Here, he tells us how he first became interested in mobile DJing and how he has grown his business over the years.
I was born at home in April 1960 in Chippenham, Wiltshire. My birth was just a few days before the American rock ‘n’ roll singer Eddie Cochran died, when a taxi he was a passenger in crashed at the end of the road I lived in. I am the youngest of three children; there were five of us living in a traditional two-up, two-down house with no bathroom. Life was far from easy and it became more of a struggle when my father died when I was aged just 10. However, I feel lucky having been born in the 60s and grown up through the 70s and 80s with music that became the history of pop and provided the soundtrack to my life.
My passion for music began in the 70s when I was in my teens. It was a time when there were so many great musical genres to enjoy: glam rock, disco, punk, new wave, rock and two-tone. This was also when I started my vinyl collection, and many of the records I bought then I still play today.
On leaving school in 1976 I applied for a factory job at Citronic in Melksham, Wiltshire, who were the original manufacturing pioneers of DJ consoles. Many of today's most successful DJs learnt their craft on these amazing machines. I was offered the job but turned it down as I had also been accepted for an electrical apprenticeship with Westinghouse Brake & Signal Company, based in my home town of Chippenham.
After completing my apprenticeship, I grew tired of travelling around the country installing railway signaling, so I decided to return to Chippenham. Looking for another job, I once again applied to Citronic. This time, when they made me a job offer I took it, and my love for mobile discos began.
Here was a job that combined music and electronics. I could hardly believe my luck! My first job at Citronic was assembling record deck consoles and I was one of only three people at the factory building consoles at that time. We built them all: Hawaii, Avon, Poplar, Tamar, Trent and my favorite, the Thames 2. With the PPX amplifier range just about to go into production, I was promoted from console builder to amplifier line supervisor and put in charge of a team of six ladies assembling 12 amplifiers a day.
As Citronic's business grew so did the job opportunities, which allowed me to become Citronic’s quality control inspector. If you still have a Citronic console or amplifier and it has “No 2” stamped on the inside serial number sticker, then it was checked by me before it left the factory!
It was not long after starting work as quality control inspector that a colleague who had a mobile disco decided to sell his equipment. Through work I had met many DJs from all over the country who had travelled to visit Citronic’s service department. They all told me how much they enjoyed being a mobile DJ and having the extra income, so I decided to join their ranks.
The disco system I bought was mainly Citronic equipment consisting of a Thames 2 disco console, PPX 900 amplifier, CCM (Calne Cabinet Makers) speakers and some Citronic lighting. Along with the equipment came a few bookings, so I started DJing immediately, playing at mostly working men’s clubs and pubs. This was when Apollo Disco was born, named not after the American space programme but after Apollo Creed, the undisputed heavyweight world champion from the 1980s Rocky films.
The bookings were not coming in as fast as I’d have liked, so I decided to place an advert in a local free newspaper, which at that time had a classified column exclusively for mobile discos. Within days I received a call from the landlord of the Rising Sun pub in the nearby town of Devizes. His name was Mick and he booked me for a Friday night. Mick told me that if his customers liked me, we could discuss the possibility of more bookings.
Well, they must have liked me, as I ended up playing every Friday and Saturday night in one of the busiest pubs in the area. I soon had an additional gig there with a rock night once a month, where people would bring their own records for me to play. This was a very popular night with rock fans travelling from all over, including other towns. I would also act as compere and DJ at stag/hen nights and at local band nights.
Not only was I earning money as a DJ, I was having a good time too. After closing time, the landlord often treated the staff to an Indian meal and a late-night drink, so I would sleep over in the pub's lounge and be woken up the next morning by the cleaners! To ensure I got my beauty sleep, after a while Mick allowed me to stay in a spare room upstairs. This carried on for about three years. Sadly, Mick moved on and after a succession of different landlords the pub closed. It's now a well-known pizza parlour.
My success at the Rising Sun resulted in more bookings, mainly by word of mouth, so I was able to buy more equipment. Over the years I have transitioned from vinyl to CD, and from CD to digital. Although, I've kept my Citronic Thames 2 console, as I still collect vinyl and also organise vinyl-only events.
In the early 1990s I was DJing four nights a week, playing in pubs and clubs during the week, and at birthday and wedding parties at weekends. I bought a second mobile disco and employed a DJ friend to cover my double bookings. As I was also running my own club nights in local halls and pubs, the time came when I could not combine a day job with all the late nights that DJing involves, so after many happy years I decided to leave Citronic to become a professional DJ.
Through running two mobile discos and hiring out equipment, I was always searching for spares such as lamps and leads. This led me to open trade accounts with equipment manufacturers and suppliers, so I could buy in bulk and resell to other local mobile discos, pubs and clubs and make a reasonable profit. Selling these spares from my garage at home meant people would ring me and turn up at unsociable times. With so much demand for disco equipment, I took the logical decision to open a shop.
Apollo Light & Sound Ltd opened its doors for business in 1996 and quickly established a reputation for supplying high-quality disco equipment, spares and repairs. My repairs team at that time consisted of no less than the Head of Testing and the Head of Development from Citronic! I also had a large hire department and showroom.
I enjoyed running the shop and meeting other DJs, many of whom I'm still in contact with today. But with spiraling overhead costs and growing competition from online retailers, after 21 years I decided to close the shop and move on to other projects.
I still DJ, mainly at wedding
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 105, Pages 14-18.