on the unique street and graffiti art that broke out across New York City at that time, I presented my portfolio and was accepted to attend the High School of Art & Design in Manhattan. Some of my classmates included artist Chris “Daze” Ellis, whose works are currently showing at TT Underground and The Museum of the City of New York.  East Harlem was my main stomping ground back then, but I became friends with some Art & Design students from the Bronx including one who was good friends with Pete DJ Jones. He would help Pete transport his massive mobile DJ sound system to shows around the city and I would eventually tag along to help, and get to know Pete, who was a gentle giant that stood at about 6 foot 7-inches tall.  When Pete had a party to DJ, I would hop on the subway and head up to 161st street Yankee Stadium stop in the Bronx and walk over to meet up with our crew at his bar “Pete’s Lounge” on 164th Street and Ogden Avenue, while trying hard to avoid all the Angel Dust heads and stick-up kids that were around back then. We’d load up his sound system into his flat-fronted Volkswagon bus and head out to set up at either a restaurant space, club, community center, outdoor block party in the parks, or other unique venues in the Bronx, midtown -Manhattan, and Harlem. When I say unique, I mean places like The Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was assassinated (now The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Center ) and the historic “Renny” Renaissance Ballroom, both in Harlem, where we would unload the sound system and the many crates of records and proudly bring it all into the venue and set it up.

Pete DJ Jones was known for having one of the top mobile DJ sound systems of the day. I’m talking about floor-thumping Cerwin Vega bass cabinets, Bose mid-range speakers, Klipsch horns and an essential array of tweeters for the high end, all powered by some powerful McIntosh amps. I also remember Pete’s huge GLI mixer that I was able to touch now and then while setting up or breaking down the sound system. His sound equipment was so top-quality that other DJs who have tried and knew how hard it was to put together a quality mobile sound system, looked forward to stepping in and playing on Pete’s system. I was fortunate to experience these ground breaking DJs and parties first-hand at age 17, along with all of the artistic forms of expression that came out of the inner-city that would eventually come to be collectively known as Hip-Hop culture. These were around the days when DJ Grandmaster Flash was king of the wheels of steel,  Lovebug Starski was the first to include the phrase “Hip-Hop” in his raps, and Afrika Bambaataa described the elements of DJing, rap, graffiti, and B-boy break dancing as Hip-Hop culture – Peace, Unity, Love and having FUN!

So here’s to you Pete DJ Jones.  Hip-Hop and dance music emerged from those days when people like you set the stage and helped to inspire a new vibrant scene influenced by a wide spectrum of music in clubs and on the streets of New York City!  You are a pioneer in the DJ world and a true inspiration for DJ and Hip-Hop culture. Rest in peace.

This is history ya’ll,  watch these videos below for more on Pete DJ Jones and other unsung pioneers from that era!  –  Tony E

The History of Rap – Pete DJ Jones

more Hip Hop History