Nearly every DJ from nearly every radio station and the club scene in Memphis came out to the Hard Rock Café on Beale Street Monday night to pay homage to the late Cool DJ Soni D, who died in a traffic accident in California on July 1. It was kind of a "who's who" of Memphis radio.
From past to present, almost every station had a presence in the room. People meters weren't important and neither was competition.
In what had the feel of a historic night, more than music set the tone. Heartfelt sentiments filled the room as some of Soni's closest friends and colleagues shared stories of how they met, of how he gave them their names and how he influenced their careers. I looked at all of the legends in attendance and thought to myself, "This was Memphis."
Over the course of the night, various deejays took over the "Wheels of Steel" spinning some of Memphis' favorite old school R&B and Hip Hop, such as Strafe's "Set it Off," Planet Patrol's "Play at your own Risk" and The Showboys's "Drap Rap (Triggerman)." This was music that defined an era in the Memphis Club scene. It was the "mix show" music I grew up listening to on the radio. It was so engaging that I couldn't wait until I was old enough to go to the clubs. Not so I could party, but so I could just be where all the DJ action was.
"This was Memphis."
Veteran radio personality Melvin "A Cooking" Jones took the stage, along with Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission Executive Director Johnnie Walker, to thank everyone for their support and to share the purpose for having such an event. Melvin actually hired Soni years ago to do the first mix show on what was then Magic 101, now V101.
Johnnie also pointed out that Melvin also was the source of her first radio job. Soni D's "The Afternoon Drive at 5" aired on Stan Bell's afternoon radio show on V101. Bell came up to share a couple of stories of their friendship. He also called out a seemingly endless list of radio personalities both past and present who were in attendance.
The legendary DJ Jus Born was the last DJ to take over the music. Earlier he shared a story about how Soni gave him his name. Later in the night, he went on to perform a set that only included music that Soni D would have included in his mixes.
As a kid who came up on Soni's mixes, this was a defining moment in my career. It was a for-real honor to be a part of such a great tribute and an even greater honor to have known him. I hate that there had to be a loss of life to celebrate him. He touched a lot of lives – both personally and professionally – and Cool DJ Soni D will most definitely not be forgotten.
All proceeds from the event benefit the family of Soni D. If you couldn't make it to the event but would still like to help out, you can call Johnnie Walker at the Music Commission at 901-576-6850.