Ray "Pinky" Velazquez

Interview with Ray "Pinky" Velazquez

Ray "Pinky" Velazquez was actually born Ramon Joseph Velazquez just off Route 22 in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Incidently, he  later suggested and assisted Vanguard record producer Gordon Bahary, a Stevie Wonder disciple and protégé, in naming the Vanguard group "Twilight 22 "in memory of this homeland route .Not all inclusive, but the following will give you an a keener insight into Ray's club spinner days and his current association with the Legends of Vinyl .

When did you discover disco music and how old were you:
I believe I was about 18 or 19 years old just carrying over from the 60s great surge of song and melodies,which I feel is a very rich part of our music heritage in this country-The Beatles, The Stones ,James Brown, Diana Ross and Motown. As far as discovering disco is concerned,I happened to walk into a house party in the  soundview area of the Bronx at a catholic school named "blessed sacrament". There were a couple of djs spinning some loud thumping music with 2 turntables and a microphone. People were dancing off the walls.  All of the excitement was getting my undivided attention. It was like love at first sight. It definitely made an impression on me. I wanted to know more about this music, where it came from, the dj equipment,how to obtain it, the cost of the equipment and i wanted to speak to the dj about all of it.

-What made you want to become a DJ. Was it something you had wanted to do for a long time, or did it just "happen" :
The anwser  takes me back to the previous question, Pat: the dj happened to be the brother of my high school buddy Ruben Quinones who invited me to the party. His brother Noel Quinones was one of the 2 djs providing the entertainment. The 3 of us attended Cardinal Hayes high school in the Bronx. Noel was a couple of years older than Ruben and myself.

-Where did you buy your records, and were you member of a DJ record pool ?:
That is a loaded question. As long as i was a club spinner and throughout my Billboard magazine and, Record World Magazine reporting days and even throughout my tenure with Vanguard records i have always sought after unique records for my dance audience by buying records even though i did not have to because of my association with record companies and record pools. There was always a need to "take the extra mile" to find something that no one had or at least to have it before any other dj would. That was my mindset. I bought records at Stans Record shop in the Bronx, Downstairs Records in NYC (from Benji),  Disco Discs in Queens , Vinyl Mania (from Charlie Grapone) NYC , 99 Records (from Ed Bahlman) in NYC.


 -Can you share some memories about the record pool and how it was getting the records each week : My first association with a record pool was with the very first record pool ever created, "The Record Pool" at 99 Prince st in NYC headed by David Mancuso who also lived there and entertained his famous "by invitation only" loft parties.  ( incidently David was born in Utica NY, which is where i currently reside) To become a pool member was not easy. David had very strict rules for membership and you needed to provide proof on the club letterhead stationary that you were working full time at a night club. And even then, you had to wait weeks for final approval. Mancuso was not going to put this incredible new relationship with quickly expanding record companies and lose that relationship because his djs were not playing for significant audiences that could help record artists exposure or were not credible djs. The popularity among key djs was already and rapidly expanding during this time, especialy the gay club circuit nationally that was a powerhouse environment for breaking new records because these audiences were extremely festive and were  very receptive and open to new music at all times. If you were running a record company featuring disco or dance music, your music was definitely radared for the gay club scene before any other clubs.

-In Which Disco’s did you DJ:
I worked at the Stardust Ballroom in the Bronx, GG'S Barnum Room, Court Street in Manhattan, The Ipanema , of course, in Manhattan, Cartune Alley, on the upper west side of Manhattan, Backstage in Westport Conneticut. I also perform as a guest at a few places including Les Mooches in NYC, Roseland in NYC and The Attic in Bridgehampton NY with my good friend Viviano Almonte.

