About The Deej
My name is Dale Lafayette, but somewhere along the line my best friend Tom started calling me “Deej” …and it sorta stuck.
This may be a somewhat lengthy introduction, but it’s by no means a complete accounting. I’ve purposely left out things like my most embarrassing moments; since they alone are probably good fodder for a forthcoming, self-deprecating rant of some sort. I’ve also skipped the better part of a long, colorful psychedelically-enhanced history as a consciousness exploring creative artist, musician and business owner in Berkeley. That too will be further recalled in another writing, hopefully sometime before memory no longer serves.
As I sit down to write this, it occurs to me I’m lucky I never quite figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Starting life in a low-income, dysfunctional neighborhood, then bouncing in and out of orphanages, foster homes, group homes – and of course, schools – I ultimately ended up spending most of my time on the street. Strangely enough, that seems to have worked out all right.
Over the years I’ve alternately developed skill-sets and taken on work as a DJ, musician, vocalist, music and video producer, artist, graphic designer, web developer, author, editor and publisher, among other things. I’m leaving out pizza delivery guy, bindery guy, bartender, nightclub doorman, security guy and others, since they fit better in the aforementioned upcoming article of blunders.
The nickname my buddy Tom coined referred to my obsession with music, that I published a music magazine for several years and then became one of his top “go-to” DJs when he ran the Booking Department at the largest and most well-known DJ agency in NorCal; Joel Nelson Productions.
My lifelong affair with music began as a kid living in the East Oakland projects in the 1960’s, collecting 78s and 45s and listening to radio stations KFRC, KDIA, KSOL and KRE.
Then came 8-tracks, cassettes, and eventually, CDs. I was fanatical about growing my collection and pursuing a diverse variety of music.
I became a kind of “Bedroom DJ” (if you can say that about a guy playing music way too loud in his studio apartment) and loved mixing music that most folks would never imagine throwing together. I might drop some Miles Davis and Return To Forever right behind The Zombies and Led Zeppelin with a little JB, George Clinton or Sugarhill Gang sprinkled in.
I was giddy with this stuff and started making crazy-ass mix tapes. A reckless, musically cross-contaminated blend of unlikely combinations became a kind of background soundtrack for years of creative adventures in art, graphic design and publishing. Most likely the result of my pivotal early obsession with comic books and illustration — specifically, Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics — and pioneer comic artists like Jack Kirby, Barry Smith, John Byrne, and the great Jim Steranko.
During the 1970’s I was among the first Berkeley “street artists” who sold various crafts and products like leather belts, jewelry, pipes and clothing, etc. – just about anything that could be made by hand – on Telegraph Avenue. I created and sold mobiles made from fishing line with shells and driftwood collected at Marin’s Stinson Beach, along with psychedelic watercolor paintings and cosmic collages I did at my hotel room on the corner of Haste and Telegraph, right across from the historic One World Family New Age Center & Natural Foods Restaurant.
In fact, I joined, lived and worked with this amazing group of artists, musicians, writers and healthy lifestyle visionaries on and off for several years, learning an amazing variety of skills while gaining a heightened sense of responsibility and purpose.
Our “Teleport Lounge” became a must-see popular visionary art-filled musical wonderland hosting a variety of wildly colorful groups, bands and talents from all over the world (my favorite being the the Sun-Ra Orchestra) on the same stage as our communal bands and weekly cosmic channelings by Allen-Michael. I’ve since re-connected with many good folks I know from those days, and currently help with the Galactic Messenger website (shout outs to Del, Michael, Gabe, Sheilah, Jeani, Joe, Kathy, Dianne, Gaucamole DJ and GMN co-creator and editor, Joseph Antaree).
Born to publish, early efforts during that same period included psychedelic posters and promotions for rock concerts, a book of poems, and a news magazine about UFOs and ETI — showcasing the Bay Area’s only-ever listed and recognized UFO Sighting & Contactee reporting service. I’ve recently resurrected this effort globally online.
In 1980, I opened “Signs & Graphics” next to Berkeley’s People’s Park, and soon my art could be found at small businesses all over the Bay Area, and in phone book, newspaper and magazine ads.
Wanting to move beyond local commercial art by 1989, I helped friend and accomplished jazz musician Art Maxwell create the Tonal Gravity Records label, did graphics and set design for John Kaye’s Cherry Terry at Theatre 6470 in Hollywood, and produced a series of illustrations for Ellen Sebastian’s stage production of Face at SF’s Theatre Artaud.
In 1991, I completed a collection of original paintings entitled Kozmik Thang: Explorations In Synergistic Art – which were featured at a variety of Bay Area galleries, coffee houses and a couple swanky legal office buildings in downtown San Francisco.
Later that year, I was recruited twice. Once to co-produce a regularly scheduled cable television show called 30 Minutes, Television With A Vision – for which I did videography, writing, editing, voiceovers, titles and graphics for the show’s creator, host and producer, Richard Rubacher (author of She Ruined Hitler). During that stint I was approached by Dr. Thomas Gonda (author of The Karaoke Bible) to produce and manage his small karaoke enthusiast newspaper, Karaoke USA. During this time I also wrote for Mobile Beat Magazine and Nightclub & Bar Magazine.
