parajumpers hoodie Barry Lederer
In March/April 2004, I e mailed Barry Lederer and spoke to him about his career in the music business. Throughout our talk, he shared with me interesting facts about the early days of disco and his beginnings as a DJ at several New York and Fire Island clubs. I grew up in the Bronx and then moved to Long Island. I graduated from Alfred University (NY) and then proceeded to do social work in New York City. All through high school and college I was always listening to music.
hotdiscomix: After graduating from college, you worked as social worker in New York. Describe your work at that time.
Barry Lederer: I worked as a social worker for the city and state of New York. While working for the city, I was a regular caseworker, handling cases of individuals or families on welfare and checking on their status and making sure that all was ok. The workload was incredible. From there I went on to work for the state, again as a social worker. There I inspected old age homes, drug rehab centers and the like for which the State of New York was responsible. I had to make sure that they kept their facilities up to code.
hotdiscomix: When did you discover your interest in music and what was your first step into the music business?
Barry Lederer: My interest in music started in high school. I was an avid record collector even then. When I attended college, as stated above, I continued this interest. In college, I was social chairman of my fraternity and actually taped songs from the radio for our frat parties. When I moved to New York City after college, I threw parties in my apartment usually from lousy tapes I made.
My first break came when I stopped by a club called The Firehouse, in SoHo, not too far from where The Loft was located. The Firehouse had dances on Fridays and Saturdays. I wasn’t having much luck with the pop sounds the resident DJ was playing.
Having been to Fire Island, where the music was way ahead of New York City, I complained to the management. They said you do better? Well, three weeks later I did do better, and was playing live in front of 300 people. Though the mixes left much to be desired, within a month, word had spread and a crowd of over 1,500 was showing up weekly.
hotdiscomix: Do you recall the records you were playing at the time?
Barry Lederer: Yes. Some commercial stuff like Sugar by the Rolling Stones, and Jones by the Supremes, but also by Bill Withers, And Death In G A by Abaco Dream, or The Need In Me by the Detroit Emeralds. Let not forget Skinned Blue Eyed Boys by the Equals, or by Dorothy Morrison.
hotdiscomix: Please tell me a bit about your story as a DJ and the clubs at which you performed.
Barry Lederer: I started out at The Firehouse, as you already know. From there, I went down the block to the Sandpiper (now the Pavilion), where I performed for 3 years. Both The Botel and the Sandpiper were considered the best places to play at. Why? Because all the best DJs and promo people came out to the Island. Obviously this portion of the Island was gay, as were almost all top DJs, promo people and so on. The gay clubs in New York City and others around the country were the first to try out new music.
Also during my time I played at numerous straight and exclusive clubs like Le Club, Hippopotamus and Doubles. These were all for the very rich and enabled me to see things from another perspective. I was at these clubs from the mid seventies and on. In Le Club I played for three years. Prior to me was a thin black gentleman named Slim Hyatt, who is actually considered to be the real first DJ. I also met him when I played at Doubles, which was located in a very exclusive hotel at 5th Avenue and 60th Street. I was there for about 2 years or so. Le Club was the predecessor of Studio 54 only in that it catered to the rich and famous (like a Frank Sinatra). It was in a gorgeous town house where you had dinner and then danced. Although what I had to play was mostly real commercial,
I believe a good DJ should learn to play all types of music.
You know about The Botel and the Sandpiper at the Fire Island Pines. These were, I would say, the main clubs. The audience was the best in New York and everyone went there. This happened at a time when I was a Billboard reporter and then Disco Mix columnist. As a deejay, I worked along with Tom Moulton, who shared with me a lot of his acetates of songs yet to be released. That is why these two places were important.
From about 1980 and on, my fashion show business took off, so I stopped playing, though I was and still am a member of the For The Record Pool, I guess because of my help from day one.
are like actors on a stage, trying to turn on a crowd with their own performance. Good DJs make a good night as good actors make a play. It was here that I was most challenged as the crowd was so particular and critical, just like any gay clubs, but more so here.
However, once again, I was lucky to have access to the right records as well as advances from all promo people and a great crowd who loved to dance.
The most exciting events or times I have had were when I played a tune and saw the crowd go wild. The Saturday nights were always the best, for everyone was ready and roaring to go. Personally, my best time was the new years eve party at 12 West when Jimmy Stuard was playing. He had made a special hour tape to finish exactly at 12 midnight. The mixes were the best I had ever heard and the crowd went wild when, at 12, over the noise you heard The Trammps doing disco Where The Happy People Go A great moment never equaled. Is there a record which you spun before everyone else?
Barry Lederer: I had thought I was the first to play Theme by Love Unlimited Orchestra from an acetate, but was told that Bobby DJ had it first. Express.
Also, working with Tom Moulton, many of his mixes I would try out in the Tea Dance at The Botel, and he would play at night at the Sandpiper.
hotdiscomix: Are there any deejays in the industry whom you hold in high esteem? Who and why? What quality or style do they possess that you admire?
Barry Lederer about 1976 (bottom left)
Barry Lederer: Sure, Don Finley who played at the Sandpiper in 1971 just prior to Tom Moulton he was absolutely flawless. Francis Grasso at the Sanctuary, Jimmy Stuard at 12 West, as well as Tom Savarese who was way before his time. Their quality was in how well they played and went from one song to another, but more often there selection and how they put it together. They had a plan for the evening and could change at any moment. They could bring you up and down with the music and take you on a trip. They only had their records to play, not all the tricks of the trade like today DJs. Summing it up, they played great records and knew when to play them.
hotdiscomix: The Firehouse was the headquarters and community central of one of the first post Stonewall gay political activist organizations in New York, the Activists Alliance [GAA]. Were you also a GAA member?
Barry Lederer: I must say that in all my years, I was never an activist. I was just a lucky soul who stumbled upon The Firehouse with friends, became a regular, and eventually a DJ. Though not the greatest as I have said before, but I knew how to please the audience, so I played great music and left them cheering for more.