Mel Cheren- Music history.
1970’s. On a trip to Fire Island Mel Cheren met what would be his partner in life and love Michael Brody. 12 years younger he was to become the largest part of his life until death parted them.
Mel Cheren, nicknamed “the Godfather of disco”, played a crucial role in the evolution of dance music. In the mid-Seventies, while working at Scepter Records, he introduced the 12-inch single and the instrumental B-side, which enabled DJs to mix and loop tracks and build the excitement on the dancefloor.
In 1976, Cheren co-founded the equally influential West End Records. The label sparked off the house music movement in Detroit and also scored several hits in the UK, most notably with “Hot Shot” by Karen Young (1978), “Don’t Make Me Wait” by the Peech Boys and “Do It to the Music” by Raw Silk (both 1982), and “Another Man” by Barbara Mason in 1984.
Born in Everett, Massachusetts in 1933, Cheren started as an office clerk at ABC-Paramount Records in New York in 1960, progressed to sales rep and eventually became head of production. In 1970, he joined Scepter and was an early mover in the New York disco scene with acts like B.T. Express.
West End became a very collectable label, in particular tracks like “(Everybody) Get Dancin'” by the Bombers from 1979 and the much-sampled “Heartbeat” by Taana Gardner from 1981. After a lengthy hiatus between 1985 and 1998, Cheren bought Kushins out and West End Records was reactivated. In 2001, the DJs Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez and Little Louie Vega compiled a non-stop mastermix double-CD to celebrate the label’s 25th anniversary. “We were on the cutting edge without realizing it,” Cheren said, looking back. “I’ve always heard we had a special sound, but ’til today I still don’t know what that was . . . If I liked a song, we would put it out.”
Cheren was also active in newly-formed record pools that gave DJs the inside track in shaping club culture with exclusive mixes that played longer, louder and sometimes as unrecognizable dubs. The effect trickled up through the industry until all of New York, then America and eventually the world were in the throes of Disco Fever
DJ Morabito, Godfather of Disco Mel Cheren and Joe Gauthreaux
In 1977 Cheren provided the financial backing for his partner Michael Brody to open the Paradise Garage in Greenwich Village. along with his former longtime partner Michael Brody, founded Paradise in a converted parking garage on the gut feeling that “If people can dance together, they can live together.”
Since it was a private rather than a licensed club and didn’t sell alcohol, the Paradise Garage could stay open all night and became the streetwise alternative to Studio 54. It also boasted the biggest dance-floor and the best sound system in New York, and hosted appearances by Grace Jones, Madonna, New Order, Phyllis Hyman, Colonel Abrams and Gwen Guthrie.
Housed in a parking garage at 84 King Street in SoHo, the legendary club installed Larry Levan and other DJs as the center of attention, where they reigned over a powerful sound system— perhaps, the best in the history of the city. The venue defied boundaries of race, class and even aesthetic to unite patrons in sonic ecstasy.
Sherri Eisenpress explained the allure of the Paradise Garage for those who missed the heyday: “It was the only place around where no matter who you were, people came together in the shared spirit of love and music that, when you heard it, you had no choice but to get up and dance.” The legendary club hosted DJ’s Larry Levan (below), Junior Vasquez, and Frankie Knuckles who reigned over a powerful sound system-perhaps the best in the history
The venue defied boundaries of race, class, and even aesthetic to unite patrons in sonic ecstasy.
In a notoriously faddish city and industry, the Paradise Garage managed to stay open until 1987. Mr. Brody died of AIDS in 1987. Mr. Levan, the disc jockey, died in 1992.
In the eighties and nineties, Cheren went on to become an AIDS activist, donating office space to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis out of his Chelsea home, and working for AIDS charities including 24 Hours for Life and Lifebeat. The gesture was one of many significant steps to fight a disease that he ironically contracted in the later years of his life. West 22nd Street in Chelsea at the Colonial House Inn, where Cheren lived and for 20 years operated a gay bed and breakfast is now run by his cousin, Illya Dekhtyar.
In 2000, Cheren published an autobiography entitled My Life and the Paradise Garage: keep on dancin’, calling it “the story of my gay generation, the world we built, and the world we lost”.
.. He died in 2007 bequeathing the bulk of his estate to LGBT Center. His favorite saying was “SAVE ME A PLACE ON THE DANCE FLOOR” ………………Always.