DSC – Oral History Project / Breakout : Scott Gordon from Detroit Sound Conservancy on Vimeo.
Transcription of #RecordDet Interview
Carleton Gholz: Welcome to the Detroit Sound Conservancy SoundCloud. You are now here at Urban Bean Coffee House on June the 1st 2015, right at the beginning at the end of spring. And summer’s around the corner, but it’s a cool day today. In the sixties, I’m sitting here with DJ Scott Gordon, who had a foremost 40 year career, as a DJ, although he’s had some breaks in there. And, we’re sitting with him, he just did a little set here and he’s practicing to come out of retirement for an event the Sound Conservancy is going to do on June 20th with the Allied Media Conference. We’re going to do a party out of the Mike Kelly homestead, more information on that can be found on our website. But in the meantime, I’m just going to do a short interview here with Scott. Scott and I have known each other now for about 10 years or so. And so, some of this is old hat for us, but it’ll be interesting, to catch up with him. And, so Scott, Gordon who are you and what would you say your relationship is to Detroit music?
Scott Gordon: Ah, who am I? Well, I’m Scott Gordon. On the radio. I was known as Scott Go-Go Gordon; my relationship to Detroit music is one that, well, I grew up here. I was born here and started loving everything from a Motown on, I was turned down to music most specifically, urban music, R&B music, funk music, through one of my sisters who turned me on to Motown and, in groups like the Spinners sort of mid Motown. But that’s how I sort of became oriented towards, towards, urban R&B or black music. And,that grew into me having you know, more than one turntable, that same sister bought me my first second turntable.
And that’s how I found deejaying, both through the radio thing, through the nightclub thing and through the underground thing.
Gholz: We are going to talk more, it’s all we can go on for days you and I, what’s your first Detroit. So you, you already said Spinners, was that one of the first, what was the first record that you were conscious was a Detroit record was it that because it was the Detroit Spinners? Oh, you go. So we’re talking about records. So first record that you remember the Detroit records. I mean, normally most people say things like they heard Motown.
Gordon: Well, I’ll tell you what, the first record I ever bought was a Jackson 5 record on the back of a cereal box that you had to cut out. Not Detroit then the second Record or the first real record of vinyl that I ever bought was a TSOP, The Sound of Philadelphia, by MFSB; Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, which is also known as the theme of Soul Train or the first theme of Soul Train. Now, neither one of those are Detroit records, but I would have to say probably, one of the classics, you know, Temptations, Smokey, or as the Spinners, as I mentioned earlier, that was the Spinners were probably very influential with me as it related to R&B music that you could dance to. So, you know, it might’ve been, could it be I’m Falling in Love or that album, the album that, that song came from that entire album actually.
Gholz: How was, you’ve heard it the first time in a store?
Gordon: My sister turned me on to it and you know, she was very into Motown. She’s still very into Motown. I’m in fact that’s all she listens to. And that’s what influenced me in the very beginning, I think. Yeah.
Gholz: What do you like about the Spinners now that you’ve listened back at something like that? What stands out to you now?
Gordon: Very classic Motown, obviously, but also very musical. I just saw the Spinners last summer. The TasteFest, I think on Royal Oak, none of the original members, most of them have passed on, unfortunately. But they still sound great. It’s all, real instruments and, not that that’s a bad or good thing, but I think for that era, it was the only thing. But you know, I, I still love the Spinners and all that, those old songs.
Gholz: Yeah. Yeah. Favorite live show you’ve seen in Detroit doesn’t have to be a Detroit band, but just a favorite live event.
Gordon: Well, the first concert I ever went to was at the Pontiac Silverdome, which is now non-existent for the most part. And it was a show with Parliament-Funkadelic, Average White Band, LaBelle, and a couple of others that I don’t remember. And I was about 10 years old. And that would have been about 1975, I think. Yeah, it was a great show. Same sister took me to that show.
Gholz: So it was like Mothership and the whole thing? Any memories?
Gordon: The Mothership did not land on that particular show. I think it was post Mothership for Parliament-Funkadelic or maybe cause there was four or five bands on the bill. They didn’t have time to do the whole Mothership planning thing. Oh,
Gholz: I see. It was like a, almost like a medley.
Gordon: Yeah. There was like five bands on that. Back then you call the bands, I guess today you’d call them artists, groups, whatever. Yeah. I believe it was 75
Gholz: And Silverdome must have been a relatively recent phenomenon at that point that had been like a state of the art show.
