Frank Del Rio 50 th B-day

A couple of weeks ago I went to Circus for an invite only b-day dinner party for legendary LA DJ Frank Del Rio.

Del Rio's DJ sets in the mid 1980's to 1990's at Circus Disco where he was the resident, as well as many other locations, were what helped shape DJ mixing styles and programming for many DJs.

He was one of the big name DJs that was both illusive and ubiquitous as only the best DJs are.

In high school I would hear about how he blended this song or that. After school I would run home to try to do the mix myself, if I even had the records. All us high school DJs, at that time, were in awe of him. To run into him, at Exodus Records in Montebello or at his record Cut Above Records on Melrose, was like bumping into a celebrity. Any record he said was cool, we would buy two copies. He was also one of the first remixers to come out of L.A. and was one of the first Latino names we got to see on the records us DJs were buying up in stacks. He let us know how far this DJ thing could go.

Of course there were other DJs we looked up to like Poison and Nemesis, but Del Rio was a resident at Circus and only the best DJs played there. Martin Rodriguez, Victor Flores, Henry De La Pe~a and Del Rio were the big four in our parlay. They set the standard for what a good DJ sounded like from spinning at Circus. To be honest us youngsters only heard mixed tapes or heard stories from people who were old enough to go to Circus.

The first time I heard Del Rio was at a 'Rock of the 80's' at Pico Rivera Sports Arena. He plugged in a reel to reel and started off with the theme from "The Twilight Zone." The rest was a seamless mix of pieces of songs I knew mixed with a lot stuff I didn't. Mind blowing, but I didn't know what the reel to reel was for.

Years later I heard him at The Red Onion in West Covina on two turntables. The night was going ok, the earlier DJ couldn't gel the crowd. As soon as Del Rio got on the sound got better, louder and the floor erupted. He had two copies of "Knock On Wood" and was looping the opening drums going back and forth between the copies. Flawless.

Years later Richard and I invited him to judge our annual Power Tools DJ contest. We hadn't seen or heard about Del Rio in a while and were so stoked that he showed up. We were more nervous than the contestants. I don't even remember who won that year.

Then Frank Del Rio disappeared.

Rumors of him living in Tijuana, going Christian, dieing, hiding out, selling cars; spread and changed over the years.

He actually got a bad case of diabetes, lost a leg from it and at one point was in a coma.
With the growth of the retro disco parties thanks to Back to Disco and other websites, Del Rio has come back and hosted his own parties with his girlfriend Annie.

When I got invited to his 50th B-day party was like being invited to the big kid's table.

As I sat there and listened to people speak on mic for all to hear about their memories with Del Rio at Circus and as a friend, while he sat on the stage surrounded by his family it really was an LA history moment. This man with the help of so many other players, promoters, DJs, lightmen, and others had really touched a generation of disco dancers from mostly the Eastside of L.A.
He is our Larry Levan, our David Mancuso, our Nicky Siano. Those guys shaped NYC DJ culture, we got ours.
Thanks Frank.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the story. I remember him DJing at Studio One back in the day. :) My friend and I would always climb the ladder to say hi and request or new favorite songs. We bacame fast fans. It was nice to hear what happened to him. I'll always remember those nights at Studio One, some of the best nights of my life.

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Gerry Freedom said...

Gerry Freedom From Los Angeles.

That is a great story! My Brothers Hector (AKA Fernando G Gonzalez, Marc Anthny & I had the pleasure & Honor of Spinning with Frank at the once known SHARK CLUB in downtown L.A & Marc Anthony with him at Circus.. I will never forget the words & advise he gave us! Especially when he said " You guys have good talent, your gonna go far.." That moment gave me inspiration to do as much as I could in the industry. And thanks to the legendary Frank Del Rio & all his knowledge & wisdom that he gave us, my brothers & I have spun in various venues over the years, hosted our own events, been on Radio, produced our own Latin Radio Shows, traveled, sold CDs, Are now owners of our own Radio station in Central America, And have even had a DJ School..! And now plan to venture into a new service for DJS.. Thank you Frank for showing us the way...!
Gerry Freedom L.A DJ

Anonymous said...

Great column Mr. Meraz. As you know by now The great Frank Del Rio has passed. You are indeed right as he was truly an inspiration and pioneer in the L.A. dj scene. He was really L.A.s Larry Levan. Or Should I say Larry Levan was L.A.s Frank Del Rio!

MarcoTIME said...

FRANK DEL RIO (FEB. 16, 1959 - DEC. 27, 2011)
DJ | Remixer | Music Producer | Promoter | Friend

It is with a great sadness that I must announce that today a great friend has passed away. He has influenced many DJs, including myself, It was an honor to be part of his life, he will be missed by many. I meet Frank at Circus Disco in the 80s and found him again during the time we both helped Back To Disco. He was a partner with me at DISCO RETRO NIGHTS and I was part of his 50th birthday celebration. Sandi and myself have been receiving phone calls all morning about Frankie, so we will post information regarding his services as it becomes available.

