The thrilling conclusion of last week’s post is upon us: Part two of the interview I had with D.C. LaRue, with more inside information on the origins of Disco!
D.C.: It got to a point by 1976, that record companies realized there was a big, burgeoning disco/dance music market and a lot of money to be made. This is also about the time that dance music had started to be labeled disco. So record companies reached out and started employing people who knew the clubs and the club DJs. They started getting “disco promotion men” like Ray Caviano, Billy Smith, Arnie Smith, Kenny Friedman or Marc Paul Simon. These guys were the disco fashionistas! The ones that were dancing in clubs. They couldn’t help acquire a powerful position of influence with the club DJs and thus were able to get records played.
For the first time in the record industry, big hits were being made and charting the Top 100 without radio play. Payola to get records played went out the window with the radio stations. The music directors lost a great deal of their power and they resented it. I remember sitting with Neil Bogart in his office there in Hollywood. The 45rpm configuration of Donna Summer’s track “I Feel Love” had been released and had been sent out to the radio stations. When I walked into his office he was on the phone with this one program director who programmed a shit load of west coast Top 40 stations so he looked up and said: “Hold on, I’m on the phone!” It seems this music programer was refusing to play “I Feel Love” because he didn’t think it sounded like a radio record. So Neil said to him and I’m almost quoting: “I don’t care what the fuck you think of this record! I’m telling you that in four weeks you’re going to be playing it” and he hung up. Well, in four weeks the radio station’s format had changed to “disco” and they were playing it in full rotation without getting paid.
Disco just got bigger and bigger and bigger by 1979. Most of the A&R people at the labels really didn’t know what the fuck they were doing. They didn’t know disco from a hole in the ground. They were just running with a “thing”, a “concept” because it was making money. I can remember Simon Soussan, who’s the guy who produced Pattie Brooks. He had done a record with a studio aggregation made up of hired singers and musicians. He had sold it to one label and when it wasn’t successful he took the very same recording back into the studio. remixed it, and re-sold it to another label with a different group name. He did it because he could get away with it. Companies were buying disco from successful disco producers almost unheard, sight-unseen. I feel that stuff like that started the beginning of the glut of inferior product, which was soon to become the demise of disco. Really unfortunate!!
DJ Nicky Siano and I discussed this very same subject during our conversation on my DISCO JUICE Internet radio program. There was such a glut of garbage out there by 1979, it was depressing. I got to feeling like “I don’t want to be a part of this” and Nicky said he felt the same way. He was so disgusted he actually stopped spinning! I tried a rock band thing for my last Casablanca recording “Star, Baby” but it wasn’t accepted. It was a fabulous record and it got the best reviews of all my recordings: Raves in music magazines like “Stereo Review”, but it was too late… I was considered a disco act and I was treated like poison. I could have sounded like Robert Plant and the record sound like Led Zeppelin but it would still have been tossed in the garbage.
By that time I was truly embarrassed to call myself and my music disco. I had always been uncomfortable with calling it disco but it was being played in the clubs and it was thought of as disco. But by 1980 I couldn’t get away from the disco label fast enough. Of course, here it is 40 years later and everything has changed because of the Internet. Also, we’re going into the “third generation” and the kids are not the kids of the rock/top 40 people who hated disco but they are the kids of the kids! They don’t know anything about disco. They have no opinion: They are curious and are just finding out about the music. Also I think the whole resurgence is really legit and authentic because of the accessibility of the music now with the word wide web.
A couple of years ago Nicky was playing at an outdoor dance in Brooklyn on a Sunday by the Newtown Canal in Brooklyn. I was day dreaming at the Canal and listening to the music. It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. I noticed two couples were looking over at me and one of the guys comes over and he asks: “Are you D.C. LaRue?” and I say “Yeah.” And he goes “Oh I recognized you. I’ve read up about you on the Internet and got your information and I’ve seen your photographs. I’ve even got a couple of your albums.” He was a straight boy from Staten Island and he was there with his girlfriend and another couple. The story he told me was that he had gone into basement at his house. His mom had a vinyl disco music collection and he was looking through the records and he came up with my “Cathedrals” album. So he went and he played it and he loved it. Then he went to Google and did a search for D.C. LaRue. Well, he checked out my website, ordered the recordings on iTunes and he became a big fan.
Now if that had happened fifteen years ago and a kid went in to his mom’s basement and found my record and played it and loved it…it would have ended right there. What were his 1990’s options? He would go to a second hand record store on St. Mark’s Place to try and find an old beat up, scratched up, copy? Or buy a halfway decent copy from a collector and pay possibly fifty bucks or more. Whatever….it would have stopped right there! I believe that it’s because of social networking and the Internet that there’s been a tremendous re-interest in my music. It’s super, duper!! And for about the last four years I’m busy every Saturday evening with my DISCO JUICE Internet radio program. I have about 250,000 listeners around the world. In every country around the world!! I’m so thankful for Internet radio because if it weren’t for that, my DISCO JUICE program would never have happened. I’m having such a good time!
Fox: So, I was doing some research and found you recorded under a few different names and I found out you released records in the 60’s and early 70s under different aliases (Matthew Reid, Casey Paxton and David LaRue) and I have one called “Lollipops Went Out Of Style”.