Gordon: It was, and of course, you know, sound was terrible, even though it was theater there. Cause it’s nothing but cement right. You know, is built out of cement. And so there’s just, you know, terrible echo and terrible everything really hard to decipher the sounds. Right. But it was fun. Anyway. I didn’t care. I was 10 years old. Yeah. Or nine years old, something like that.
Gholz: I saw the Stones in 89.
Gordon: I did too. I did too.
Gholz: Yeah. Couldn’t hear a thing, but it was fantastic.
Gordon: Yeah. That was the Steel Wheels Tour. Yeah. I saw that. Great, great tour. Yep.
Gholz: Motown is normally is, is known the world over. We’ve already talked about, it’s influenced in your life. What’s something else about Detroit music that as you hear people talk about it, or maybe you see documentaries online or in the paper or whatever you, whatever, however you’re consuming music history these days. What do you think what’s one thing about Detroit music you wish had, got more attention?
Gordon: Well, you know, I guess it’s an obvious answer for me anyway. It’s Detroit Techno first wave second wave. When Detroit Techno first happened, as most of us know, it wasn’t really well known in the States only, Europe overseas. I think that’s changed a lot now in this day in age, but I would like it if it were appreciated, on a wider basis in the United States.
Gholz: Do you think you were just at the festival. I saw pictures of you at the festival, so I know you, you went, you went down, what’s your sense of, that, is that an answer? I mean, there were many thousands of people there clearly appreciating, and Juan Atkins, who we saw earlier today performed. And do you think that’s the level of it? Like what would, what would be bigger? Would it be Presidential Honors?
Gordon: The White House Honors would be good. Kennedy Center Honors, which would be great. I think that maybe that’ll happen in the future. I don’t know. That’s a tough question for me to answer because as great as the festival is, it’s also become more commercial, which is fine. But it’s different than it was, especially when Derek May was running it. Kevin Saunderson was running it back in the old days. So for example, for me to listen to Snoop Dogg perform and play Joan Jett records and Journey records…
Gholz: I heard he did that.
Gordon: That was quite surprising for me with that said the crowd seemed to love it. Yeah. So what do I know? The crowd loved it if they were singing along with these 1980s records, rock and pop records, yet this is a so-called underground audience. So it was very, very interesting to me.
Gholz: What would you, thinking about that Joan Jett record or something that cause that, that would’ve come out right when your career, your very youthful career was starting to happen, you were planning. Okay.
Gordon: I played that Joan Jett record in night clubs.
Gholz: So you did
Well at that time I had to play all different kinds of music, including rock, pop, dance, funk. So typically I would just dead segway that kind of record into another record. Maybe it was a Journey record at that time. However, when I got into dance music in the same night, just at a later part of the, you know, I do beat on beat mixing and so forth. So I’d beat mix records.
You could beat mix, but you can’t really, you know, beat mix of Joan Jett record necessarily with a Journey record.
Gholz: So thats early in
Gordon: No, it’s all throughout the evening. Just, you know, you’re going to play a rock set up or a pop set, or a funks set or whatever, mix it up. Back then we even played ballads. So kids could slow dance on the dance floor and, you know, guys could get in cheap thrills at the same time.
Gholz: Right. When was the last time you played a slow record? Who was the last time you played a slow record?
Gordon: Like a ballad?
Gholz: Yeah. When did that die? Because …
Gordon: I think it still happens. I just went to a wedding last night. I couldn’t believe it.
Gholz: Yeah. But wedding DJ absolutely, but at a club though…that is very rare.
Gordon: Yeah. I would say this would have been, you know, maybe nine, 1985 was the last time I played a ballad.
Gholz: Right, right. Because now somebody like Theo Parrish will play a ballad to, restart the set.
Gordon: Right. And I appreciate that idea for sure. I like that a lot. I think that’s a good idea
Gholz: Kind of clear things out. It’s almost like
Gordon: A sort of, metaphorical blowing of the nose in a way.
Gholz: And a very P-Funk blowing of the nose
You’re clearing everything out so you can breathe again, afresh
Gholz: Yeah, no, absolutely. Absolutely. We are doing an event later this month, dedicated to sort of the memory of Dance Detroit, which is a record pool that began in the mid seventies, here in Detroit, Steve Nader, and, others at the time sort of put it together.
Gordon: Larry Sanders and Noah Porter, John Porter, Jerry Johnson.