-Any favorite club of those:
I think I really enjoyed working at the Ipanema and  then Cartune Alley and then Backstage .These three clubs provided a cross section of dancers and music versatility. The Ipanema really let me venture into hard core disco and brazilian music and all R&B music on Thursday nights. Cartune Alley let me expand into motown and dance rock along with the steady dose of disco. Backstage really opened my adventure into more dance rock (new wave) reggae and funk.  And don't forget, that i worked for Vanguard Records and had to understand the radio element of dance music which is totally different than the hard core element of the dance floor in the club.
Vanguard helped keep my 60s integrity of song and melody intact  and because the Vanguard owners, the Solomons, Maynard and Seymour, originally built the company based on  classical ,jazz  and country music .The issue of having an ear for radio, melody and song structure was important. to the integrity of the company and to the signing of each artist. To bring hip-hop to the label in Spectrum City (Public Enemy) and Twilight 22 took a lot of convincing  and "spoon feeding" to the owners.

-About 1976 you started working at the Ipanema, in 240 West 52nd St, how did you get that job?
What happened was that my father Ray Velazquez Sr was working at a store selling audio equipment on 6th Avenue, Avenue of the Americas, on 43rd Street. A store called Leonard Radio Inc and he was in contact with a lot of television and radio personalities. Mitch Miller was a personal friend of dad as was Madison Square garden, New York Knicks organist, Eddie Layton. Popular Club DJ's also visited dad at this store, including Tom Savarese, Bobby "DJ" Guttadaro and the actual DJ of the Ipanema at that time, called Ronald Soares. Ron was a Brazilian DJ, nice guy, thin looking guy about 5 foot 5 and very  technically efficient behind the turntables as far as mixing abilities.
Ronnie was working seven nights a week at the Ipanema, but was really kind of 'burning himself out' working too many hours and too many days. Besides he also had a local record store on 45th Street off Avenue of the Americas where he sold Brazilian music to all the Brazilian people living in that area. So, he was selling a lot of Brazilian music and running the record store and working seven nights a week at the Ipanema.
Ronnie knew my dad, because Ronnie would always go to my dad's store to buy reel-to-reel tapes for his TEAK reel-to-reel machine at the Ipanema. Ronnie used to sell those tapes to clientele at the Ipanema. Ronnie was telling my dad he was very tired of working seven days a week at the Ipanema. My dad mentioned to him that 'My son is, you know, a DJ. He's not working professionally at a Club, but he is very good and people seem to like him.
Maybe you'd like to talk to him? If you want to I'll have him call you and see if he might be able to help you out, working one night a week or something like that? Then you might not have to work seven nights a week.' Ronnie told my dad; 'Well OK! Have him call me and I'll set up an interview where I can talk to him and maybe hear him play.' So when my dad gave me that information, I was very excited and at the same time very nervous about the fact that, you know, we're talking about going to middle Manhattan for a big Club, very established with its clientele and big following and so on.
Nevertheless, I called Ronnie and he had me come down to the Ipanema and I talked to him and kind of convinced him that I had some kind of an ear and some kind of power to spin records. Ronnie gave me a little try-out of about half an hour behind the turntables at the Ipanema during a quiet afternoon in the middle of the week. I took maybe about a hundred records with me in a milk crate and he gave me a try-out. After 20 minutes Ronnie came to me and I thought he was actually telling me that he wasn't going to take me.
But actually he stopped me early because he was convinced that I knew how to play records. I had a pre-programmed format when I went in there and it worked perfectly for 20 minutes anyway and he told me that he would give me the job after a short but impressive audition. He would talk to his bosses and let me work at least Wednesday nights, which was the slowest night of the week at the Ipanema.
I started working Wednesday nights and the two owners of the Ipanema - Roosevelt Ramos and Carlos Wattimo - also owned another sister Ipanema Club in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, hired me based on Ronnie's recommendation. Anyway because Ronnie had given me the Wednesday night, they put me on payroll and I started working Wednesday nights and eventually over the next six months, the Wednesday nights started drawing more people than the Thursday nights. At that time the owners asked me if I wanted to work Thursday nights also. So I said 'Sure!'.
So I started working Wednesday and Thursday nights, eventually what happened was that my Thursday nights became as good as the Friday nights. And when that happened, the owners asked me if I wanted to work Friday night... I was beginning to feel that I was passing into Ronnie's weekend.
The main base for him was going on and I mentioned to the owners that I did not want to cause any problems with Ronnie, the man gave me the job and he knew my father and that I didn't really want to do that unless it was OK with Ronnie. But the owners told me; 'No, no, no Ray! This is something that we, we're the bosses here, we would like you to do this! We're telling you that it's OK!' But I still talked to Ronnie about that and Ronnie said that 'It's OK!' and the extra day would be a lot of rest for him and more time to work in his records store.
So, I took the job and Friday became over years time an incredible event where even before midnight they had to close the doors for the public because it was just too crowded inside. Too many people coming in and at that point the owners asked me if I wanted to work Saturdays as well. One thing led to another, eventually I took over most of the nights and Ronnie left the Ipanema quietly and focused on his record store.
He still worked Sunday nights, which was all Brazilian music and eventually over time I was asked to take over that too, because on the weekends we had a large Brazilian crowd, so I started playing Brazilian music just to make sure that that audience was satisfied with a little bit of what they were accustomed to. I want to make this point perfectly clear with your readers Pat. Ronnie Soares and I have been historically and forever will be good friends. We still keep in touch with each other.
He, as of this interview date, lives in Florida and we have always had mutual feelings of love and respect when we have been in each others company. He has always been like a dear brother to me for giving me that incredible "green light" at the Ipanema ands I have always been eternally grateful to him.

