Grand Wizard Theodore: the man who created record scratching
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Grand Wizard Theodore: the man who created record scratching

Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaattaa, Grand Wizard Theodore and DJ Kool Herc are the four pillars of hip-hop and, in their own ways, played a part in the creation of the genre in the late 1970s. Grandmaster Flash refined DJ Kool Herc’s “Merry-Go-Round Technique,” which created an extended break using two records. However, he would end up connecting with another Bronx DJ who furthered the sonic using an unorthodox technique.

In an interview with HOT 97.0’s Ebro Darden, Grandmaster Flash explained the story of how he refined DJ Kool Herc’s technique and revealed his first protégé was Grand Wizard Theodore (real name Theodore Livingston).

Speaking to Darden, Grandmaster Flash explained, “I said, ‘I’m going to go outside to the neighbourhood park and show people this technique,’ and I met this guy named Gene Livingston. He lived on 168th Street and Boston Road (in Morrisania). He had the best mom in the whole entire world! She allowed you to play music at all times of the night. I was still trying to perfect this thing, then me and Gene became a DJ Crew.”

He continued, “So I tried to teach Gene this, and he couldn’t understand it, but every time I would go over to the house, there was this little kid taking the tonearm off and dropping the beat on the break. I said, ‘Gene, who’s that?!’ and he said, ‘That’s my little brother!'”

Grandmaster Flash (real name Joseph Saddler) was intrigued by Livingston’s brother’s ability and detailed how he taught him to mix, explaining, “When Gene used to go out, I grabbed a milk crate and told his little ‘Come here.’ I would do it [ the Merry-Go-Round Technique], and he would emulate it. We did this for months! He figured it out! I told Gene, ‘You’re probably going to be really mad at me, but Theodore come over here.'”

Saddler unveiled that from there, Grand Wizard Theodore became a big DJ in the Bronx and began to incorporate his own techniques, one of which was the scratch. In an interview with The BeeShine, Livingston explained how he created the sound, “One record was playing, then my mum came in the room, and I just froze! She said, ‘Turn the music down or turn it off!’ So I put my hands on the record like I was stopping it, then when she left, I pushed it forward and carried on playing it.”

However, Livingstone was recording the mix and heard back the sound of the record stopping and starting and loved the movement it gave the mix, stating, “I was like wow! I gave it to my principal and people were in the lunchroom waiting for him to play it. Then he finally played it, and people were like, ‘Wow, this is really cool!”

Grand Wizard Theodore didn’t create the scratch as much as he accidentally discovered it. As a result of his mother asking him to stop the record, he pulled the vinyl back then, pushed it forward and later realised he could put the sound to musical use.

You can hear the DJ speaking about it in the video below.