Jay “D-JAY” Gelfand

The story of my start in the business is a sick one, literally. I visited DJ John Devir at JW’s West on December 29, 1977, when he told me he had a double ear infection and was barely able to hear. Because he couldn’t find anyone to substitute for him on New Year’s Eve, he decided he was going to train me to mix with the Bozak board and original 1200 turntables. He figured that because I was a percussionist, with some radio work in college, that I would pick up DJ work easily. I reminded him that I had just left a club called Nards, whose motto was “Disco Sucks”. I said I was just stopping by for a drink on the way home. John talked me into helping him out, gave me hit lists so I could learn the names of the music, and trained me day and night for two days. On New Year’s Eve, the club rocked until 4 am. The manager of the Crown Lounge, a club that closed at 2 am, was there and came up the ladder to the booth to tell John how good he sounded, only to find me mixing! When he found out that I wasn’t working as a DJ, he hired me on the spot and changed the DJ sign behind the booth in his club to D-JAY. The rest is history.

John introduced me to Ray Lenahan, the DJ at JW’s East, and I started subbing for him on my nights off, as well as getting started in both record pools. In these pools I learned more about the disco industry and how to develop my style. DJs such as Rique Alonso, John Terry, Lou Possenti, Marc Karp, Scott Talarico, Jack Fahey, Bobby Lombardi, Tiger, Lewis Marinez, Bobby Viteretti, Scott Blackwell, and Bill Kelly all took the time to teach me the tricks of their trade. I am forever grateful to them and all the others of that era.

My first experience at a party, after John Terry introduced me to mobile DJ work, was a Bar Mitzvah because John thought that having a Jewish DJ there was a good idea. At the end of my career I had a partnership with DJ Jerry Staples called Start System Mobile DJ’s. We continued for about 10 years until 1994-95.

My favorite disco song was The Trammps’ “That’s Where the Happy People Go”. Earl Young’s drumming kept me going. That song had a mixed groove genre that couldn’t be denied.

My three favorite local bands are Quickstep at Flanigan’s, Ecstasy at Pete & Lenny’s, and Bristol’s Crème at JW’s. As for celebrities, I met and worked with stars such as Prince, Journey, KC & The Sunshine Band, Planet Patrol, Lime, Gloria Gaynor, Marilyn  McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., Tavares, Jimmy Buffett, comedian Jackie Martling and Junior Welterweight boxing champion Aaron “The Hawk” Pryor, as well as many others.

My top 5 songs are “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin; “The Greatest Love of All” by George Benson; ”Livin’ Loving Maid” by Led Zeppelin; “Where the Happy People Go” by The Trammps; and “Take It Easy” by The Eagles.

My favorite club was Flanigan’s Speakeasy in North Miami, changed to Flanigan’s Marti Gras when it was remodeled. During that time they filmed scenes for the movie “A Night in Heaven”, for the TV show “Miami Vice”, as well as “Dance Fever with Deney Terrio”. I was given the responsibility to oversee Flanigan’s/Big Daddy’s chains DJs and to help in their remodeling and marketing.

As for DJ work in a club, I started at JW’s West & East, then the Crown Lounge, Big Daddy’s Brother Jim’s, and Pete & Lennys. I had the best time working with Rique Alonso, when we called ourselves the “Jewban Connection” and sometimes spent entire evenings challenging other. I also worked at The Button & Button Up during spring breaks, at Playpen, at Biscayne Baby (where I mixed 50s and 60s music as though it were disco), at Playboy, and at Fannie’s Attic. Through the years I also did many spot nights subbing for other DJs on my nights off.

As for radio interviews, my favorite moment was a Disco 96 feature on the “Top 10 DJs of South Florida” where I was picked as one of them. I was honored, considering I was so new at the time. I was also featured as one of the top DJs in South Florida in the TV show “PM Magazine”.

As for other DJs I admire, I have to include all those colleagues  previously mentioned and too many others to list.

My last full time gig was at Fannie’s Attic in Fort Lauderdale in June 1986. I did spot nights subbing for friends through the early 90′s. I left the industry when I realized that I had lost Jay Gelfand and had gotten caught up in the D-Jay persona. I once had a gun held to my head because I didn’t want to play Neil Diamond’s “Love on the Rocks” one night. A few months later, my roommate was busted by the FBI for living under an assumed alias. I knew it was the beginning of the end.

I became an automotive service advisor with Chrysler-Jeep and was with BMW dealerships the last 15 years until I was injured in a slip-and-fall in 2011. I am currently unable to work because of pain and numbness but I try to get out and be social when I feel up to it. The last time I DJed was two summers ago when  Pete Denis talked me into doing an hour set for him one night. On the side, I help promote for Joe Bonamassa, who aside from being my friend, is also considered one of the greatest guitarists in the world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/felix.chinea.5 Felix Chinea

    I owe Jay plenty. He gave me a job as his back up DJ at Flannigans’ Speakeasy. When he left Flannigan’s, he was instrumental in me becoming the main DJ. But more importantly he taught me to play anything and everything. Until then I was just a Disco DJ. During the time I was his back up, we became good friends. Many times we didn’t sleep for what seemed like days. I had DJ’d a club here and there but once I became his back up at Flannigan’s, it propelled my career as a club DJ. He will always have a friend in me because I am forever grateful.

    • Dj Lucious lyons

      ill like to work with you Mr Chinea i am a Musician /dj and i love to mix everything.

  • Scott Talarico

    D Jay is an awesome DJ who jammed form time to time at my club the Playpen back in the day…Jay is a highly skilled professional capable of mixing any type of music….Great article and thank you for the Honorable Mention !

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