Although Johnny De Mairo’s name is synonymous with Henry Street Records, the label he founded with Tommy Musto in 1993, that wasn’t the only label he founded. Not at all. Once Henry Street Records was an established label, and had forged a reputation as one of the most innovative and influential labels in house music, Johnny D decided to found a new label. There was a good reason for this. Henry Street Records had established a reputation for specializing in releasing soulful house that had been influenced by disco. Johnny wanted to release a much more eclectic selection of music. So, a few years after founding Henry Street Records, Johnny D founded Muggsy Records.

Originally, Johnny planned to release music with a more tribal sound on Muggsy Records. This tribal sound would launch Johnny D’s nascent label. The problem was, finding the right track. That wasn’t going to be easy. Then fate, luck or the musical gods intervened. Chris “TKC” Staropoii approached Johnny D with a track entitled Black Jack. It was the perfect track, with the sound Johnny was looking for. Not only was it tribal, but had a harder sound and was innovative. Without hesitation, Johnny D signed Chris “TKC” Staropoii to Muggsy Records. Black Jack became the first single released on Johnny D’s newly founded Muggsy Records. Soon, Muggsy Records were releasing tracks by some of house music’s luminaries, including Chicago’s Robbie Rivera and Ralphi Rosario, Miami’s Mike “Da Mooch” Mucci and New York’s Kenny Dope and Johnick, Kenny D’s studio partnership with Nick Palermo. Tracks from each of these innovative producers feature on The Muggsy Story, which will be released by BBE Music on 27th May 2013. Before I tell you about the music on The Muggsy Story, I’ll tell you about Johnny D’s career.

Johnny DeMairo was just twelve when he started learning to mix. Armed with a pair of Lafayette T-2000s, Johnny took the first step in his DJ-ing career. Quickly, Johnny managed to master his set of Lafayette T-2000s. A year later, Johnny graduated from the Lafayette T-2000s to a new set of Technics 1200 Mk IIs. Soon, Johnny was DJ-ing in his local neighborhood. Next step were block parties, where he’d meet older and more experienced DJs. Undeterred, and with an impressive array of records, Johnny soon won over the older DJs, with his skill and choice of music. His selection of music was eclectic to say the least. Italo disco and Led Zeppelin sat next to classics on the West End and Prelude labels. Having impressed his peers with his skills, he’d soon meet a DJ whose skills would impress Johnny no end.

Aged fourteen and helped by a fake id, Johnny gained entry to New York’s hottest nightclub, Studio 54, where he meet resident DJ Leroy Washington. His mixing skills on a set of Thorens’ turntables blew Johnny away. Leroy mixed every type of music, all with impeccable timing and stunning mixing skills. Leroy was just one of a series of people who’d inspire Johnny, and a year later, Johnny would have his own residency.

When Johnny was fifteen, he met Danny Cole, a Brooklyn DJ who had a residency on Friday and Saturday nights at Brooklyn’s Plaza Suite. Danny invited Johnny to join him. This wasn’t Johnny’s only job. He played at parties and held down a job in his family’s business. This allowed him to continue building his record collection, which now numbers eighty-thousand records. These records would find their way into his DJ sets. Around this time, he met another DJ who’d become a huge influence in Johnny’s career, Shep Pettibone.

Back then, Shep Pettibone was one of the hottest DJs on New York radio. Along with Frankie Crocker, they ruled New York’s airwaves on Kiss FM. Johnny was impressed by Shep’s reediting and mixing skill. Lke Leroy Washington, Shep influenced Johnny’s career. So too did freestyle DJs The Latin Rascals and The Dynamic Duo. All of these DJs influenced Johnny’s DJ career. 

Through meeting DJ at record pools and in clubs, Johnny soon had numerous contacts among New York’s music community. However, he needed contacts further afield. To do this, he got a job at Vince Pellegrino’s promotion company the Street Information Network. This allowed Johnny to network with DJs worldwide. After leaving the Street Information Network, Johnny worked for Atlantic Records. During this time, Johnny founded Henry Street Records in 1993 with Tommy Musto. Five years later, Henry Street Records was an established label. The time was right for Johnny D to launch his new label Muggsy Records, which released a much more eclectic selection of music. You’ll realize that when I tell you about The Muggsy Story.

Opening The Muggsy Story is the single that launched Muggsy Records. This is TKC’s Black Jack. Released in 1998, Black Jack it’s a real slow burner. Gradually, the arrangement unfolds. It’s if not wanting to reveal its secrets. Having said that, it’s well worth the wait. The arrangement has a tribal sound from the get-go, before TKC introduces a sample of Steely Dan’s Do It Again. Its familiar sound is swathed in filters, percussion and echo. From there, TKC relentlessly teases you, gradually revealing its secrets, subtleties and charms.

