Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Start watching
SoCal Update

SoCal Update

Start watching
a large damn with graffiti of a woman with a hammer on it, mountains in the background

Earth Focus Presents

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Professor T

Professor T (Belgium)

Start watching
Artbound

Artbound

Start watching
Emma

Emma

Start watching
Guilt

Guilt

Start watching
Line of Separation Key Art.

Line of Separation

Start watching
Us

Us

Start watching
The Latino Experience

The Latino Experience

Start watching
Key Art of "Summer of Rockets" featuring Keeley Hawes and Toby Stephens.

Summer of Rockets

Start watching
Death in Paradise Series 10

Death in Paradise

Start watching
millionaire still

KCET Must See Movies

Start watching
Independent Lens

Independent Lens

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Earth Focus

Earth Focus

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

Backyard Parties | A Brief History of DJ Culture in Southern California

'90s Banner
Support Provided By

Text by Gerard Meraz

Los Angeles’ environs are set-up for a thriving backyard party scene. The town is blessed with some of the best weather in the country, allowing for a 10-month stretch of non-stop partying to occur.

But not only the weather is to blame. The planning of our streets, with its city grids and post-war middle class homes allow many residents to enjoy a backyard with an orange tree and enough space to throw a party.

Not everyone though takes advantage of this or even needs it. The working class communities in east and south Los Angeles see their backyard as a place to commune, retreat, escape and yes, save some money. 

Historically, the youth involved in backyard party planning and djing did not have the extra cash to drive to Hollywood and pay $20 bucks to enter a club. That is why they created a party of their own, with their own rules, participants, promoters, economies and music. This sub-culture which was and continues to be emulated by club promoters in the west side and the world was built and devised by the young men and women, ages 15 to 21, who live and sometimes die in east and south L.A. 

We will explore the rise of backyard parties as we take a look at the evolution of DJ culture from the 1970s to the present. In each decade we will explore one famous party, tracing the evolution and development of fashion, music and culture in L.A. 

So sit down and relax…. and let the mix take you away.

1970s: Temporary Discothèque
1980s: East L.A.'s DJ Culture
1990s: Party out of Bounds
2000s: Post-Backyard

About the DJs

John Guzman of Face to Face was one of the first generation of DJs in the Eastside of Los Angeles that helped form what would become one of the biggest regional subcultures in Southern California history. Eastside DJ culture had its own fashions, music styles and attitudes that were organic to the area and developed from the milieu of growing up bilingual, in an place where a minority was the majority.

Gerard Meraz of the Wild Boyz and The Brat Pack stepped into a thriving DJ scene as a teenager. He had heard of the DJs that came before him and how some had moved into club residencies, large halls and massive events at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena. When he started he was just one of about 20 DJs at his high school. He knew he had to prove himself so he too could be club DJ with his own residency. This was the paradigm of the Eastside DJ scene.

Frankie Z. of Madness and Lee of The Lost Boys promoted events in South Central Los Angeles inspired by the Eastside scene. Their neighborhoods were rougher in that they were ground zero for the Crip and Blood wars over crack cocaine sales. This effected their promotion style and music selections as they tried to keep peace on their dance floors. Nonetheless they continued to refine their work and eventually outgrow the Eastside's party paradigm.

Droid Behavior are the new model of DJ. That includes producing and remixing music, and having a record label. Droid goes further in that they fund and host their own events and have a magazine that helps promote their slice of the huge underground music scene. While their success today is based on the quality of their events it also rests on the foundation laid by the Eastside DJ culture.

Gerard Meraz is the author of An Oral History of DJ Culture From East Los Angeles.

Support Provided By
Read More
Chiqui Diaz at work advocating to end social isolation | Courtesy of Chiqui Diaz

Youth Leaders Making a Difference Honored by The California Endowment

The Youth Awards was created in 2018 to recognize the impact youth voices have in creating change throughout California. Learn more about the positive work they're accomplishing throughout the state.
A 2011 crime scene in Tulare County, where one of Jose Martinez's victims was found. | Courtesy of Marion County Sherff’s Office via FOIA/Buzzfeed

California's Unincorporated Places Can Be Poor, Powerless — and the Perfect Place to Commit Murder

It's time to do better by communities that don’t even have local police to call, let alone defund.
Protesters confront police outside the 3rd Police Precinct on May 27, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota after the George Floyd killing | Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

In California, A History of Young, Powerful Voices in Journalism Emerge

In the Golden State, the youth have a long history of storytelling that uncovers little-heard narratives.