Marco TIME


Anonymous said...

Yes, I am going to miss Frank very much. He was one of the great dj's around and I was privileged to know him when he was just starting out. He use to come down to the Copa and ask aye is it cool if I come up, and I would tell him yeah common up. He would just watch me dj and mix and then he opened his record store and I started buying my records from him. I could tell you more stories but I'll just leave as that. Your friend DJ RAY from the Copa. RIP Frank, save me a spot.


VERY SADDENED to hear the news of the passing of our Friend Frank Del Rio.....

Just saying the name it rolled off your tongue and you KNEW...this guy was somebody!
I remember the first time I heard him play, I had just gotten hired by POWER and was taken by then overnight guy George Moore to a HUGE CLUB IN HOLLYWOOD (CIRCUS DISCO)and as we walked in...
there is this MASSIVE CROWD and they're all dancing to the sounds of the DJ "SCRATCHING"....
I was then escorted upstairs to where I met the Man with his kind face and gentle smile and shook his hand and we talked about the NEW station in town and My role there and music an dj'ing and it was like we had been friends forever....
Later, Frank and I would work together at a variety of clubs and always just a pleasure to see and hang out with and always friendly and fun.....
and BEYOND TALENTED, weaving the notes and the beats and the "SCRATCHING" and always keeping the crowd Dancing and Happy.....
Frank, you will be sorely missed!
POWER 106 1986-1996

Manny said...

Here is something I recall about FDR. He gave Richard a pearl of wisdom regarding how to control the floor. He said DJing was like having sex with the crowd " First you start off slow, that's the foreplay. Then you pick up the pace, that's the intercourse, when you get the crowd moving you can take them up or down.

There is more, but I guess you get the picture.


DJ Orlando said...

Gonna Repost What I said on Facebook .... "Last Time I saw Frank ... I was At a Ihop With My kids Eating Breakfast ... I felt like i was being watched. I looked To My RIght and HE was Looking At me with a Huge Smile on his face and gave me a Nod :) I said "Great To See you Frank" HE said The Same . Even Before his passing i would think of that from time to time . Thats my Last Memory of him and he had a Big Smile on his face! :)"

dj papi said...

Frank Del Rio was and will be one of the best dj known in the LA area. Back in the 80'S when he used to play at Circus night club in Hollywood Ca he used to make me cassettes with live mixes and i still have them,
he was my inspiration and there will no other dj like him.
We'll miss you Frank.

Anonymous said...

I was starting to get into the whole art of mixing in the late 80's and when my school day would end my friends and I would run to the record store CUT ABOVE RECORDS hoping that if it was open we would see Mr. Frank Del Rio mixing or just give us tips on what music to play at our school dances!!! He told us " if you don't have the 1200's you are not a real DJ" he gave me a few of his mixed tapes HI NRG & LATIN FREESTYLE. He was an inspiration to me as I'm sure he was to other DJ's.
R.I.P. Mr. Frank Del Rio

Anthony Morales said...

FDR has passed away! I met Frank after his heyday as a DJ, although I had listened to him DJ many times at Circus in the 80's. He was an awesome man and we became friends while hanging at Quiet Cannon in the mid 90's. We shared some crazy nights together and he was a true gentlemen. El Presidente will not be forgotten. RIP my friend from Thon, Fonso and Jimmy G.

Dr Serrano said...

I grew up listening to the mixes of Frank Del Rio. Living in Huntington Park on Marbrisa St. I went to lots of house parties and clubs including Casa Camino Real, Michaels, Circus, DQ's and later QC's and Visage. I was a floating DJ in HP with Ultrasonic Mixers and hung out with Time although I was younger and Marco may not remember. The point is when I heard FDR at Circus it inspired me to not only mix in the garage and try to improve but he also introduced me to a golden era that will never come back. Now I am a doctor on Univision TV and will be on English radio this year. Diabetes is a terrible disease that I treat. I wish I would have known Frank a little more to help him through the disease. But maybe it is all good. Frank lived the life he wanted to live. He lived it up and that is something to envy. Rest in peace Frank!

DJRon said...

I have known Frank since i was a kid and was a big part of me becoming a DJ and played with him at many clubs growing up the last time we worked together was at caddies in the 90's hey bro you will be missed but i hate that fact that you just gave up, for those of you that have diabetes like frank & I fight it and don't give up i too fought for my life 5 years ago and should not be here love you bro

Pachuco 3000 said...

here's a link to an conversation I moderated with Frank Del Rio and Richard Vission.
It is the second panel discussion.