Brutal Bill has three tracks on The Muggsy Story. The first is Brutal Bill Presents The Funkryders’ Woman of Angels. This four-track E.P. was released in 1998 and features three different mixes of Woman Of Angels, including the Whiskey-A-Go-Go Mix. Produced by “Brutal Bill” Marquez, Woman Of Angels samples The Doors’ classic Riders On The Storm. Here musical influences old and new are combined, including house and sixties, psychedelic rock. Adding a trademark house sound are thunderous drums. They’re joined by hissing hi-hats and percussion, which add to the drama. Having built up the drama, they’re joined by that unmistakable sample. Memorable and moody, it floats in, proving the perfect foil for the jacking arrangement. The result is a dramatic, memorable and melodic track.

The second track from Brutal Bill is the Club Mix of Do You Know About Love. This was Brutal Bill presents Soul Function’s single from 2000. Produced by “Brutal Bill” Marquez, this is quite different to Woman Of Angels. It’s best describes as a track that’s soulful, jazz-tinged and funky. Seamlessly, this fusion of musical influences unites, resulting in an irresistibly catchy, dance-floor friendly track.

Da Mooch’s Twist The Knob was released back in 1998. It was a five-track E.P. produced by Miami producer Mike “Da Mooch” Mucci. From the opening bars, you’re smitten. Resisting the charms and delights of this track isn’t easy. No wonder. Like so much of the music Henry Street Music released, here it’s house music with a strong disco influence. Waves of the arrangement unfold, while a diva-esque vocal delivers a strutting, vocal Magnus Opus.

Most people know Kenny Dope as one half of Masters At Work. That’s unfair though. Kenny has enjoyed a successful solo career, both as a producer and DJ. Proof of this is Kenny “Dope” Presents DBX’s And There Aint. Released in 1998, And There Ain’t was a three-track E.P, which featured Troopa’s Deep Mix. Opening with a sample of Young and Company’s I Like (What You’re Doing To Me), you embark upon a hypnotic and irresistible journey. Hectic, funky, soulful and melodic, here’s a track guaranteed to still fill any dance-floor.

Next up, are two back-to-back tracks from JohNick Presents The Sopranos. First up is, Is It Really Real, the title-track from an E.P. released in 2000. It has that trademark JohNick sound, where house has been heavily influenced by classic disco. That’s definitely the case here. Uplifting, joyous and with a plentiful supply of hooks, this is house with a strong disco influence. Quite simply, it’s the best track on The Muggsy Story. Coming a close second is the other contribution from JohNick presents The Sopranos. This is First and Henry, a track from their 1999 Untitled E.P. Quite simply, this is a totally timeless and irresistible track. One listen and you’ll be smitten.

Brutal Bill’s third contribution is Disko-Tek, a track from his 1999 E.P, The Disko-Tek. It’s drama-laden from the opening bars. Wave upon wave of driving, dramatic music unfolds. Classic seventies disco and nineties house become one. It’s as if the eighties never existed, and that the decade that taste forgot, was but a nightmare. With the cascading vocal, stomping beat and memorable melody, you’re swept along, above waves of glorious music.

Da Mooch’s other contribution to The Muggsy Story is That’s What It Is. Listening to this track, it’s hard to believe that it was released in 1999, as part of the That’s What It Is E.P. Given how good a track Twist The Knob was, Da Mooch has a lot to live up to. He rises to the challenge, mixing his familiar fusion of classic disco and house. Key to the disco influence is the strident, sassy vocal. He adds to this, elements of soul and jazz. The result is an eclectic track, one worthy of baring the Muggsy Records’ label.

Closing The Muggsy Story is Ralphi Rosario’s You Used To Hold Me. Released in 1998, this version is Ralphi’s Salsa Mix. It doesn’t take long before you discover that what an infectiously catchy track. Keyboards, percussion and crispy drums accompany a vocal that’s best described as a strutting diva. The vocal is crucial to the track’s success, transforming a good track into a great track.

The ten tracks on The Muggsy Story are the perfect introduction to Johnny De Mairo’s “other” label. While most people remember Johnny D for Henry Street Records, overlooking Muggsy Records is something they should do at their peril. After all, Muggsy Records was a label that was synonymous with innovative, influential and eclectic music. Indeed, one of Johnny D’s reasons for founding Muggsy Records, was to release a much more eclectic selection of music. This was music that Henry Street Records might not release. Given Johnny D’s reputation within the music industry, he’d soon, some luminaries of house music beating a path to his new label’s door. With producers of the standard of Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez, Robbie Rivera, Ralphi Rosario, Mike “Da Mooch” Mucci, Brutal Bill and JohNick on their roster, Muggsy Records concentrated on quality not quantity. Better to release ten great tracks than twenty average tracks seems to be Johnny D’s thinking. So, while Muggsy Records may not have been one of the most prolific record labels, their releases had one thing in common…their quality. The ten tracks on The Muggsy Story which will be released by BBE Music on 27th May 2013 are proof of this. Standout Tracks: TKC Black Jack, JohNick Presents The Sopranos Is It Really Real, JohNick Presents The Sopranos First and Henry Street and Brutal Bill Disko-Tek.


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