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 The "Footloose" DJ

 Sid Vanderpool

Ronnie Kaye, the now nationally famous DJ from the "Footloose" Prom at Graham High School in Weleeka Oklahoma, got his feet wet as a DJ in 1959 working for WKY radio and television in Oklahoma City. He says he has been blessed by getting great breaks during his life... one of which was his TV show, The Scene, sponsored by Dr. Pepper from 1966-1974. His secret for his shows longevity was: finding cute kids with the nicest clothes money could buy and who also knew how to dance. The show went from a two camera show to a four camera show and received syndication in 10 cities across the country. Stars like Ray Charles, Harry Chapin, Jerry lee, Mitch Ryder, Bobby Hart, Neil Diamond, The Temptations, and Smokey Robinson all came to town to be on his show. Since Dr. Pepper sponsored the show and at the time Dick Clark had massive shares in Dr. Pepper, they asked him to drop by the state fair where they had a youth dance tent setup for the show so he could meet Ron and be on a special airing of The Scene. The seventies were a great time for Ron because he got in on the basics of what a real DJ is made of.

Ronnie Kaye got started in the mobile DJ business, Ronnie Kayes Mobile Music Show, at the prompting of his radio listeners. He had for many years gone live to promote bands at dances and handed out free 45s to the attendees. "It was easy, I would drop by, give out a few 45s, and pick up my money at the door.", he comments. He started at the beginning of the mobile music  era which was in 1977 and 1978. With the disco thing and Saturday Night Fever, people were calling and wanting him to come out and play for them. This led him to put together  two turntables and a pair of speakers to accommodate them. His first gig was for $300 for a disco sock-hop in 1978. He has a love for disco music and has always been able to find something positive in the music of every decade up...; until recently. He says he is having a little trouble with the music from the end of the last decade and the beginning of this one, mainly some of the Rap songs like the Thong Song and Back That Thing Up. For a guy of 62 years young, it is becoming more than he can take. Nowadays he says anyone can become a DJ; radio is a weird business, you can be in one year and out the next. He doesn't have to work at his mobile business very hard, he says people just seem to call because he has been around so long. His average price for a four hour gig is $500. "It's a great way to make a buck!". Unlike some of the other mobile companies in his area, he does not offer free videotaping, have a fancy office, or a slick yellow page ad.

When he first started his DJing career, he was using 78s then he moved to 45s, then eight tracks and cassettes were added and now uses cds but he is thinking of moving to mini discs. When asked about mp3's, he said even though he sits in front of four computer screens that belong to a harddrive system at his radio station, he still has not moved into it for his mobile service. "I think DJs are going to make a big mistake by going to a laptop system and just showing up to play music. I believe people are going to go and rent laptops and all they have to do is go get it, punch it up, and there you go, if you are going to automate our business that way."

Ron gave his reasons as to why he thinks DJs are not displayed in a good light all the time. He was playing at a venue that had a ten piece band the weekend before that they paid $1200 for and their perception was,  "Last week we  paid for a live band and you are just a DJ. You are not real music, you are just recorded music and your just disc jockeying the music and that's the best that can ever be. The only thing you could do to make things better is hire live musicians or a singer to go with you, but obviously the traffic won't bear that. What do I care if I am making half of what that ten piece band  makes, why should I be greedy?" Ron thinks there is no comparison between a band and a DJ. He says a DJ can jump around and have a good time while going from George Strait to 98 degrees in one spin.

Even at his age, Ron can still pick a hit. He  says all he has to do is listen to a group of Top 40 songs  and he knows which will be a hit. "Something real unique about Top 40 radio  is that you can hear a song and you are not actively involved in listening to it or trying to dissect it and you hear it again and you say, "Oh yeah"". When asked about the trends in today's music, Ron said he thinks it's the old men of the music industry that are pushing it, "Where there is a buck to be made, they will be there to get it!". Ron went on to say that they (the record industry) keep pushing the boundaries with more sex and more violence to sell music.

Ron was chosen for the Graham High School's first Prom for his extensive DJing experience and for the fact he had played for the High School Prom every year since 1978 in Weleeka, a neighboring town. He says he has schools all over Oklahoma that he has played for their Prom since then. He charged them $450, which is the same price he has been charging Weleeka High School since 1978. The first song of the night of course was the theme, Footloose, and it rallied the kids to the dancefloor. During the  Prom, Ron coordinated his sets with the directors of the national news networks that were on hand. "It must have been a slow news weekend.", he laughs. He took down the times of all the live news feeds and made sure he had a packed dance floor and a party atmosphere to make things great for those watching it on the news. As for the kids at the school being as backwards as the national stories made it appear he said,  "They have everything any normal kid has, all the radio stations, cable TV, and MTV. They just have never had a Prom or dance at their school."

Ron's system includes speakers by Sound Sphere that he purchased in the eighties that are packed with dual 16" Electro-Voice woofers and a multitude of tweeters. He runs mostly cds, but claims he still runs a few tapes here and there.  His light show he explained, includes beamers, strobes, bubbles, fog, a rotoball, rainlights and ropelights. His console is reported to be very  "classy" and is covered in gold mirrored Plexiglas with lighted edges.

He says he does not expect to become a big star over this Prom, but enjoyed his 5 minutes of fame while it lasted and was glad to be the first DJ to play for this school ever. "I am a nobody in this business. Over years I have found that being a disc jockey is no big deal." He related a story about a Chicago radio station that thought they had the hottest slogan in their market. They went out to the public and 96% of the people had never heard of it and 3% thought it was a bank commercial. "So just don't ever think you are hot stuff because you might not be as hot as you think you are."

 


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