-Did you had a special DJ name ?:


-What’s the story behind PINKY ?:

Pinky is my lifelong nickname. It was given to me in the third grade by my classmate Eric Arzola, the tallest kid in the class. I was the smallest kid in the class. Eric and a couple of other kids would frequently come to my house so that we could all do homework together. When eric called me "Pinky" at home in front of mom, mom started calling me Pinky. This is when "pinky" became a "hit".
-How did you find out about the existence of the disco acetates:
I would have to say that becoming closer and more involved with the record pools, and keep in mind that I also later joined i.d.r.c headed by Eddie Rivera who actually helped me land my tenure with Vanguard Records and i always visited Judy Weinstein at her "for the record" record pool, acetates were high talk converstion with djs that were on the cutting edge of dance music.
While i was at The Ipanema another great friend of mine Keith Dumpson was always alerting me to new acetates from Sunshine Sound located at 1650 broadway, a few blocks away from The Ipanema located at 240 West 52 st. Sunshine Sound was run by a nice guy named Frank.

Did you play the acetates at the disco ?:
I had a truck load of Sunshine Sound acetates. But i only played a handfull at prime time . I had a couple of Angel Sound and Melting Pot acetates.

-Did you also go to Sunshine Sound:
Yes. I always wanted to keep up with the siprit of the elite djs to see what new edits they were creating by visiting Sunshine Sound and saying my routine hello to Frank. Frank would let me know if there was something new that was available.

 -When did you consider making your own edit’s and presses them on acetate ?:
Once i locked into the spirit of the elite by understanding that there was a current of music that was not available at record pools or record store outlets i started making my own for The Ipanema to create my own excitement .

-How did you get involved by remixing for the record company’s:
My first attempt was for Dynamo Records in NYC in 1977. I was assisting the label with product selection and helped the label license a song called "Childhood Forever" by Recreation Harmony. The original french Canadian import was only availble on 7 inch. I use to play 2 of them back-to-back at The Ipanema for "hours" it seemed. The original 7 inch was about 3 minutes long and had a french title " A Chacon Son Unfance".
I edited and remixed the song in 1977/1978 and was nominated in Billboard magazine that year for "disco mix of the year" along with nominees:
I believe that Jim Burgess won the nomination. Jim was an astute music person with an education in classical and opera background which certainly helped him in the recording studio aspect where he focused on song and melody structure before perfecting the dance floor long version of a song neverthless, the 1978 Billboard convention set the tone for me for future remixes and confidence building in this new and exciting arena.

