bands Interview

VLV Interview: Rattle Rockin' DJ El Dedo

5:00 AMZack Simpson

Photo by Victor Czerniak
Up next in our pre-VLV coverage is our friend Russell, a.k.a. DJ El Dedo, a.k.a. the drummer for the friday night band, The Rattle Rockin' Boys. A classic dual threat! Russell is a heck of nice guy and full of funny stories. He also offers the interesting perspective of someone working at VLV as both a DJ and a band member. If you see him at VLV be sure to buy him a beer and ask him to tell you about his favorite boppers. We're really happy that he set aside some time to talk with us. Enjoy!

Zack: When and how did you get your start as a DJ?

Russell: I got my start here in Phoenix. It was a favor for some friends. I did not start DJ'n to become a just kind of happened. It was at a Star Mountain Dreamers show. I was told they would have turntables there, of course that was not the case. I made some phone calls and made it happen. Since then I have been hooked. 

Z: What were those early days gigs like?

R: The early days were a lot of work. Well worth it though. I helped start a "rockabilly" night where I dj'd every Thursday for almost two years. It was hard to get people to dance how we all dance, some people did and some didn't. Getting them to dance is the best though. After the owner of the bar failed to pay a band I booked I quit. The dj's, bands and promoters work so hard but get little in return when it comes to owners.

Z: Do you remember the first record you bought?

R: The first Rockabilly record I bought was a Johnny Burnette reissue. That LP really moved me...can't be beat. The first record I actually bought was a '60's punk band called The Makers. I bought it because they looked tougher than The Animals. Its called Hypnotic. Super raw fuzzy punk!

Z: On top of being a DJ, you also play drums with The Rattle Rockin' Boys, have you always played in bands or is this a new adventure for you?

R: It's kinda funny, I stopped spinning records after a divorce and had basically given up on doing anything besides spinning my records for myself. Shortly after I met my soon to be bride, Shannon, I got the tables out and DJ'd just for her...she told me I played the best music she had ever heard. I was amazed to hear that from a music fan that had no idea of how huge the rockabilly following was. It wasn't long after that a friend of mine, that always came out to my weekly gig, informed me that her 16 year old son played guitar. I had messed around on a snare before and figured we should at least "jam" out. I was blown away at how good Jacob was on guitar. I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to dust of the turntables and start a band. Here it is 5 years later and we are putting out our first record.

Z: Did you have that one gig that was your big break? If so tell us...

R: Honestly, I'd have to say it was the long beach weekender. I remember not having the right headphone jack or how to work the mixer right. I had always used my own stuff so I knew what was what. Thankfully, Cosmic Keith let me borrow his headphones and showed me how the mixer worked. After that Shorty introduced me to Tom and I've been DJ'n Viva and the Rockout since then. I really want to DJ the Rockabilly Rave!

Z: The Rattle Rockin' Boys have a big Viva Las Vegas weekend ahead - You have a prime time Friday night slot and you're also releasing your debut 45rpm record. Is the band feeling any pressure or is it all excitement?

R: We are beyond excited. The only pressure really has been getting the record pressed in time and the sleeves done...we can't wait really! Hopefully we carry the excitement 'til then. Its been a long road to have a record we are 1000% behind. We have been very fortunate to have a group of followers that love us, not just as a band but as friends.

 "I played one hour of boppers! I couldn't stop. A few times I thought about playing something else, but man it would of killed the mood."

Z: When you're DJ'ing, what's the song for you that never seems to fail at packing the dance floor?

R: If I'm in the middle of playing boppers my go to bomb drop is "My Search". It's my favorite and always gets the floor rockin'. As far as jivers go it's a toss up - Little Richard "The Girl Can't Help It" never fails but I would rather hear the silver fox so "Lonely Weekends" or "Rebound" is the go to for me. When it comes to strollers two of them are by far the best for me - Kenny Baker "Goodbye Little Star" is above and beyond my favorite, then comes Tommy Bell "Swamp Gal" ...sadly I do not own it.

Russell wearing one of his Tones In My Bones tees.
Z: Record hops and rock 'n' roll shows are often full of intoxicated people by the end of the night, what's the most bizarre or funniest thing you've seen from behind the booth?

R: Without a doubt the funnest and funniest time I DJ'd was a Saturday night at VLV at three or four o'clock in the morning at the record hop. DJ James was bedridden and asked me to fill his slots. Without thinking twice I said "of course." I played one hour of boppers! I couldn't stop. A few times I thought about playing something else, but man it would of killed the mood. Everyone was well lubricated on booze and bopping like sardines, literally it was PACKED! It was mayhem! I have no idea how many high fives I got or how many drinks were passed my way. It truly was electrifying! It will always be my favorite set ever.

Z: What songs seem to be the most requested? And I've heard some DJs tend to get upset if they get a lot of requests, how do you feel about them?

R: Johnny Cash (any song by him) is always requested. I have mixed feelings about requests. If I'm playing a bopper and you request another bopper I will be more than happy to play it. On the other hand if I have the floor packed with bopping maniacs and you request a jump jive song, its not gonna happen. So if I get a request that fits in with the crowd and what's going on I will do it.

"I love jivers and strollers but boppers really get me...the raw tuff ones are the most!"

Z: At VLV it seems that the DJ's are spinning music 24/7. Tell us what your schedule/routine is being a DJ at VLV. 

R: My schedule for Viva is dang good. I've been spinning at Vegas for a few years now and have always been ready to help out when another DJ can't make it, so Tom has put me in prime slots and taken care of me. I DJ Thursday night in the Bienville room at 9:30 to 10:15 and right after that in the ballroom at 10:15 till 11:00. I will have to run to the ballroom...Hopefully Big Sandy can "let 'em know," for a few minutes. Friday I'm not scheduled to spin but we (The Rattle Rockin' Boys) are playing the Bienville at 7:30pm to 8:15pm. We are stoked that Rockin' Vic is DJ'n before us and after us. Saturday is my day of "rest" so just boozing and rockin'. Sunday I have one set in the Bienville at 7:15pm till 8:45pm. I can't wait!

Z: Boppers, strollers or Jivers? Rockabilly or R&B? What's your preferred? 

R: Without even batting an eye, rockabilly boppers! I love jivers and strollers but boppers really get me...the raw tuff ones are the most!

Z: How has what people want to hear changed over the years, or has it? 

R: I'm not really sure what people want to hear has really changed a lot. Although it's funny, over the last 5-7 years people seem to like 60's punk and want to hear it more. Being a huge fan of it, it's kinda a shock. As far as other styles, it's all about the right timing. One DJ plays it and the crowd eats it up, next thing you know it's the "killer floor filler." I've always just played the songs I want to hear. Lucky for me it's also the songs the crowd wants to hear and if it's not the one on the deck right now let me do my job and I give you a guarantee I will play one you love...if not you're too far gone!

Thanks a ton Guys!!!

Super stoked to be apart of this and I/we appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts!!!!!!!

Russell and Matt at the Rockabilly Rockout. Photo by Sean Law

Be sure to catch Russell's band The Rattle Rockin' Boys when they perform Friday night in the Bienville room at 7:30pm. And catch one of his many DJ sets throughout the weekend, check the event program for times. Thanks again to Russell!

The Rockabilly Gentleman

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