In 1992 I acquired KUSA, transforming it into a slick, full-color national trade magazine for the DJ and Karaoke industries, and started VisionMagik Multimedia Group, a successful ad agency and publishing company. The magazine flourished, became a staple at NAMM, CES, Nightclub & Bar Expos and DJ Times Expos, a sponsor and co-producer of the Karaoke Music Awards (Bimbo’s 365 Club – SF) and the Coast-To-Coast Karaoke Challenge (American Gladiators Arena – FL). The magazine won awards and effectively raised the bar for similar industry publications nationwide.
After an exit from VMG almost five years later, I became the Creative Director for VisionQuest Expositions Inc., doing branding, marketing and program guides for expositions in the holistic alternative lifestyle space. Following a series of successful expos in Northern California, I took a break from marketing and publishing to cultivate a career as a popular Bay Area DJ and entertainer, regularly booking gigs at some of the region’s most sought-after parties, events and venues.
But, the art and publishing bug wouldn’t go away – so I went on to establish Advanced Marketing & Entertainment (AME), a creative media development company. I also met my sweetheart and awesome life partner, Kelly — and became a father for the second time in my life. I thought, “Maybe this is how things level out” and felt pretty dang good about everything I had accomplished up to that point.
Content to do some DJing, recording and website design to keep busy and pay bills, I settled in and began what became the biggest chapter of my crazy-multi-dimensional-life — being a work from home full-time dad, and learning as much as I could absorb about web development …in that order.
With some encouragement and inspiration from fellow music nut TomKat (yeah, him again), I also began self-training in digital music production and released my debut album online. Entitled “Adventures Of A Digital Pirate” (borrowing from Lenny White’s ‘Adventures Of Astral Pirates’), it features a maniacal mixmash of various beats, samples and concepts, and alludes to the fact that no music genre, track or sound is safe from a hungry DJ.
I’ve since launched two DJ industry-specific websites — Live DJs Online and Pro DJ Network — the latter being under redevelopment. In fact, I unabashedly announce here that we are openly looking for suggestions, referrals, associates and affiliates as well as volunteer writers, reviewers, moderators and contributors to help build a team for this excellent project. Some paid contributor positions might eventually be available, as are ad sales commissions. Please contact me here if you are sincerely interested. But of course, I digress.
An interesting footnote to all this: I originally wrote this piece for Steemit, a strange new beta launch. In reflection, I contacted my old buddy Ben Fong-Torres (author of The Rice Room and The Hits Just Keep On Coming among others) for some quick advice; he interviewed everybody who was anybody in music back in the day as managing editor at Rolling Stone. I knew Ben because I had been lucky enough to rope him into an associate editor position at my old DJ/Karaoke magazine, and I asked what he thought of this piece.
As usual, his editorial advice was spot-on.
He recommended that I trim the content significantly and remove much of my history, saying it, “won’t connect with readers.” He also suggested that I add more “substantial” credits, along with my “hopes of posting tips and insights…and maybe even the end story about the hot girlfriend.”
Then I recalled that some time ago (after reading an old bio I’d done), Ben had indicated that I not be so quick to indulge in “namedropping.” Sounds like damn good advice, too.
So, this all got me thinking and – for guidance – I took another look at the man’s Facebook page, website and some old articles he wrote for my magazine.
Curiously, I came across instance after instance of namedropping, along with references to stuff I’m not sure that anyone but Ben could possibly understand and relate to. Hmmm. Well, the guy’s a legend in publishing and then some, so maybe there’s something I’m missing.
According to his website, there’s a documentary coming out entitiled Like A Rolling Stone: The Life And Times Of Ben Fong-Torres – and I for one can’t wait to see it. Ben is a force! He currently has his own show on Pandora Radio (pandora.com) under the title Pandora Stories. Other storytellers include Questlove, John Legend and Perry Farrell.
Anyway, turns out you can’t edit a Steemit post after 7 days. Who knew.
One thing I know for sure: nothing in the Universe travels in a truly straight line. For me, none of this makes any sense by itself, because it was always one thing evolving into another. In that vein, I have replaced my old bio here with the revised, aforementioned Steemit piece, and not only kept the history; but added to it.
Truth be told, most folks who know me will probably tell you that conforming to the normally accepted way of doing things just isn’t my style anyway. Which may explain why my creative efforts remain rather obscure, mostly unrecognized, fleeting blips in the culturesphere.
And for added grins – since there will probably never be a documentary about me or a Wikipedia page – here’s a bunch of names I can drop of notable public figures, authors, entertainers and celebrities I’ve rubbed elbows with, hung out with and/or worked with over the years. Some you may have heard of:
Afrika Bambatta, Allen Michael, Andrea Puharich, Ben Fong-Torres, Ben Thum, Birdlegg, Cool Papa, Country Joe McDonald, Danny Glover, DJ 2nd Nature, DJ Babu, DJ Beni B, DJ QBert, DJ Rhettmatik, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Eric Arnold, Father Guido Sarducci, Freddie Ravel, Gabriel Green, Gary Radnich, Gary Wright, George Clinton, Grandmaster Flash, Herbie Hancock, Huey Lewis, Jim Gabbert, John Kaye, John Voight, Karl Detken, Leonard Nimoy, Michael Doughton, Mixmaster Mike, O-lan Jones, Patrick Stewart, Paul “P-Dub Woychesten, Richard Rubacher, Robert Downey Jr, Roger Sanchez, Roy Lee Freeman, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sinbad, Stanton Friedman, Sun Ra, Dr. Thomas Gonda, Tim Curry, Uri Geller, Walter König, Whoopi Goldberg, William Shatner.
