Kevin Porter has 1,500 CDs containing more than 30,000 songs but he rarely gets to listen to his favorite tunes.
About the only time he hears them is when he’s driving his pickup truck, listening to the radio stations that play “old school,” the songs he once danced to at Rock Hill clubs 20 years ago.
He has been to almost 1,000 weddings and countless other parties, but he seldom gets to dance.
If he had videotaped what he has seen, Porter would have enough footage for a realty TV show. He remembers the time he went to a 4-year-old’s birthday party and the hosts tapped a keg.
There was the wedding where the mother and son’s special dance was to “Shout” by the Isley Brothers. The up-tempo tune is a reception favorite, but most often used to get people to the dance floor.
And then there was the time the just-married couple was ready for their entrance into the reception – the first time they would be presented as Mr. and Mrs. The disc jockey hit the music and the reception hall echoed to the theme song for SpongeBob SquarePants. The groom raced into the room whooping and hollering, jumping around like a happily crazed cowboy, leaving his new bride at the door.
When the song finished the DJ made an announcement. That was the one song the groom requested, the DJ said.
Porter remembers all the details of that day because he was the DJ. And the song was the only condition the groom asked when signing the contract. Porter added the announcement because he wanted the people at the reception to know the music wasn’t a mistake.
He has been a DJ for 18 years, which he says makes him the longest operating DJ in York County. He also says he’s the only full-time DJ in the county, and his business takes him north to Virginia, west to the Carolina mountains and all points in between.
It’s a career he came to by accident. As an Army brat and preacher’s child, he traveled to 11 states and overseas before coming back to his roots in York County. Porter Road is named for his ancestors. He was working at Sears in Charlotte and delivering restaurant orders when he got his DJ-ing chance.
In his off time he hit the local clubs, becoming friendly with one DJ. One night the DJ asked him for help, telling Porter he was double booked and asking him if he could work one of the events.
Porter said he was so naive about the business he didn’t know what double booked meant. He did not even own a CD, and all he had going for him was that he liked to dance and knew which music he liked.
When the DJ told Porter he would have to not only play songs, but emcee a lingerie show as part of the event, Porter was about to back out.
But armed with 50 CDs, and a pep talk, he went to the Dugout Lounge. He did the show and stayed three months. Other gigs followed. One Christmas season he did 18 parties in 21 days.
In 1998 he formed Elite Entertainment, and in 2000 decided to leave his full-time job to play music for a living.
He found his passion.
He has done weddings, birthday parties, corporate events, played music at a funeral and at bar and bat mitzvahs. His first bat mitzvah was for two girls, and he signed a contract for the event a year in advance, never having been part of such a ceremony. He promised the parents he would know everything he needed for the bat mitzvah in a year’s time. Since then the family has hired Porter repeatedly for other events.
“I talk to people who don’t know what they want, help create an environment, one that takes away their troubles and cares, and allows people to enjoy the event they are there for,” he said.
Porter said he is successful because he listens and takes care of all the small details. He does more than just DJ, he will coordinate an event, working with all the vendors to make sure there are no glitches.
He also said he is successful because he does more than just select the music, input it into a computer and hit “play.”
Porter tries to read the mood of his dancers, brides and grooms, selecting music as the event goes on. “Everything I do, I do live,” he said.
“You have to think of music as pieces of a pie,” Porter said. “You play three or four songs of one type of music, followed by three or four songs of a different type.”
Most importantly, he added, you don’t play a slow song on the hour or half-hour. Do that and people will look at the watch, trying to find a reason to leave, he said.
Social media and radio stations have greatly affected weddings, Porter said. Couples want the hot tunes of the day and many want to adapt something they’ve seen on the Internet.
“I don’t know who picks those lists of wedding songs,” Porter said. “I advise people to pick things that have meaning to you.”
Nonetheless, there are some wedding standards.
The Electric Slide, which turned 25 this year, still gets people to the dance floor. So do line dances such as the Cha Cha Slide, The Wobble and The Cupid Shuffle. Currently out of style are the “YMCA” and the “Hokey Pokey, he said.
“Brick House,” “Shout” and “We are Family” also get folks dancing, he said.
When it comes to first dance songs, Porter said, he is shocked if he plays the same first song twice in a year.
When it comes to booking a DJ, he said price is the first thing he’s often asked. He tells prospective clients, let’s talk first.
While music is often a large part of the day’s events, many make it one of smaller budget items for a wedding.
Porter jokingly said he’s seen t-shirts with the slogan that people should spend as much money on their DJ as they paid their caterer for the vegetable platter.
His advice is the cost of a DJ and all his services should be near what a bride spends on her wedding dress.
If a couple makes that investment, Porter’s promise is to do his part to make it a stress-free day for the bride and groom and have the guests leave overwhelmed, feeling good and saying, “Wow!”
Don Worthington 803-329-4066 firstname.lastname@example.org