African American Studies
Summarized by Alice Stryker
Pete DJ Jones moved to the Bronx in 1970 to Anderson Ave and 164th street, where he still lives. He initially was a basketball player and moved to NYC for better playing opportunities. Kurtis Blow first heard Pete in the early 70’s. He was amazed at the fact that Pete was using two turntables, instead of 1, which was traditionally used, and that music was continuously playing.
In North Carolina, Pete fooled around with record players and microphones and would “play DJ”. He eventually started playing at parties. When he moved to the Bronx he played at the Houlis Lounge. He then began to play more and more clubs in the Bronx. Pete describes many technical aspects to spinning and Kurtis explains that the DJs were scientists and engineers.
Kurtis says that he wanted to be a DJ his entire life. Part of the reason for this is the fact that his mother was a music lover. When his mother brought home a component system, he became the scientist of it and took people’s requests during parties at age 7. He says that this is when he really became interested in the mechanics of sound systems.
Pete says that the way he got really good was through practice and continually checking up with the latest technology. He got the name “Pete the DJ Jones” from a promoter and the line “Dynamite Pete from Across the Street with that funky beat” from Kurtis.
Initially, DJ’s were the center stage of parties. MC’s (masters of ceremonies or Microphone controllers) would introduce the DJ and assist him. They were his crew. While Pete was working as a DJ he was also a teacher at Junior High School 22, on 167th and Morris Ave, a rough neighborhood. Kurtis went to public school and did not have a very rough experience. He was in accelerated programs and went to the High School of the Music and Arts. Pete says that he used hip-hop to help control the kids.
The clubs were not threatening environments because of the security. He claims the trouble was with kids who were partying in public places or with those that could not get into the nice clubs where Pete played, “ghetto discos”. DJs in these settings relied on fellow gang members for security and often fights would break out.
Pete owned several clubs in the Bronx. Many of which he maintained a strict dress code to keep gangs out. Kurtis used to have a fake ID when he was 13 so he could go to these clubs. He also opened a lot of “after hours spots”. Most of his clubs attracted mainly African Americans. However, if they were located in a neighborhood that had both African-Americans and Puerto Ricans, the clientele would reflect this.
Kurtis was a b-boy before he was a DJ. He would dance at the clubs Pete was playing at. During the late 70’s after hours clubs sprang up all over the Bronx. When Pete was younger he used to go to Club 845 to watch the go-go girls and would go to other clubs in the Bronx similar to that.
Pete credits the dangerousness of certain neighborhoods to lack of parental supervision. The kids have lack of respect and their role models were hustlers on the streets. Additionally, the rise of drugs also contributed to the rise of crime and violence in the Bronx.
In closing, Pete says that hip-hop evolved from R&B and that no one DJ invented it. It was an organic process. The only 2 people that can take credit for the birth of hip-hop is Kurtis Blow and the Sugar Hill gang because they took it to the rest of the world.
Jones, Pete and Kurtis Blow. October 1, 2004. Interview with the Bronx African American History Project. Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.Jones, Pete and Kurtis Blow.mp3 (84097 kB)