Froggy had been one of the original Caister DJs and is sadly missed. Our deepest sympathies go out to Froggys family.
Froggy, who sadly passed away on the 28th March 2008, was one of the first people to mix in the UK. He rose to prominence as a key member of the 1980s original Soul Mafia and also re-mixed many records, including Booker Newbury.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Did you grow up in Whitechapel?
When did you start collecting records?
What sort of records?
Were there any people who influenced you when you were younger?
What was it about Rosko you liked?
OK, so tell me about your early days DJing. Were you using two decks?
So soon as I’d finished my apprenticeship, I jacked it in the next day. I wanted to go professional. To my horror it wasn’t as easy as I thought. I bought a little Thames van for £100, put some gear in it. Proudly walked in the next week and told them I was a professional disc jockey. They laughed me all the way out of the door, because you really could not get insured for any kind of entertainment then whether you were a golfer or DJ. I had to go round posing as an electrician. Anyway, got the Bird’s Nest going, packed out every Monday night, different promoters started coming in, liked what I did, liked what I played. I was a good entertainer, and good on the mic. So other owners from other places got my number and started booking me. So six months after I’d gone professional I’d managed to sustain a wage from doing it.
Which other places were you doing?
Was this Scunthorpe Baths, by any chance?
I’ve played there as well!
Well it isn’t now they’ve filled it in.
I did that for four years. First year it was all bands. I realised I didn’t have enough equipment to do such a big room, and they were talking to me one day, the manager and George, and they said do you know much about any of the radio jocks. So I said I was a big fan of Emperor Rosko. So they said get him down here. First one they booked was Johnny Walker, then came Rosko, who was my hero and he had this big lorry load of equipment, it was the bollocks and he actually came and sat and spoke to me. He actually let me plug my deck into his system and – boom – I was gone then. Soon as I got back I started buying every speaker, borrowed money wherever I could, filled the van up with speakers, built up these amplifiers and, next, they booked Dave Lee Travis.
The good thing about this night was he commented on how sharp I was. When he looked I always had that awareness so I had a record already cued up, so he’d tell a few gags and entertain. To my amazement at the end of the night he said, “Could I have a word with you?” We went back to the dressing room. He said, “Been wanting to do it for a long time but just haven’t found the right person. I really enjoyed working with you tonight. There’s something about your timing and the music you played. Are you interested in doing some gigs with me?” I said I’d love to.
He said, ‘”I want to get together a roadshow”. He said he wanted to tour and it can be quite hectic. He wanted two dancers, me before and after. So we got two good dancers, I brushed up the sound equipment and off we went and did our first couple of shows. We didn’t have anywhere open after 2 in those days so we’d do ten till one thirty. So we had the DLT Roadshow with my name in subtitles. It was so successful we toured the country four or five times. We toured for five years. Dave bought a Winnebago. We had a couple of road crew. Dave was at the peak of his career then so it opened a lot of doors for me, as you can imagine, and they’d often book me back on my own to do a set on a club night and that’s how I built up my name all over the country.
Were you doing gigs in the north playing more underground music?
One year, Disco International, to my surprise, rang me up and said I’d won DJ of the Year award. James Hamilton was always interested in what I was playing and what was breaking because I played all over the country. Crown Heights Affair Sexy Lady, I played that everywhere. Because you had capacity crowds everywhere you could really work the track. D Train and Can You Handle It, instantaneously, they worked. But I didn’t overdo it, I’d pick five at a time and work them. All the other Radio 1 jocks who went out and did their roadshows didn’t have a fuckin’ clue, but Rosko was on the ball and we were. We were the only ones with a self-contained show, us two were the only ones to book.
When Radio 1 did their summer roadshows, was it your sound system they used?
I remember going to it in Cleethorpes every year. It looked like a big chip van, didn’t it?
How did you residency at the Royalty in Southgate happen?
What year did you start doing it?