Hmm, I’m sure I must be forgetting a few.
It’s 2018 (as I write this), and still in training in more ways than I can count — my “Galactic” friends call this “Schools Of Experience in the University of the Universe” — I own and operate the AME Network of web properties and marketing assets, which includes AME Studios, our colorful creative media division where, as I like to put it, the magic happens.
Musically, in addition to home-studio mixing, recording and some planned live video broadcasting, I’m working on a ”DJ Tribute” mixtrack series featuring my treatment of various DJ performance styles, tracks, samples and mixmasters that have been key inspirations over the years.
Speaking of which, I’m like a kid in a candy store in my home studio – with cutting-edge gear and software from top companies in the industry, along with an ever-growing, massive library of material. The evolution of music in just my lifetime is staggering, and I’m incredibly lucky and thrilled to have been a part of those early discussions with Pioneer and other key manufacturers while a music trade magazine publisher, advocating for exactly what we are witnessing now with emerging new production and performance technologies.
What blows my mind is that with all the amazing innovations and transitions that have taken place during what can only be described as a quantum leap in music since I first saw Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show and bought my first James Brown single on King Records (I Got The Feelin’ – 1968) — it’s still all about that simple, funky blood-pumping rhythm.
The DJ has become the cultural music icon of our time, and young DJ stars are pulling in millions around the world. Like Andy Sipowitz once asked on NYPD Blue, “Man, is it just me, or are there angels singing?” Turns out DJs not only save lives, we brought vinyl back from the grave.
The beat goes on…
My thought here at DaleLafayette.com is to share my music, artwork, webwork and various other creations — together with a series of tips and insights into DJing, the music industry and the web, along with a few stories and maybe a couple of heavily opinionated rants… which I prefer to call “observations.”
Anyway, if you find any of this worth reading and enjoy my occasionally convoluted creative explorations of this tiny yet curious existence in an often awkward, sometimes elegant and always unpredictable Universe — please support and encourage my behavior by liking, sharing and commenting here and on social media. What the heck, I’ll even mention the donation button in the sidebar, in case you’d like to support my efforts. Most importantly, if you feel like I might be helpful with a project you have in mind, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Whatever the case, I appreciate your time and sincerely hope you’re enjoying your visit.
Finally, a true story:
This super hot girlfriend once dumped me, saying in parting that I was “ineffectual.” It crushed me for about a week. A few years later, she showed up on New Year’s Eve at a popular North Oakland club I regularly DJ’d. After a few drinks, she grabbed up and passed out a bunch of my cards, droppin’ a dime that I used to be her boyfriend. She capped it off by dancin’ dirty on a bar table in front of the DJ booth at midnight.
Ineffectual? Yeah, right.
I never called the new phone number she gave me on the way out — I just chose to happily forget all about one of the worst weeks of my life.
So, my advice to sons Shelby and Austin when things get generally stupid: “Stay frosty . . . it’ll pass.”
And it does.
HI Deej, thanks for posting all of this! I enjoyed reading it and getting to know you – better than through email. Interesting about your music…impressive for sure. I’m a huge music fan and appreciate all the “travels” you have made with the great ones. I also appreciate where your passion comes from, and how it might spill over from time to time. My own history pales in comparison but also began in darkness, traveled through self-created incredible experiences, and several successful businesses. All because I let my passion and my heart guide me to say “Yes!” I’ll try that…… Read more »
Thanks for your comments, Dianne. I enjoy working with you and reading your material… it is inspiring and impressive to say the least. I’m glad you could relate to my story. I admit, where business email is concerned, I deliberately try to keep things fairly dry, simplified to-the-point and focused on facts in order to facilitate speedy progress. But when creatively working, producing and expressing, *passion* is the fundamental ingredient and driving force. I don’t do anything, or leave home, without it. 😉 Cheers! – Deej
One of the most all around talented artists I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Deej is amazing and continues to surprise me after all these years!
Thanks Grace – *you* are no less amazing! It continues to be a privilidge to work with you. 😉
I remember a lot of this, although it’s a bit hazy (!)
There were a few all-nighters, that’s for sure.
I Love You Deej! ❤ So Inspiring… Top Shelf!
Thanks Jeani – I remember painting trippy tabletops for the OWF Natural Foods Restaurant with you and Sheilah back in ’72 or so. Even rescued one from the new owners years later before they painted over it. Hugs.
Great site! And well written …not that that surprises me. What lives we’ve led … but yours is a cake-taker. Finally got a MacBook so I can cruise the internet. Don’t like the web on my iMac butting into my art. I return as a communicator! The planet gasps . . .