DJ ALEX GUTIERREZ DISCO MIX 1
01 Jan 1970 |

Alex Gutierrez

Disco DJs Remember Disco’s Music’s Roots in Miami (Part 1)

Disco DJs Remember Disco’s Music’s Roots in Miami (Part 1)

Most Cubans started arriving in Miami in the early and mid 60s. Our parents became the janitors, the valets, the busboys at the fancy Hotels and nightclubs of Miami Beach. We listened to Elvis, the Stones, The Beatles, but that music didn’t belong to us. Disco embraced us all. In Miami, that became our music. It allowed to show off our moves.our style .Miami was one of the top havens for disco music during the 70s in large part because of the incredible support from the children of the late 50s/60s Cuban arrivals, who had hit their teen years in the mid-70s when Disco music began to emerge.

A” Disco”?
A “Discotheque” was an establishment that played music on records,by a ” DJ” rather than having a live band performing. Discotheques got their start in Paris, France, during World War II around 1935, when France was occupied by the Germans . It was thought by the Germans that Jazz music made young people rebellious , so the music was ” outlawed”.French youth would secretly gather in clubs that required passwords to get in. One of the most popular of these places was called ” Le Discotheque” ( translates to The Record Store in French) Since No Live Jazz bands could be hired,their only option was to play recorded music ( played on single record player)
In the 1960s, and 1970s these establishments became a melting pot of all races and sexual orientations making these gathering places even more attractive to those who had previously been unable to integrate. This ” Mix of different people” directly impacted the sound of the music being produced. Here in Miami the popular style of ” Casino” dancing where the couple is in constant contact with each other ( Known as touch dancing ) while turning and spinning would eventually fuse and adapt to the early Philly and Motown sounds that dominated the early ” Discos” here in our area at places such as “Stonewall” ( DJ Ashley) and” Le Disque ( Tommy De Antonio and George Mencio ) Probably one of the first ,and later became the Mix II (1972) and later Shanghai,Top Draw, Widow McCoys, Pagoda and others. DJs such as Humberto Fleites ( Mutiny) . Jimmy Martinez ( Top Draw ) Carlos Nodal ( Widow McCoy’s) Luis Martinez Jr ( Rattlesnake), Luis Cabrera( Alexandre’s), Alfonso Machado,Joel Hernandez (Daphne’s, Ziegfields) George Mencio ( Le Disque)
I was fortunate to contact a few of the era’s most popular DJ’s and asked them to share some of their memories of those days.

Luis Cabrera

Luis Cabrera

Humberto Fleitas

Humberto Fleitas

Julian Sotolongo

Julian Sotolongo

Jimmy Martinez

Jimmy Martinez


A few years before DJ Julian Sotolongo got his chance to get behind the decks at such legendary clubs such as Manhattan’s, Daphne’s, and My Place , this hard core Rock fan would discover a new world in the early Miami club scene.
” Coming of age in the very early 1970s, gave me , as a high school kid , few entertainment options,as I looked to socialize in a club atmosphere. The first dance club I went to was a teen club in North Miami called ” The Place”,where we danced to live music by local bands,while scantily clad ” Go-Go” dancers moved to the rhythm of the music,in platforms situated all around the dark dance floor. It wasn’t long before a gigantic teen dance club in Miami Beach opened its doors, and offered a combination of live acts as well as, records in between the band’s sets. This club was called Heaven and fittingly, the huge club was paradise for us. The featured band performed on an elevated decorative water fall stage, and below kids from every part of town danced on the well lit dance floor. The music being played was danced oriented Rock.
I was still a senior in high school when my friends and I heard a new club called Le Disc on 79th Street Causeway. We would have to resort to fake IDs to get in. Since the new sensation was a place for adults I was surprised when after a while, after arriving. I noticed there was no live bands coming up and even more strangely, no stage. The atmosphere was a party oriented one, with a slight touch of decadence. The music was a combination of a Motown-like sound I had never heard on the radio before and dance, oriented Rock. I recognized the J. Giles Band among these new songs I had never herd before. One song I heard while at Le Disc, was titled “Smarty Pants.” The song made an impact on me and I would later learn, it was done by a singing trio called the Three Degrees. Nearby, another club would open after Le Disc, and after that, one thing was certain Miamians had embraced this new concept of dancing and socializing.”

