I’ll begin my story by telling you about a DJ I once knew. He was born in Kingston, Jamaica before moving to the UK. He grew up in the West Midlands and after leaving school embarked on a career as a DJ. He played at venues up and down the country and across Europe before moving to Belgium, aged 22, to play at the legendary Funk You club in Antwerp.
He enjoyed playing there for several years before the owner sold him the club. By the time he took on ownership, he had also forged a successful singing career, achieving four number one singles and a number one album in Europe. He later moved to the US to further his DJ and singing career, where he remained for ten years before moving back to the UK to reunite with his family. Sadly, he lost his battle with cancer in 2019.
His name was Tony McKenzie and he was my father!
I was adopted as a baby and only met Tony, my biological father, when I was 15 years old. By that time I had already started my career as a mobile DJ performing at private parties and weddings across Birmingham. So you can imagine my shock when I found out what my father did for a living.
I was already adding dance routines to my DJ sets to offer something unique to my shows, but then I wanted to emulate my father and take my career as far as I possibly could.Whilst studying music at Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College, I was invited to an under-18s event at a club in Solihull and found myself talking to the resident DJ. I visited the venue a few more times and we became good friends. One night he asked me to play a few records whilst he visited the bathroom. I was 17 and that was the beginning of a fantastic journey into the world of nightclubs.
In 1988 I secured my first nightclub gig – a residency at the Snooty Fox and Scandals in Solihull. I used twin Technics 1200s and a Citronic mixer to mix up a selection of cool cuts and retro classics. I particularly remember their Tuesday night event called ‘Teen Scene’, which allowed me to learn my craft and understand audiences and the impact the music had on them. I loved my time at that venue, playing tracks like ‘Who’s Gonna Ease The Pressure (Big Mac Mix)’ by Mac Thornhill and ‘Don’t Scandalise Mine’ by Sugar Bear. As well as being my first nightclub job, the Snooty Fox and Scandals was where I met my future wife Joy.
In 1990 I decided it was time to spread my DJ wings, so I moved to a fun pub in Birmingham called Sam Wellers, which led to a fruitful career that saw me play at bars and clubs regularly for the next few years, including Bizzy Lizzy’s and The Dome. I also performed at Fox’s in Wolverhampton, where in 1991 I found myself popping up on the late-night TV show ‘The Hitman and Her’ with Michaela Strachan and Pete Waterman.
In 1993 I joined First Leisure as part of a trouble-shooting team who would be sent to failing venues to turn them around and build them back up. This was a wonderful time in my DJ life; I met some amazing people and traveled across the UK, giving me an insight into regional music tastes and how audiences varied from city to city.
I continued to perform my nightclub DJ sets but now I was playing at venues outside Birmingham, including Blue Orchid in Croydon and Molly Magoo’s in Derby, and in 1995 my hard work paid off when I became the youngest DJ at that time to win the coveted ‘DJ of the Year’ title. The guest judges, including Radio One DJ Bruno Brookes, awarded me 100 points each for the first time in the competition’s history. A combination of mixing, dancing, special effects and some spectacular on-stage stunts had obviously worked their magic and I continued to include them in my DJ sets as I played to audiences across the UK.
That award led to the offer of a residency at a Birmingham club called Exile, a venue that was tired and needed an injection of life. I could have declined the offer and stayed at my current venue but I’ve always like a challenge and this one was too tempting. I accepted the job and worked hard to turn the club into one of the city’s most popular venues.
In 1996 I finally bagged my dream DJ job at the Dome ll in Birmingham. I was there for five years and it was a rollercoaster ride of emotional moments that included Michael Flatley surprising me by walking out on stage during one of my sets.I also found myself running for election as part of the Monster Raving Loony Party.
There are several songs I remember with great fondness from my time at the Dome ll, including ‘Meet Her At The Love Parade (Dextrous Mix)’ by Da Hool and ‘Voyager 1:56’ by Mr Spring, but it’s the 1976 classic ‘Disco Inferno’ by the Trammps that is especially meaningful to me. It was the song I would sing and perform as part of the popular 70s-themed night called ‘Disco Inferno’, which included lots of on-stage production, dancers and singers, and as many pyrotechnics as you were allowed to use inside at that time. In 1997 the general manager of the club, John Bunce, decided we needed a gimmick to use on the show. So, with an election just around the corner, we took a trip to the election office and picked up all the information and paperwork required to run for parliament!
For the 70s show, I created a character called Johnny V. Badd (the ‘v’ stood for very!). The character was a perfect fit for the show and became hugely popular with the audience. Other performers would take to the stage to kick off the show ahead of Johnny’s grand entrance, which was the signal for the night to move up a gear and for the big tunes to be played. Tracks from James Brown, Odyssey and the Jacksons were among those that I’d play on the ‘Wheels Of Steel’ and would put the audience in the palm of my hands.
