Backyard Parties

By Gerard Meraz, former DJ of the Wild Boyz crew

Videos adapted from KCET Webstories.

Going to high school in the eastside of Los Angeles during the mid-80s meant being in a world of DJs and promoters of parties in backyards and night clubs. Everyone was a DJ or wanted to be one. Each high school had its own micro-scene orbiting the campus.

John Guzman of Face 2 Face DJ crew on 70s Eastside DJ culture

Areas such as El Sereno, Lincoln Heights, City Terrace and parts of Boyle Heights had less police interference, and thus had the most popular backyard party scenes that catered to the high school aged. Some high school DJs were able to break out and travel to other areas of the greater eastside. The crowds followed their favorite DJs. Areas with more home owners had a higher police presence, whose consistent response often broke up the parties. High school DJs in these areas had to rent halls or rely on their school administration to provide a space for them to nourish their scene.

In Highland Park the DJ scene found a home at Franklin High School, which by the mid 1980s had approximately 20-25 DJ/promoter groups based out of its campus. One of the more popular DJs was Ricky Avila from the DJ group Gemini. Ricky spun at events throughout the city and saw an opportunity to host large scale DJ events at his high school. He became Franklin High School's dance commissioner as a senior in 1985-86. This allowed him to organize his high school dances to emulate the DJ parties that were dominating nightlife throughout the city. He booked club DJs alongside local backyard party DJs, gaining support from promoters that would bring in their crowds.

80s Eastside DJ culture

The next Franklin dance commissioner (1986-87) was Richard Gonzalez, aka Richard Vission, or DJ Vission of the promoter group Men of Menage. Years later he became Richard Humpty Vission from Power 106. During Vission's time as commissioner he brought in more DJs with added live acts, such as the World Class Wrecking Crew featuring a young Dr. Dre, Fastlane, and an early version of N.W.A. Vission eventually gained support from legendary rap radio station 1580 KDAY AM, helping to bring more than 1,800 kids to the dances.

Franklin became a nexus for the DJ scene for the size and talents their dances were able bring. With the school's lax door policy, anyone under 18 years old was allowed to attend the dances, which usually sold out by 10:00 pm. DJ fans from all over the Eastside and surrounding areas clamored to be a part of these massive high school dances.

Learn more about Backyard Parties at KCET Webstories.

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