DJ Jimmy Martinez, a Washington DC transplant came down to Miami and became the resident DJ at one of the most popular early Nightclubs in Miami ,The Top Draw ( 1975 – 1979) ” Our Music was all Disco, while other clubs sprinkled in a few latin tracks throughout the night I kept it ALL DISCO, the floor would get packed with such artists as the Ritchie Family, Harold Melvin, Al Martino’s ” Volare” and others.It was the place to be seen. Superstars such as Frank Sinatra and Red buttons would come in whenever they performed locally. It was the best years of my life”
Luis Cabrera Dj from clubs Alexandre(Omni), Ziegfields(Holiday Inn 57 ave), Mutiny and others with Joel Hernandez, Bennett’s (Marco Polo), Infinity, remembers his early days.
“I worked at Daphnes ( 1978 – 1979) by the airport ( Sheraton River House) the nightclub was located on the first floor and accentuated with stained glass decorations, my friend Julian Sotolongo was the house DJ,we worked along live bands such as Voyage and Clockwork .I covered for him whenever he needed, including the night his son was born. Pick me up I’ll dance-Melba Moore, Rough Diamond -Madleen Kane, Got to have loving-Don Ray,and a few ballads here and there were the big hits at the time. I also worked at Scandals in the hotel across from Daphne’s , when hurricane David came through, I remember all hotel employees stayed on one floor of the hotel for the duration of the storm, and it was party 24/7.”
Alexandre’s was a small but elegant club in the Omni Hotel at the time it was a cutting edge club with an enclosed plexi-glass dancefloor that would move up and down one story. It’s original DJ was Jorge Mencio. It was rumored that Cuban Actor Andy Garcia was the light show tech. After it closed it opened up a few more times once as “Applause ,Applause” and then ” Allegro”
Luis Cabrera remembers “Alexandre wow, that was a place that deserved more time than what it had, very nice layout and full of beautiful and sometimes eccentric people, and how can you not like a place with the dance floor in a glass enclosed elevator that actually went up and down.One of our favorite pranks was stopping it between levels until people would beg to get out.The Account belonged to Joel Hernandez, and through him I got the opportunity to DJ at Alexandre ,he usually had multiple accounts and when they overlapped, myself, along with , Octavio Machado(Mixmachine), and Robert Quesada would alternate between them as DJs there”
HUMBERTO FLEITES
In 1973 I moved to Miami to study Architecture at Miami Dade College, the hot Discotheques at that time were, Mix 2, (George Mencio Jr. was the DJ), and Stonewall. George told me where to buy records, occasionally I had the opportunity to cover for him, and Tommy Star (the DJ who replaced George). I spent the rest of 1974 listening and learning from Carlos Nodal playing at the Shanghai Village in South Beach.
In 1975 and early ’76, I filled-in for George Mencio at Widow’s McCoy’s in Coconut Grove. In the Summer of 1976, I was invited to play at “The Four Dimension”, a new club in Ft. Lauderdale that had a format similar to “Pete and Lenny”, with a band and a DJ alternating. Later that year a DJ friend of mine asked me to play for him for a month at the newly opened upper deck in the Mutiny Club while he went to visit his family in Colombia, but sadly he was killed and never returned (he was a very good friend).
I spent the next six years working at the Mutiny, where I experienced the best years of Disco music, and the beginning of the new wave – meeting famous singers and personalities like Julio Iglesias, Berny Wilson from Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Stephen Still, Jorge Perez, and many others. During my time at the Mutiny, I also had the fortune of filling-in for Carlos Nodal at
“Honey for the Bears” when he had to travel, and he covered for me when I had the account of the club “Manage”, on Brickell.In 1983 Suzanne Johnson, one of my manager’s at the Mutiny, hired me to play at her club Suzanne’s in the Grove, at the beginning of the Italo Disco and Free Style era’s.
I studied Architecture at the University of Miami and graduated in 1980, I paid off my tuition with my earnings as a DJ. In the mid of 1984, I retired from the nightlife, and devoted my time to
building my construction company.”

In the next Section we will continue talking to some of the pioneer DJs in Miami.

djalexgutierrez

April 24th, 2015

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