So that the name Johnny V. Badd could be legally added to the election candidate form, I decided to change my name by deed poll. I would change it back afterwards, of course, but for now I was fully committed to the job and after a visit to the local solicitors it was done. Pete Sherriff had become Johnny V. Badd – and my election campaign had started.
On election night I was informed that Edwina Curry’s daughter, Debbie, was a guest on a TV show discussing how easy it was to get a song to number one. A friend of mine put us in touch and she agreed to accompany me to the election count. We had done plenty of canvassing in the weeks leading up to the election, and local TV and newspapers had jumped on the story, all wanting to know “who is Johnny V. Badd?” To the local people of Selly Oak in Birmingham he was real – which, in a way, he was!
As promised, Debbie accompanied me to the venue where the results would be announced. She was dressed in smart, casual clothing befitting of an MP’s daughter on election night. And me, well, I dressed to impress in full 70s gear that included a silver lame shirt, jacket and flared trousers, all set off with a pair of platform boots! At the end of the night, I had finished in a respectable fourth place out of six candidates – not too shabby!
I continued to perform at nightclubs across the UK until 2003, when I craved a new challenge. I found it in Majorca when I was offered a residency at the world famous BCM for the summer. I returned to the UK the following year and decided the time was right to take a break from being a DJ, so I moved into nightclub management, running clubs in the North West and the Midlands, including Liquid, Fever, The Works and Billie Rox. Then, in 2011, I took my management career one step further by opening my own club in Sutton Coldfield called HYDE – After Dark.
As much as I enjoyed the management side of the business, I was missing being a DJ. So I started to perform again and joined the DJ team at the Butlins ‘Live Music Weekenders’ in Minehead, Skegness and Bognor Regis. Those events attract 1000s of guests who flock to enjoy the music of the 70s, 80s, 90s and more as part of their themed weekenders, featuring live acts and DJs working together to create the best party in town. I’ve done plenty of DJ jobs in my career but there really is no party like a Butlins party! The ‘Live Music Weekenders’ are up there with my favourite DJ events and have seen me share stages with ABC, Fatman Scoop, Sister Sledge and a well-known DJ with big ears and whiskers!
I absolutely love these events because they allow me to move away from my nightclub background and play songs that would otherwise never appear on my set lists. I can be the showman on stage again and take the audience on a musical journey. Having that power is infectious and it’s all down to the music. The skill of what to play and when shouldn’t be underestimated, and it’s one that I’ve worked hard to perfect.
As well as being a DJs at Butlin’s, I’m also one of the hosts of a concept called ‘Bingo Bango’, which combines bingo with DJing, dancing, singing and performance to create a stage show that never fails to take the roof off, wherever it’s performed. The show is over the top, loads of fun, unpredictable, and I love it!
During one Butlin’s Weekender event I was informed that an artist appearing on the main stage with me included a certain Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, a fast-moving DJ/VJ show performed by Richard Lee. We became great friends, which opened up an opportunity for me to join the Mastermix team. I’m now developing a range of educational videos for their YouTube channel, as well as inputting into the audio content as a Mastermix Creative Consultant. Mastermix are doing some great things and will continue to offer even more amazing things in the coming weeks and months, and I’m delighted to be part of that.
To bring my DJ story up to the present day, I have now added a new residency to my portfolio and can be found spinning the tunes at the Jam House in Birmingham, a super cool venue that combines live entertainment with great food. The music is eclectic but leans towards soul, R’n’B and reggae. I’ve recently shared the stage with acts including Aswad, Junior, Chaka Khan, The Beat and Pato Banton. I feel very much at home at the Jam House.
It’s fair to say that over the course of my DJ career I’ve “done some things”, including mobile DJing, nightclubs, radio, TV, voice-overs, stage shows, dancing, music production, creative consultancy – the list goes on.
This is an exciting time for DJs of all types and for me personally. My journey has had its fair share of ups and downs, but with hard work and determination I’ve enjoyed the ride and look forward to the next chapter of my story.
Pete Sherriff – Tracks Of My Years
1/ ‘I Feel For You (UK 12” Mix)’ – Chaka Khan
2/ ‘Let’s Get It Started’ – Black Eyed Peas
3/ ‘Jump Around’ – House Of Pain
4/ ‘Gotta Have Hope’ – Blackout
5/ ‘You’re Not Alone (Matthew Roberts Cloud 10 Remix)’ – Olive
6/ ‘Dooms Night (Stanton Warrior’s Mix)’ – Azzido Da Bass
7/ ‘Only You (Chris & James Old Skool Mix)’ – Talizman
8/ ‘Diggin’ On James Brown’ – Tower Of Power
9/ ‘I’ve Been Thinking About You’ – Londonbeat
10/ ‘Tell Me That It’s Real (Garage Mix)’ – K-Ci & Jo-Jo
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 110, Pages 14-18.