I’ve often wondered whether it would be cooler to be like one of those famous people who are totally underappreciated in their lifetime but immortalized in history or like one who gets super famous in time to enjoy it, but is then forgotten like high school calculus when all’s said and done.
Tony Humphries has it the best of both ways.
Renowned DJ and producer Humphries is to house music what Donald Trump is to the dollar bill or Dolly Parton is to plastic surgery. During his long, successful career in the music industry he’s been known as the Godfather of a new genre of house music, a master DJ who’s inspired millions of booties to shake, a radio guru that spreads innovative sounds across the country and, above all, a guy with impeccable taste in groovy music.
His track record began in 1981 when he entered the DJ booth at the wildly popular Zanzibar nightclub in New Jersey; he was resident DJ for the next eight years. Under Humphries’ influence, disco, soul and gospel music fused with R&B and house beats for a distinctive vibe that would eventually be dubbed “garage” or the “New Jersey sound.”
Humphries’ niche is seeking out tunes that other DJs aren’t playing and exposing them to the world. In the beginning of his career he flooded the airwaves with new music he sought out from unknown artists on his KISS-FM New York radio show and got a rep for making superstars out of unknown talents.
Naturally, he evolved from discovering hot new artists to mixing tracts with them in the production studio. His production company, Yellorange Records, turned out high-quality dance music with an ear to soulful vocals and garage house beats from 1998 to 2003. The “Humphries handiwork” has influenced major artists like Chaka Kahn, Queen Latifah, Deee-Lite and Janet Jackson, among many others.
Humphries’ magical touch on the turntables has put him in demand in the biggest nightclubs around the planet. But even though he’s rocked some of the world’s biggest dance floors, he isn’t too “big” to party on Maui’s small but popular electronic music scene. For a famous person, he’s actually a humble guy.
“That he still plays small venues shows that he’s doing it for the music,” said local DJ Danny Fry, a member of the NITELIFE crew that will perform with Humphries at his upcoming Casanova show. “It’s inspiring to play with someone like that and exciting to be able to work with someone who’s been around so long.”
There’s no doubt that Humphries has some serious skills. Lucky for him, his impact on the evolution of garage house puts him among the greats in the history of dance music around the world, but as long he’s still taking his place behind the turntables he’s sure to be known as a living legend and one of the freshest, most innovative DJs of our time. MTW