D.C.: That was when I was Matthew Reid recording for Bob Crewe for his Topix record label! OMG! How did you come across that record? About 10 years ago I did an interview with musicologist Mike Miller where I discuss all my early recordings. If you want to know the complete story listen to that interview. I have the link to the MP3 posted on the first page of my web site. As you probably know, I grew up in Cheshire, Connecticut. As soon as I was big enough to reach the keys I wrote a lot of songs on my mom’s piano. My father’s secretary had a boyfriend who would make weekend trips to New York City to party and he ran into a friend of record producer Bob Crewe. The conversation went something like: “Oh, my girlfriend’s boss has a son who sings and writes songs” and Bob’s friend says: “Oh! If he’s really good send me a demonstration record and a photo and I’ll get it to my friend Bob right away.” Bob Crewe had just produced “Silhouettes” by The Rays and whole bunch of other hits with Frank Slay but he had just struck off on his own. So we went to New Haven into a little rinky dink recording studio and I played the piano and I sang four songs as the requested demos. They were sent to Bob’s friend who sent them to Bob. I got a call from Bob immediately! He said “Hey! Are you interested in recording? I’d like to do a record with you.” It was beautiful. It was the era of Paul Anka and Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell. I was about seventeen years old and I made my first record as Matthew Reid. He finally gave me a release after about three years and five 45 rpm releases. He said: “Matthew, I have tried everything I can think of, but for some reason the magic that I hear in your writing and your voice is not there when we work together. So I’m giving you a release to move on but I’m also telling you this: don’t stop trying. Don’t give up. I don’t know what you’re going to be but you’re going to be very successful one day…even though it doesn’t happen with me. And when it does, I’ll have a tremendous resentment but I’ll be happy knowing I was right.” Bob and I had remained friends until he passed away about a year and a half ago. I did a photo session with him on the opening night of his Jersey Boys Broadway Musical. What a fabulous opening night that was!!
We remained friends and I took his advice and I never stopped trying. I’ve recorded as Casey Paxton for Frank Slay and then as David LaRue for Donnie Kirshner. But after all that time with no success I decided I was never going to record again. I had had it! I had tried for fourteen years. But the interesting thing is that whenever I’d sit down at a piano for an A&R man or a producer and sang my songs they signed me immediately. They signed me knowing I had been a failure for Al Kasha, a failure with Bob Crewe, a failure with Frank Slay, a failure with Artie Wayne, a failure with Jim Delehant for Philips Records with “Outward Bound”. You see, the record would be released but it would never be what I had heard inside my head. I’d get in there in the studio to record but I never had enough influence or power with the producer or the arranger so I could get them to make it sound the way I wanted it to sound. After every recording session I’d say “forget that one!!” Even with Bob Crewe when I’d make a suggestion and he’d dump it. It was so difficult and heart breaking until I got to work with Aram Schefrin and “Cathedrals”. After all those years in the studio it was the first recording that came out exactly how I wanted it to sound. Thank the forces of the universe for Aram because without his genius I’d be nothing…really. I haven’t done a lot of “in person” stuff but I feel it would be nice if I did a little bit more performing in the coming year 2016. It’s the 40th anniversary of “Cathedrals” and whatever. I think that’s special.
Over the years I’ve performed for Nicky about four times even though I don’t do a lot of performing. He had a birthday party at Body & Soul with Francois K. and Frankie Knuckles where I performed. Then he opened up a club called Twelve West at 12 West 21st Street. I performed there opening night. I’ve been doing stuff off and on for him over the years. His dentist turned out to be my dentist. That’s actually how we became good friends. He was playing “Cathedrals” and he met my dentist in a furniture store on 15th St. and 7th Avenue. There were both shopping for furniture and somehow they got on the conversation about music and Dr. Robert mentioned that he had a friend D.C. LaRue that had just released a dance record and Nicky said; “Oh! I’m playing it!” And so Nicky started going to Robert for dental care and I became friends with Nicky because we had the same dentist and he was also playing my record. Over the years we’ve remained very friendly. A few weeks ago I was sitting at my computer and get an instant message from Nicky asking “Are you home? Can I call you?” I say “Yeah…same number”. So he calls me and asks what I’m doing New Year’s Eve. “Oh, Nicky, I’m old and tired. (hahaha!) and I’ll be hanging out with my cat. I’ll have a few friends over for dinner like I usually do, nice and quiet, and throw them out before midnight.” And he said: “Do you want to perform for me? I’m doing a party on New Year’s Eve out in Brooklyn” So I told him “yes” immediately. Now I can’t wait. The 40th Anniversary of “Cathedrals” and all. I’m very very excited about it. Then he went to iTunes and he said “Your number one downloading track is “Let Them Dance,” number two is “Cathedrals,” and “Hot Jungle Drums” is number three. I said, “Okay, so that’s what I’ll do.” It should be fun…be there if you dare!
Be sure to leave some comments down below, check out this New Year’s Eve party and, even if you’re not in the New York City area, check out D.C. LaRue’s DISCO JUICE Internet radio program, Saturdays, 6:00-9:00PM Eastern time on www.newtownradio.com.