Gholz: So some of these people, so there are a number of pools and every number of people running around. And what was the importance of, we’ve talked about this before, but what, what do you, what was the importance of the record pool? What was a Record pool and why?
Gordon: Well, for me, it was the coolest thing because you’ve got all these records that came out from certainly all of the U S major record companies. And it turned me on to all kinds of releases that I probably would have not ordinarily been turned on to, also remix services, like disco, net razor made Ulta mix, et cetera. But to me, I think as a 12 or 13 year old kid, when I joined Dance Detroit, just the fact that you would get almost every record that came out, regardless of format, pop records, rock records. I got a Who rack. I got a Who, 12 inch eminence front through the record pool. Now. That was pretty cool.
Gholz: Okay. Give us another five, please. Thanks.
Gordon: So, to me, Record pools or …
Gholz: Nothing like live radio to do an interview.
12 Year old punk
Gordon: Exactly. So, you know, to me, it was the moment I found out what a record pool was and that it existed. I had to be a part of that. And, that happened for me at the Rooster Tail in downtown Detroit, in the seventies. And I bugged the DJ, you know, ad nauseum until he told me all about it. And the next day I called and the day after that was down there joining, and they were like, who’s this 12 year old punk. And you know, my mom took me in and they, they accepted me.
Gholz: Did they actually say the words punk?
Gordon: No, but I’m sure they were thinking and they’re thinking it.
Gholz: Your mom was a pretty cool mom,
Gordon: Completely cool, totally. You know, loved that. I wanted to be involved with music and she did everything that I need. She allowed me to do everything I needed to do to be part of it. Yeah.
Gholz: And what, in, there’s so much to say that with Dance Detroit so you were with the Dance Detroit you were with some other record pools…
Gordon: Midwestern Dance Association as well. That was later.
Gholz: That was a little bit later. And then you would have recorded some of your tracks or what, the things you were playing in the clubs
Gordon: Or being a part of the pool. You know, you had to provide feedback on every single record to the record label from where it came, and then you also had to submit, I think it was a top 20, or maybe a top 25 chart each. I think it was each week. Yeah, it was each week. And,so the feedback was important for the labels in that they would continue to service the pool with records. Right. And then the top 20 or 25 or whatever it was, important as that would compile with the other members of the pool to make up the pools, top tracks that they would also submit to the labels, to the trade magazines, like Billboard, et cetera.
Gholz: Yeah. And you have all those pieces of paper somewhere?
Gordon: Unfortunately, no,
Gholz: And this is one of the reasons why we were going to do this event so we can get some acid free boxes and find as much as we can. I got to call up, I got to find out where the Billboard archives are and we’ll put this out.
Gordon: And I don’t think any of the DJs are going to have those, top 20 reports or top 25 reports is that we filled that out and handed it in to the record pool director. We never made a copy of it. Right. We just made it up as, you know, as we saw it to be and submitted it. So I don’t know that anybody would have a copy, although some of those were published maybe in local magazines, Metro or, magazines that existed at the time. That would be similar to today’s MetroTimes, but don’t exist anymore.
Gholz: And would it, and would it specifically with Metro or Cruise or something in the magazine would have circulated mostly in the gay bars, right. And where you knew where they would be exactly. You would be in the know, even have the backseat.
Gordon: I’ll give you an example, I didn’t know about Cruz or Metra until I became part of the record pool. Yeah. You know being heterosexual, I probably would not have been turned onto those magazines, but becoming part of the dance community, I got turned on, all kinds of things that I thought were really cool. Yeah.
Gholz: I mean, I remember looking at Club Haven, were having, was I was looking at the original address and when it shut down and opened up and all of a sudden just things and, at one point Cruz was actually just up the street.
Gordon: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Gholz: It was like, so it’s not that these things were connected, you know, the nightlife and the advertising to that audience and the magazines. It was all…
Gordon: In close proximity, physically. Okay.
Gholz: As well as metaphorically because they were, they were feeding off one another. Well, Scott, you know, I really appreciate your support of our project and I’m really looking forward to your sets.
Gordon: Thank you.
Gholz: And what’s one track. You played a bunch of records tonight. What’s one record that we can look forward to hearing you maybe drop on?
Gordon: Well, probably the records I’m most known for, which would be ‘Big Fun’ and ‘Good Life’ from Inner City. Yeah. Kevin Sanderson’s group. And maybe ‘Wheel Me Out’ by Was Not Was
Gholz: Excellent. Scott, thanks for joining us tonight.