Rique (aka “Billy Bob”) Alonso’s DJ career began innocently enough when in 1975 one of his best friends at the time, Jorge Arritola, turned to him while on their way to a popular record store in Hialeah and asked him if he wanted to be a DJ. Rique turned and casually said…. sure. He and George borrowed some money and went to the Sound Advice on Dixie Highway across from the University of Miami to purchase a GLI mixer, an amp, and a couple of Pioneer belt-driven turntables without pitch control which would prove especially challenging since, given that 12” records really hadn’t been introduced yet, the majority of his record collection was comprised of 7”, 45 rpm records. Try popping THOSE babies in without the benefit of pitch control to match beats and weak torque from a belt-driven turntable.
Note the absence of speakers from his initial equipment purchase. This would prove to be a HUGE problem when he had to scramble to borrow a pair for his first gig, a wedding reception. Choosing to perform as if it were a club setting, Rique didn’t MC and limited his mic time to simply announcing the bride and groom. Although he loved performing, he quickly figured out he hated the whole “mobile” aspect of these gigs like lugging around the equipment and record crates, setting up, and breaking down after a long night. So it was no surprise when in 1977, he JUMPED at the opportunity to shed the mobile moniker and accepted the gig backing up Barbara Jane Graham at Ft. Lauderdale’s Pete & Lenny’s.
Rique was among the first DJs to join Bo Crane when he founded the nation’s first record pool, the Florida Record Pool. Rique would also go on to become one of a select few DJs across the country whose weekly playlists were utilized to create Billboard Magazine’s Dance (originally, Disco) Music Chart. I personally observed the wall to wall collection of records in his home back in the 80s. Receiving promotional records on a weekly basis from the record pool and almost daily from record companies, he amassed over 20,000 records; every one of which he knew exactly where to find.
Rique did a lot of one-nighters filling in for friends on off nights at various clubs around town like Honey for the Bears, Scaramouch and Studio 51. He even made a guest appearance on DJ Leo Vela’s show at radio station Disco 96. Rique, however, is best known for the seven years he was the resident DJ at Pete & Lenny’s/Banana Boat and the three to four he did at Cat’s in Coconut Grove. It was a pleasure watching him spin at the Banana Boat. The “Boat” was actually an underground club attached to Pete & Lenny’s. Originally just a bar located next door, Pete & Lenny’s owners installed a temporary DJ booth and asked Rique to spin there on the weekends. Well, it became so popular that the overflow crowds inspired Pete and Lenny to remodel the place. They installed a huge dance floor and massive sound system and connected it to the “main room” via a sky-bubble walkway. No longer restricted to playing only 25 minutes between band sets, Rique was free to program an entire evening of music and he relished the freedom to play the more underground tracks of the time.
Pete & Lenny’s closed its doors around 1984 and Rique joined soon to be legendary dance music producer Lewis A. Martineé as the first resident DJs at Cats in Coconut Grove, Fl. Although earning more money than ever before in his career, Rique discovered that (as he puts it) “nothing exceeds like excess” and this would prove to be the last club Rique would spin at. He retired from DJing to join Lewis Martineé, Frank Diaz, and Ismael Garcia in their nascent company, Pantera Productions where Lewis would anoint Rique with his nom de plume, “Billy Bob” (named for a Sequential Circuits drum machine Rique spent hours programming).
While working for Pantera Productions under the tutelage of his friend Lewis Martineé, Rique evolved as a producer/remixer as well as studio engineer and had the honor of working with such notable artists as Exposé, Pet Shop Boys, and The Voice in Fashion. Pantera also provided the opportunity for him to release his own records, two of which appeared on the Billboard Dance Chart, “Make That Move” by G-Spot which he wrote and produced with long time friend Fro Sosa and T-E-C-H-N-O by Basic Elements which also did very well in Japan.
Here are some of Rique’s favorites.
Top five favorite disco records:
Favorite artists from that era:
Rum Bottoms (later to become Limelight)
Honey for the Bears
The Widow McCoys
Bobby Lombardi (Rum Bottoms/Limelight)
Bobby Vitaritti (The Poop Deck)
Scott Talarico (Playpen)
Scott Blackwell (Faces)
Bobby, Bobby, Scott, Scott… huh, I just got that! LOL
Other than performing for the occasional charity event, Rique has retired from the music business and is now involved with a venture capitalist group working on a variety of investment projects.
Interviewed by Wilson Alvarez