I spent the better part of the weekend watching music documentaries, one of which was “The Godfather of Disco.” Mel Cheren was a music man at heart and began the seminal dance music label West End Records. West End, who’s tagline was “Where the Sun Sets and the Stars Rise,” was responsible for beginning the 12-inch vinyl single craze which is still the preferred format for many DJs to this day. The 12-inch single allowed artists to release longer versions of their songs with the added benefit of an improved audio signal.
Mel worked with his business partner and former lover, Michael Brody to open the Paradise Garage. The club and his label worked in perfect concert together to catapult the music of the time to it’s current disco status. West End would put out artists like Tanna Gardner which resident Paradise Garage DJ Larry Lavan would play throughout the night, sometime 3 or 4 times in one night. The next day, the enlightened club-goers would scour the city to find these new disco records.
When the AIDS crisis hit in the early 80’s and devastated the gay nightlife scene in New York, Mel gave up his role at West End. He then focused on raising money and awareness around the crisis. He sadly succumbed to the disease in 2007.
The full documentary is available on You Tube to stream. I recommend watching the full documentary with pen and paper at hand. You will want to take notes.