Turntablism History: How Scratching Came to Be

If you’ve every DJed, chances are one of the things that brought you into the fold was the sound and ability to scratch. Fact has a great history on how all that came to be.

Scratching has existed for as long as there have been phonographs, a by-product of the stylus following the grooves on a record. It would take nearly a century before it was fully realised, thanks to a teenage Bronx DJ by the name of Theodore Livingston. As legend has it, sometime in 1975 Theodore inadvertently heard himself scratch on his home system after his mother had asked him to turn the music down (else she turn it off). The sound wasn’t new; it wanted to be found and Theodore heard its call. With some more practice he refined the back and forth hand motion into the ‘scratch’, a rhythmic element that made its first public appearance shortly after at a local club.

It’s often said that hip-hop has three founding fathers, all DJs, though it has no constitution. If it did, the first articles would focus on records: how to dig for them, how to mix them up, and how to extract the break. Theodore scratched the fourth article into the constitution while no one was looking.

The next big leap for scratching came in 1981 when Grandmaster Flash recorded the first ever DJ track, ‘The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel’. Seven minutes of rudimentary cuts and sequencing, ‘Adventures…’ amended hip-hop’s constitution to remind everyone that the DJ was the music’s first artist.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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