-How did you get involved at Vanguard?:
I was a member of the International Disco Record Center, I.D.R.C, (International Disco Record Center) in New York City, run by record pool preseident Eddie Rivera and family,Jamie Rivera and Dennis Rivera.  This was after I left the very first record pool, the Record Pool run by David Mancuso, located at 99 Prince St, in Soho, NYC, and became member of I.D.R.C. Eddie was always so fond and loyal to me , always a believer of me .Eddie would frequently come and be my guest at the Ipanema. In addition he, himself was a club spinner at a Club called the Cork & Bottle in New York before starting IDRC.
Eddie always had a fond respect for my ear and had referred me to Vanguard Records, because Vanguard Records was beginning to jump into the profitable dance market in the 70's and they had little understanding of what made disco records get club play and sell. They came out with a few early records and didn't do well so they started looking for more experience, more expertise on this field of dance and so they communicated with Eddie Rivera and asked Eddie if there were any DJ's that Eddie could recommend to them that could help them. Vanguard was beginning to open up its doors from the classical/jazz era into some of this dance stuff perhaps as a novelty. Eddie recommended me because I had a good rapport with the industry and he saw that I had done an incredible thing at the Ipanema over time along with my tenure at the I.D.R.C. record pool. I subsequently got my call from Vanguard Records to come in and have a little meeting with the 2 owner Soloman Brothers, Maynard and Seymour and with Jazz expert and A&R man Danny Weiss. Danny really asked me alot of questions about dance music during my initial interview.
The Vanguard staff consisted of primary engineer and record producer and friend Mark Berry, who cuurtently runs Attack Records in canaada  and who produced a very young Alisha for the label and had his hands on a multitude of disco records, engineer Jeff Zaraya and engineer Tom Lazurus , radio promotion personnel Thom Gray and Ray Smith, Heidi Spiegel on club promotions who had strong connections with Frankie Crocker at WBLS radio and with Barry Mayo at WRKS radio (KISS FM) in New York, John Hammond handling Flip records D,.O.R coolege radio and club promotions, Bobby Orlando who had his own “O” records with The Flirts, a Go-Gos type of girl group and who also produced Ronnie Griffith for Vanguard.  Incidently, on a note outside of this Vanguard question, Bobby was very instrumental in introducing the Pet Shop Boys with their debut release of “West End Girls” which I knew was a knockout track when I heard the early tapes from Bobby.
Incidently, with the success of rap group Twilihght 22, we subsequently signed Spectrum City, another hip-hop group managed by my good friend Timonthy J Olphie , currently president of Vibe records. Spectrum City's initial release was called ""Lies" backed with "Check Out The Radio". I produced both tracks for the groups debut. "Check out the Radio" was used on the Oliver Stone Film "South Central". Spectrum City and Vanguard parted after just 1 single. They changed their name to Public Enemy upon signing with DEF JAM|/CBS records and became monstrous in the same light that Run-Dmc obtained with  Profile records. y I also produced a single on the Profile Label with Public Enemy's Aaron Allen called "Do the WOP". Nevertheless, my first set of records at Vanguard were the Players Association, The Ring, Frisky, Fonda Rae and Carol Williams that I was directly involved in the mixing and additional production of the tracks.

- How many tracks have you remixed?

I would say I've made about 25-30 remixes, there may be ten others that were never released, for one reason or another. But around 30 that I have been involved with that have been released. And obviously most of them have been with the Disco people at Vanguard. This does not include any acetates from Sunshine Sound Studios. I was also the first Dj to ever perform a disco Mix on an African record  called "Double Feature". The track was called "Boogie Down" that had a steel drum island sound. Larry used to play it at the Garage and it was on the Makossa label. Double Feature was an african group. All in all we had alot of fun recording at Vanguard studios just 1 block away from the main office located at 71 w 23 st in manhattan. I remember stopping by tomett anf hear and  Joe Jackson recording "Stepping Out" at Vanguard studios late one summer evening as well.

