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NATIONAL DISC JOCKEY DAY
Each year National Disc Jockey Day recognizes the DJs playing the music and spinning the records. The observance takes place annually on January 20th.
A disc jockey, or DJ for short, is a person who plays recorded music either on the radio or at a club or event.
The first disc jockey was an experiment on the airwaves. In 1909, sixteen-year-old Ray Newby was a student under the supervision of Charles “Doc” Herrold at Herrold College of Engineering and Wireless. He played the first records over the airwaves before the word disc jockey even existed.
What started as an experiment from the Garden City Bank Building where the college was located in San Fernando, California, was soon being replicated by radio broadcasters across the country. Initially, Newby primarily broadcast his news, music, and entertainment live.
It wasn’t until 25 years later that radio commentator Walter Winchell coined the term disc jockey.
Today, contemporary DJs play music from vinyl to digital. Regardless of the medium they use, the term disc jockey still applies.
Hip-hop DJs became popular in the late 70s and 80s using multiple turntables and using the turntables themselves as an instrument to alter the music. Mobile DJs often act as the master of ceremonies at events or parties directing the evening’s activities.
HOW TO OBSERVED #NationalDiscJockeyDay
National Disc Jockey Day gives us an excellent opportunity to celebrate our favorite DJs. Give them a shout out on social media. Learn more about the history of DJs, too. We suggest:
Rock the Dancefloor by Phil Morse or Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip Hop DJ by Mark Katz. You can also stream a documentary about DJs and their music. Take a look at What We Started directed by Cyrus Saidi and Bert Marcus, Scratch directed by Doug Pray or go a little further back in time and watch I Am What I Play directed by Roger King.
Share and give your favorite DJ a shoutout using #NationalDiscJockeyDay on social media.
Discover more even more DJ history by reading 5 Influential Disc Jockeys.
NATIONAL DISC JOCKEY DAY HISTORY
National Disc Jockey Day honors the death of Albert “Alan” James Freed. Freed, also known as Moondog, was an influential disc jockey in the 1950s. He is credited with popularizing the term “rock ‘n’ roll” that was used to describe the new genre of music.
While the day honors Freed, we’ve been unable to identify the founder of the observance.
Disc Jockey FAQ
Q. What is Wolfman Jack’s real name?
A. One of the best DJs in history, Wolfman Jack’s real name is Robert Weston Smith.
Q. Who coined the word “disc jockey”?
A. Credit goes to American newspaper gossip columnist and radio commentator Walter Winchell. In 1935, Winchell described radio announcer Martin Block as a “disk jockey” referring to an operator who played music recorded on discs.
Q. Can anyone celebrate National Disc Jockey Day?
A. Yes. Whether you’re a disc jockey or a fan, you can celebrate the day.