Norman Jay MBE is one of the most celebrated and accomplished DJs in Britain. Making a mark on UK club culture like no other, his Good Times Soundsystem has been entertaining crowds at Notting Hill Carnival for almost 40 years and he became the first DJ to be awarded the MBE.
He will be returning to Ministry of Sound for Groove Odyssey on Saturday 9th June where he will play a two-hour disco set. He'll be joined by Tony Humphries, Bobby & Steve, Anane Vega, Opolopo and a live appearance from Byron Stingily.
In honour of having such a prestigious guest on our decks, we've taken a look back through his storied career and come up with 10 facts you may not know about him.
Born in Notting Hill to West Indian Parents, Norman grew up in a music household. From a young age he unwittingly displayed a budding DJ talent. At the tender age of eight, he bought his first record and played his first set at his cousin's 10th birthday party.
After joined forces with Gordon Mac and the nascent pirate radio station, Kiss FM, Norman presented the first live show on the channel. His regular Saturday afternoon slot was called 'The Original Rare Groove Show'. Over time 'rare groove' was adapted to describe the type of old school funk, soul and disco he played on his show. However, Norman always found the name a bit of an in-joke saying to Red Bull earlier this year; "Most of the black kids already knew those records – it was white England discovering those records. The whole rare groove thing was a misnomer – I just used it as a convenient label, a tag. It was the media that turned it into something."
In 1986 his friend Femi, of Young Disciples, introduced Norman to a classmate form the London School of Economics. That was Jules O'Riordan who ran a night in London playing similar rare groove cuts to the sort Norman would play on his radio show. As Norman remembers it "he was crap, but the vibe was really good". He took the young DJ under his wing and together they put on a series of notorious warehouse parties around the city. It was Norman who gave Jules the 'Judge' nickname.
Norman's brother Joey was always into the technology behind the music and had painstakingly created his own soundsystem, named "Great tribulation". When Norman came on to be the DJ they changed the name to 'Good Times' after the Chic song. The Good Times Soundsytem became a fixture at Notting Hill Carnival and after it reached so many people it became one of the most in-demand systems for clubs and events. When acid house hit the UK in 1988, Danny Rampling demanded Good Times provide the sound for his pioneering Shoom night.
Norman has DJed at many parties for the celebrity set including Robert Di Nero, Michael Caine, George Michael, Will Smith, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Jamiroquai and Lenny Henry. Paul Weller has called Norman his favourite DJ and Mick Jagger requested him to play his 50th birthday party.
One of Norman's earliest influences was the soundtrack to the movie Shaft, so it must've been a career highlight for him to DJ for the newest incarnation of Shaft (and Norman's favourite actor), Samuel L. Jackson at the premiere of 51st State in 2001. Norman has DJed at a lot of premieres, spinning records at 101 Dalmations, Judge Dredd, Enemy of the State and East is East.
Good Times - The Film is a semi-autobiographical account of the man, his music and his influence on British club culture. Splicing together rare archive footage and interviews with key players in the UK music scene, the documentary follows Norman's struggles to follow his passion and fulfill his DJing dreams. The doc features contributions from Judge Jules, Jazzie B, Trevor Nelson and Terry Farely. The film completely sold out its initial two week screening run across London's independent art house cinemas.
An expert on black music and UK club culture, he has hosted a number of documentaries for BBC World Service including profiling legendary producer Quincy Jones. He has presented a number of music focused series including Soul Nation, The Story of Disco and The Funk Factory.
On 12th November 2002, Norman became the first DJ to receive the highest civilian honour from the Queen, but it could have played out very differently. Norman had been touring and hadn't been home to open the several letters informing him he had been put forward for the MBE. A few weeks before the ceremony he got a frantic call from a woman claiming to be from 10 Downing Street. She asked him if his failure to respond should be taken as a refusal. He thought it was a wind up and told the lady he wouldn't believe it until he saw it in writing. The very next day a confirmation letter arrived special delivery from Downing Street.
Rising disco selector and 'voice of Glitterbox', Melvo Baptiste, is actually Norman Jay's nephew. Melvo was inspired to pick up DJing after visiting the studio of his uncle's Sunday night show on BBC.
Norman Jay MBE will be at Groove Odyssey on Saturday 9th June, get tickets & more info here.