(Some of the most famous of Ray's remixes include classic tracks and acts like; Fonda Rae's classic "Over Like A Fat Rat", the Patrick Adams' studio act Rainbow Brown, which featured Fonda as lead vocalist in their hit song "Till You Surrender". He also remixed Carol Williams- "Can't Get Away (From Your Love)" and Top Hits like "Electric Kingdom" and "Siberian Nights" by the rap act Twilight 22 and produced and mixed Public Enemy's first track "Lies" under the original group name Spectrum City. The B-side of the 12" Rap release entitled "Check out the Radio", also produced and mixed by Pinky and Timothy Olphie . J.T.- I LoveMusic, Junior Byron- Dance To the Music, Endgames- First Last For Everything , Lex-14 Days.)

-Ray,tell me about Eddy Grant and " Walking On Sunshine "
Eddy Grant's" Walking On Sunshine" was a big urban R&B house track and created a buzz with that market in the urban cities. It was not a popular disco record with standard disco audiences. Larry at the Garage played the track a lot. Jane Brinton who promoted a lot of CBS and Epic releases as an independent promotion person back in the 70s and 80S, after consulting with club djs and radio personal asked me to do an edit of the Eddy Grant version to capitalize on the early 'buzz" and to assist in reviving the original Eddy Grant debut.
My edit combined both the vocal with the instrumental version to come up with the new 6:12 version on the same Epic records label with a noticeable longer instrumental intro to assist in providing enough segway for club djs to mix the record without a problem. The original debut release had a difficult intro for djs to use having to short an intro before vocals entered the track. The original intro was difficult for djs to use and limited the club play for those audiences that liked the track. The new edit  revived the track  and enjoyed much more success on the dance charts .Soon afterwards ”Walking On Sunshine” was re-done by Arthur baker and  Rockers Revenge . Arthur decided to take that initial Eddy Grant urban house buzz and make it more acceptable to the freestyle and disco audiences in a classic Arthur Baker production and used Jellybean to do the club mix. The work and creativity on the Rocker's Revenge rendition really broke the song "Walking On Sunshine" on the dance charts and more noticeably in the sales category. The success was so evident that Eddy Grant personally congratulated Arthur and the Streetwise label for the success of the track.

Nevertheless, as far as I was concerned and involved, It was a pleasure being part of the overall "WALKING ON SUNSHINE" train.

 -Do you still have all your records:
I have 80 percent of them today.

-Are you still DJíng today:
Good question. I am performing as a guest at some of our Legends of Vinyl venue events when asked to participate and to assist the organization which is rapidly expanding and has the industry keeping a close eye on the expansion of this organization that I am proudly part of as a partner. I have many sets on line for the public to enjoy and continue to record new sets using old school and house with some motown and D.O.R.(dance oriented rock) formats. I am keenly watching the resurgence of vinyl and am planning a comeback, using vinyl, primarily as a guest when my services are sought, but who knows what the future holds, as this new world of dance merges with that sacred past that you, Patrick, and I, know holds some of the greatest secrets that the world of dance music has ever known

-Ray, tell me about your association with the Legends Of Vinyl:

Luis and I started this organization in 2010 after meeting each other in Florida for the first time in years since the disco heyday. Luis created the Legends of Vinyl name. Soon afterwards, I created the "L.O.V." acronym. Both are trademarked. Luis is a very passionate personality, so passionate that he is at, times, misunderstood  Nevertheless, his passion shines throughout the organization and it has become contagious for most of our board members. It is that same passion that has placed this organization in front of larger eyes and visions.