I’d never seen anything like it. Sound system was the most incredible I’d ever heard. The room was the most electrifyin’ I’d ever been in. The DJ was just… incredible. The tunes he played were quite fantastic. The two stations then were WBLS and WKTU and ’BLS was linked with Paradise Garage and was much more streety and WKTU was linked to Studio 54. I experienced this whole night, from twelve till seven listening to this jock and the lighting and the sound was just so incredible, I couldn’t believe it. The following evening we went to Studio 54 and experienced the big queue outside and being picked – we had special passes – and also the Richard Long sound system which was the same as the Garage one. The music was much more lighter, but just as entertaining and brilliant.
I’d spoken to Richard Long quite a lot, who was fascinated by my interest in sound systems, so I made lots of drawings and notes and came back and got myself in a load of fucking debt. I went out and borrowed every penny I could, bought a lorry and built a big system up. Went to see a mate of mine in Southend and he built these big bins for me and I took two guys on full time. We fitted it into the Royalty every week and people used to come for miles. By this time, I’d had my mixer modified and redesigned.
In terms of the sound, what were you using exactly?
For the mixing, I’d studied Larry Levan, Tee Scott, Shep Pettibone and went to KISS FM and watched them. And then adopted it at the Royalty on the Saturday night. Within eight weeks, Chris Hill came up to me and said I was definitely on par with the Americans. So it went on from there. But, I was influenced by UK jocks, too. For instance I couldn’t help but be fascinated by Chris Hill’s entertainment value. He wasn’t particularly brilliant technically, but he had this fantastic ear for picking tracks off of albums. He was the most influential DJ I’ve ever met. Chris Brown was good, Jeff Young, all the Mafia team.
Did you go to the Lacy Lady and the Goldmine?
What was the difference in crowd composition between Goldmine and Royalty?
Were you aware of early mixing DJs like Greg James at the Embassy?
What kind of stuff were you playing when you did the Peter Powell?
Then Robbie Vincent did one of the 18-30s with me and took it back to Showstoppers at the Royalty and said look why don’t we do a soul one? In that two and half years at the Royalty, it opened a lot of doors, I was doing radio, it started to get on top a wee bit. The sound system became expensive to keep running and I took a break at one stage. I put the sound in at Caister and because I’d designed it I was always getting phone calls about it, which just made me too tired. I wasn’t concentrating on my work. Then I left it alone for a year and then Brian took it over.
What, the sound system?
Do you remember what year that was?
Didn’t you hire out your system to some of the rare groove guys during the late 80s? I’m sure Norman Jay said he was blown away by Derek B when he saw him in Canning Town and he was using your system.
But Derek B was using it wasn’t it?
What sort of records were you playing at the Royalty?
Pete Tong was so impressed, he was like that’s a fucking brilliant idea and that started to influence him a lot. Every Way Which Loose, Love Injection, We Got The Funk, D Train’s You’re The One For Me, Can You Handle It, all the Prelude stuff. One of the biggest labels at that time was West End. They really did have loads of leftfield tracks, there’s one that’s still getting used now, Loose Joints’ Is It All Over My Face. It took me a year to break that track, no one could get into that. Peech Boys’ Don’t Make Me Wait. Then on the jazz funk side you had all the British bands coming up. You had Level 42, I Level… So in your set you’d include Lonnie Liston Smith’s Expansions, Always There by Willie Bobo, then you’d have the jazz stuff to go in there. So jazz funk included Willie Bobo, you never heard jazz funk stuff at the Garage, it was all club music. But in this country, you mixed them together. So with Expansions you’d play Sharon Redd after it.
But when Morgan Khan came on the scene he completely changed the whole thing. Soon as dammit, he’d put out these albums full of imports called Streetsounds. And people would wait four weeks just to get these, whereas we were the innovators and we’d spend lots of money on singles, he’d put them out on his albums.
Well, I don’t think that’s fair. Those LPs were aimed at people like me who were younger and didn’t have the income to buy imports.
OK, what was the crowd composition at the Royalty?
So were you getting pressure from the owners?
What about the electro scene that came up after…
So did you play any of the electro stuff?
Where you playing any of that stuff in clubs?
Conducted in the storeroom at The Lodge, Harlesden on 7th September, 2004 by Bill Brewster. RIP Froggy. © DJhistory.com, 2004
The Original Caister Profile for Froggy.....
