My mom was oldest of five children; all six children turned out to have a lifelong love for music. For whatever reason, each of the siblings developed his/ her own distinct musical genre that they regarded as their favorite, and each of them enjoyed playing their favorite pieces for the enjoyment and musical instruction of their little nephew.
Aunt Irene was the first to reach out to me with her musical passions, which in her case was the mighty Elvis. He was the King of Rock and Roll. Aunt Irene liked me and especially had a thing for my hair. Even though I was only five at the time, I distinctly remember her sitting me down and combing my hair to make it look as much as possible like Elvis’ famous pompadour while blasting “Jailhouse Rock” on the stereo. She had probably tried on previous occasions to share with me her love for the King, but that day “Jailhouse Rock” really caught my attention and I was moved by the pulsating beat. Later I saw Elvis perform on television and that really set me as a fan.
The other aunts and uncles each had a music place in my life. Uncle Jimmy was next. He introduced me to the joys of ’60s and ’70s rock including Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and the Eagles. The first time I really listened to Hendrix play that guitar, the music spoke to my young heart. The music was very different than Elvis, but was wonderful in its own way.
Aunt Patricia later introduced me to funk, and groups like Con Funk Shun, Tower of Power, and Marvin Gaye when I was ten years old. The music never gets old. I’m as delighted with the music from my past now as when I was a boy.
Uncle Robert was the youngest of that family; he was only seven years older than me and seemed more big brother than uncle. The two of us were close. R & B and Jazz were his preferred musical styles. He would play pieces by an amazing keyboardist named Jeff Lorbur and tracks from Frankie Beverly and Maze. He would also play hits from the ’70s soul bands likeSly and the Family Stone, and the Isley Brothers. Uncle Robert was an enthusiastic fan of the music. He would say, “You have to listen to this!” At first I wasn’t really captivated by the style, but then I really began to listen and it dawned upon me how innovative, complex, and compelling the music was that they were playing.
The biggest influence from that group was my own mother, Julia, whom everyone called “Cookie.” Mom introduced me to Disco music. I have joyful memories of waking up on Saturday mornings, watching her dance, and then getting out into the room and dancing with her. Mom and I spent a lot of Saturdays enjoying music and movement together. She loved the Bee Gee’s, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Motown.
I began to follow my own path through the music world. The Jackson Five fired me up. I really honed in on Michael’s example, and began dancing myself. Before long, it was not uncommon for me to go into my room after school and spend three hours dancing to my beloved music. Music turned out to be a great release and as I grew older, all the members of Mom’s family enjoyed watching me dance. Our Puerto Rican and Mexican family was huge. My great grandmother had 18 children and as a result there were many family events and parties all my life. At every family party, they would get me up and dancing, and then throw money at me as I performed. When Aunt Patricia played “Roller Coaster” by the Ohio Players, a spirit would seem to take possession of me, and it was as though I moved into an altered state. The furniture, furnishings, and people in the room seemed to fade as I began hitting a serious, mind-and-heart-blowing, absolutely magnificent groove.
I began attending school dances when I was in the fifth grade. Before the first dance, I developed a routine and showed it to my friend, “You have to do this,” he said. When the dance came, he got up on the dance floor, called me out, and three-minutes later my reputation as the school’s unofficial dancer was firmly established. Everyone knew that Dino Piquero was the dancer.
An artist by the name of Prince came out a couple years later and for the first time I heard music that made me think that if I were a professional musician, that’s the kind of music I would compose. I began to include Prince’s music in my dance routines. In 1985, for whatever reason my school sponsored a lip-synching contest with one contestant from each classroom to compete against the others. I didn’t pay any attention to it, but on the morning they announced the names of the contestants over the PA system, I was amazed to hear my name. Some of my classmates had signed me up to represent my class. The contest was held that very afternoon. Each of my competitors had been practicing for the event, which I had just heard about a few hours earlier. Nevertheless, I had, in effect, spent years getting ready for this moment. I chose Prince’s “I Would Die for You,” and easily beat out my opponents. The contest was an all-school tournament, so I represented the whole sophomore class in the finals. This time I chose “Baby I’m a Star,” by Prince. I got onstage and performed in front of my 1,500 classmates, dancing and lip-synching. When I finished, they gave me a standing ovation and the first prize. I guess that was my 15 minutes of fame that everyone is supposed to be entitled to. For sure, I felt like a rock star afterwards, with people I didn’t even know hugging and congratulating me. In 2000, I began to accompany my talented daughter Ashley while she met some great people along the way. One couple was hosting these gigs together. She was a singer; he was a deejay. I spoke with them and discovered that they were making a good living. I was more impressed by how much fun the guy was having than by the earning potential.
That was the first time that I had the idea that I could put my musical passions and background together to be a successful deejay. Furthermore, I understood that with the breadth of musical tastes and experience, I would be able to put together playlists that would be appropriate for any occasion. I began saving money, purchasing pieces for my system, and putting the word out to a few friends. My first gig was a party in a private home. About 50 people assembled and I was nervous when I took my seat behind my equipment and turned on the amplifier. However, I was excited also and felt that I was about to play the music I thought the guests would want to hear. I was right! People were on the dance floor for most of the night. It was a great gig, and I had become addicted to the deejay experience.
I have an extensive library with more than 20,000 songs, many in two different versions one with lyrics that are “clean” for age appropriate parties. I’ve hosted more events than I can remember and am ready for any type of gathering you could imagine including weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs, proms, and even corporate events. Because I’m an avid music lover of all types of genres, it’s easy for me to create the perfect atmosphere for any event. For me the music makes the event, so I work hand in hand with my customers to make sure I’m able to play everything they desire and create that perfect atmosphere for their memorable event.
I one day reached a point at which I decided to host my own parties. There seemed a need for this in East County because there really isn’t any bar or restaurant putting on the type of parties I envisioned. Now that I’m in my 40’s I was no longer interested in hanging out with the 21 year olds that only play top 40. At my own party, I could play everything I grew up listening to from hip hop to funk, disco, old school and the top 40 that I enjoy. Since last year, I’ve been hosting monthly parties at Cap’s, using themes for each party. “Flashback Friday” is one theme, featuring music from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. A second theme, “Purple Party,” features the music of Prince including artists associated with him. Some people put on their party clothes for these Prince parties. Many of them wear purple. Another popular theme is my Michael Jackson party. We even had a Michael Jackson impersonator who did costume changes. It was awesome!
The Cap’s venue is perfect for my parties. We are in a private upstairs room with a large dance floor, full bar, and tables and chairs. The main lighting is dim, with colorful up lighting and disco lights that create a nice dance-room effect. We charge a ten dollar cover, and donate a portion of the proceeds to charity. Our first donation was to Sheperd’s Gate in Brentwood. As many as 100 people might show up. Everyone has fun at one of my parties.
Helping other people have a good time is my main motivation for continuing with my deejay business. One of the other reasons why I do this is because I’m sitting up there at the computer having as much fun myself as the people on the floor. Every now and then I get out on that floor myself and bust a few dance moves. Hey, we gotta do it while we still can, right!
Come and get down with us at Cap’s Restaurant for the Purple Party on July 17th and the Michael Jackson Party September 25th both starting at 9:30pm.