The road to any goal has its obstacles, surprises, setbacks. Patrick, Luis and I do not see everything eye to eye.  We have disagreed on issues .We also remember that this L.O.V. journey process requires both of us along with our highly supportive Board of directors to enjoy the process. Luis and I therefore laugh and have fun about many things and, again, try to enjoy this creative process. John F Kennedy once said "THE ROAD CHOSEN IS FULL OF HAZZARDS". With this thorough understanding that it can be 2 steps backwards and 1 step forward and it ,we move forward and have tackled many hurdles to be where we are today; generating much enthusiasm and interest even from those who are still not certain of what this organization is all about. I am proud to say that we have a fabulous board of directors consisting of pioneers that were part of the 70s and 80s disco/dance revolution: my original mentor when I was a club spinner Paul Casella, Ray Francis Caviano, John Luongo, Al Magliano, Jackie McCloy, Dan Pucciarelli, Frankie Sestito, Ellen Bogen, Jimmy Elias, Bo Crane, Roy Be, Issy Sanchez and Joey Carvello along with our fabulous hard working administrator, and I mean blindly committed Sue Bell and our exclusive photographer Lisa Pacino. With this iconic and talented group we continue to set higher goals and have at our fingertips the insight and confidence and the grit to sit down at our roundtable to contemplate and discuss any issues that will help our organization grow and expand to new and higher horizons. I feel extremely excited about the endless possibilities that we have with this organization and continue to network to find missing pieces to the L.O.V. puzzle that can add more value to the path that we are on. It is a lot of work and time consuming and at our age exhausting at times. Nevertheless, our Legends of Vinyl events are rapidly growing and are eye public openers generating intense curiousity nationally, where we continuously award and show honor, respect and dignity to those pioneer producers, record company execs, radio and club DJS, songwriters and musicians that have made a significant contribution and impact to this dance music industry. We always take that extra moment to honor those that have expired are no longer with us, at every single event. Normally, it has been  Ray Caviano that has provided that moment of silence and salute to that special group at every event and has done a superb job providing that honor. After the ceremony and panel discussions we finallly have the last part of our events-- the after party and dance provided by world class club dj spinners. We will continue to expand by holding more events in major cities like Florida, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, possibly Chicago and San Francisco for starters in  2017. As we expand we communicate with booking agents and sponsors for our events. I've been asked' “how come L.O.V is not involved with the house movement?”
 We are the Legends of Vinyl and our goal is to collaborate with ALL types of events, concerts and music venues .Time will prove this. We are in the infancy stages and expanding quite rapidly. Remember, disco , house , D.O R, R&B, the classics, hip-hop all had humble beginnings too . We are the Legends of Vinyl and we will be venturing into all types of venues .We will continue to seek those professionals that coincide and see our vision  that can help this organization land bigger and more exciting venues. Patrick, just think for a moment: Wouldn't it be exciting to see Legends of Vinyl become an opening act for a current big name DJ like Tiesto at a huge concert and have cameras on our  turntables that will display on multiple super large screens all around the concert venue and on television the actual vinyl record, or acetate or test pressing that displays the name of the artist , the name of the song, the name of the producer, and the song writer to the amazement of today's audiences that has never seen vinyl before.. How about L.O.V. high school and college events where we can judge music talent. This is one small angle of what we can bring to the current dance music arena and add a new dimension to the dance music arena as we know it today whether House or EDM. We bring the opportunity, the chance for the current EDM or house market to experience the past that both excites and educates. Our board of directors are all talented, bring tons of experience and are insightful. The possibilities are endless with this organization and as CEO and the Co-Founder, I am extremely proud and honored to be a part of this opportunity to continue to carry that blessed torch from the disco heyday into this new expanded challenging global arena.. I am pretty sure the name" Legends of Vinyl "will expand become an integral part of the entertainment business in many capacities in the very near future and become a household name. We are becoming a movement in the business. It is very exciting  to say the least and we want to make sure that those pioneers that deserve credit for their contribution to the world of dance music receive their just due recognition.

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