After 25 years in the business you would expect legendary Funk Mafia DJ Froggy to be slowing things down a touch, but at the grand old age of forty-something he has got three weekly radio shows, a Friday-night residency at one of Londons top clubs, and we're also currently negotiating with major record companies for release of some of his classic mixes. Yes, it seems there is life in the old Frogg yet, and when you consider his infamous sound system is also about to take to the road once more, then it is apparent that this particular 25th anniversary should certainly have a silver lining. It was in the late 70's at the Regency Suite in Chadwell Heath near his Goodmayes, Essex home that Froggy would start to wow loyal crowds and fellow jocks like Pete Tong with a new-found technique of mixing.
Yes, strange as it may sound these days, but back in those days, people neither had the equipment, nor ability to mix. It was only when Froggy and co. returned from a seminar in New York with the knowledge and the inspiration that mixing the different beats of two records over the top of each other really became possible in the UK. In the same three day trip Froggy visited the legendary Studio 54 and Paradise Garage clubs, plus a seminar which taught him how to mix on specially customised mixing units. It was an experience what would change his life forever. He remembers, "It was simply amazing. On the one hand you had the mixing, which I had never seen before, and on the other there was this brand new club experience. The fact that the clubs didn' t get going until midnight combined with the sound systems being so awesome really blew my mind it was like a different culture". To come back with that experience plus tuition in how to mix really was something. So the legend was about to be born and he adds: "Back in England the mixing units did not have the capability of mixing two records together. There were no cross faders as such, but by the time I returned I had been taught how to customise my equipment. It sounds amazing, but in those days there wasn' t even the facility to hear two records in your headphone at the same time".
Froggy went on to become the first jock in the country to take two sets of Technics 1200 decks on the road, using a mixer he had designed himself with a UK-based company called Matamp Super Nova. At that stage he had already toured the country with Dave Lee Travis, DJ-ing at his Radio One Roadshows and had gone on to present a regular 25 minute soul/disco session on the DLT show.
Meeting New York innovators like Larry Levan took Froggy to a new level. Indeed it was the sound systems at Studio 54 and Paradise Garage, Larry was resident at both, that would prove the forerunner for the now legendary Froggy Sound System. Once the Frogg had experienced a sound so crisp, yet so powerful, he was determined to try and recreate that king of production in the UK.
In 1980 and within months of his return from the Big Apple, the system was wowing more than 15,000 people at a soul all-dayer at Knebworth. Oasis were still at junior school but Froggy was already leaping about in true Gallagher style. He says: When I went to those clubs I just couldn't get over the sound and sheer extravagance. In Studio 54 in particular, the sound would get fatter and fatter as the night went on. That's how I tried to make mine operate, but no-one went home deaf though. It had a great woof to it, but nobody was ever bitten by its bark. The system would go on to be a regular attraction at the Caister Soul Weekenders, and has more recently been under the deft guidance of Froggy's co-pilot Paul P. It even entertained 2,000 hardcore fans when DJ Seduction played on it at a University gig in Colchester, Essex, two years ago. Due for another outing very soon and still available for hire, the system amazingly still boasts the same Technics 1200 decks from the Knebworth days and also the same Matamp Super Nova mixer that he helped design soon after his New York sabbatical.
In to the mid 80s and Froggy's radio edits through his work at the BBC with producer Dave Atky, would become equally as influential as he started attracting the attention of many a major artist. He went on to produce the radio edits of tracks like The Real Thing's- You to Me Are Everything, Changes- Change of Heart, Duran Duran's- A View To A Kill, Cameo's- Back and Forth, Dougie Fresh's- The Show and Booker Newbury III's- Love Town. By 1990, Froggy, who had enjoyed previous stints at Radio One with Peter Powell had his own show on London's Capital Radio.
Nine years on and he has three weekend shows on his own backyard on east London's very own Active FM. Alongside his club residencies each Friday, Froggy is clearly still in business. As for Caister, Froggy will be there for another two stints this year at this legendary event. He enthuses: It's going to be brilliant, I'll have all my family (including my grown-up children) there and I hope all the old regulars too. It's been a great 25 years and I'm now really enjoying looking back on all the old tunes on my Active FM shows it's just great to be working on radio locally. I know people must look at me and think when's that old bastard going to chuck it all in, but I've got my gold watch and I wouldn't mind another one.