COLUMBIA — Despite owning a dual set of the Bose L1 Model II sound systems — one set sufficient for a crowd of up to 250 people — and acquiring the nickname “DJ Crazy Charley,” you won’t find him at a bar spinning the latest T.I. single or scratching turntables at hip-hop clubs.
Instead, Charley Blackmore continues his 31-year passion for disc jockeying primarily at wedding receptions and class reunions for friends and family. He also deejays free of charge for fundraisers, charitable or not-for-profit organizations, educational institutions and community-oriented events.
Blackmore, now 63, moved to Columbia with his family in 1955 when he was 10 and has held a variety of jobs, including working for the U.S. Postal Service for 36 years. He became a driving instructor examiner and stayed there until he retired in August 2000. Today, Blackmore sustains a multi-faceted lifestyle with an extensive music collection dating back to the late 1800s, ongoing involvement in the community and intense pride in his Hickman High School Kewpie alumni status.
"He must be the most enthusiastic Kewpie known to man," said Don Dugan, who has known Blackmore "for 30 or 40 years." "He is extremely loyal, and he does his best to gather all of the alumni. He is one rare individual."
Providing the music for the dances that followed every home basketball and football game sparked Blackmore’s zeal for deejaying.
“We’d have a dance in the high school cafeteria,” Blackmore said. “So normally, I provided the records ‘cause I had bought 45s and kept up with all the current music.”
An interest in keeping up with the trends has led Blackmore to amass a music collection of more than 2,500 discs, more than 4,000 record albums and between 8,000 to 10,000 45s.
“Some of my music goes back to the earliest recordings that were ever made in the 19th century, the late 1800s,” Blackmore said.
The deejay career didn’t officially begin until 1977 when Blackmore befriended his neighbor, Terry Farmer, a record collector who introduced him to the community radio station, KOPN/89.5 FM. The station welcomed guests to discuss music from the 1950s and 1960s and played 45 rpm vinyl records on the radio.
“I decided I’d try that and did, and just really liked it,” Blackmore said. “I put a show together with the history of rock ‘n’ roll music from the R&B artists of the ‘50s, who were the early rock ‘n’ rollers like Chuck Berry and Little Richard and ‘Fats’ Domino, and graduated all the way up into the early ‘60s with the entrance of The Beatles.”
Blackmore said he gained the nickname “Crazy Charley” from friends, who used it in a joking manner because of his enthusiastic personality. In November 1977, he began doing a biweekly show at KOPN/89.5 FM on the second and fourth Mondays of every month from 8 p.m. until midnight. The broadcast was called “Crazy Charley’s Monday Night Live,” a name inspired by television's “Saturday Night Live.”
After deejaying a party to raise money for a child's bone marrow transplant, Blackmore sent letters out to local high schools, junior high schools, fraternities and sororities and slowly gained recognition as a deejay by word of mouth. He started doing parties on a regular basis from the late 1970s to the mid-‘90s.
Blackmore’s time on his mail route, and his way with people, helped him land some gigs.
“Back in those days, 15 years almost, I carried mail on the same route, so I got to know all of the people, all of their kids, all of their relatives,” Blackmore said. “I even tell people, ‘You know, I delivered your mail for so long, I knew who visited on the weekends.’”
Blackmore has deejayed class reunions for some of those same children, now adults, and said he could even remember most of their addresses.
Throughout the years, Blackmore had several reccurring deejay jobs including at wedding receptions, at Christmas parties for the Columbia Police Department, and with the Columbia Fire Department and Perry/Legend Collision Repair Center. He said his longest-running business relationship was with Alcoholics Anonymous.
“I became a permanent fixture at AA conventions for so long that people thought I was a member of AA, but I wasn’t,” Blackmore said.
He spun at local events such as the Old Wheels Car Show for 25 years and another car show called the Show-Me Mopar Fest for more than a dozen years.
Nowadays, Blackmore deejays mostly as a hobby but also frequently does it as volunteer work, not only for family and friends but also for several senior centers in Columbia. Last year, Blackmore donated his services to the MU Homecoming Steering Committee by deejaying at the Columbia Senior Center for the annual "Tiger Tango" event. In January, he donated his services to the Veterinary School Formal for the "Josh Project," which also includes medicine school students.
Blackmore is helping with two service scholarships at Hickman, the Charley Blackmore's Class of '63 Scholarship and the kewpie.net Scholarship. He is working with the school to raise money for the scholarships, and donations can be made through kewpie.net.
Blackmore tries to keep current with music, especially country, and said that for the most part he does not play rap music, though he does know of popular artists in the genre.
“Once in a while, a group comes along and does that kind of music and really has something catchy,” Blackmore said. “Songs that come along like that become modern day classics, as far as I’m concerned. Like playing a song by Outkast or playing one of those songs by Will Smith is kind of like playing ‘The Twist’ or ‘Jailhouse Rock’. People always like to hear ‘em.”
One of Blackmore’s most treasured moments as a deejay occurred in 1979 when he met Wolfman Jack — then a world-famous celebrity deejay who appeared in the film “American Graffiti”— during a news conference at the grand opening of the first disco club in Columbia, By George. “That was pretty cool,” Blackmore said.
“To become a deejay for yourself just kind of on a whim — it wasn’t anything that I ever sat and spent hours dreaming about when I was a kid and said, ‘Oh my God, I want to be a deejay.’ It wasn’t like that," he said. "It was just something I enjoyed doing.”