They were the street jocks. The men and women who hauled heavy speakers, turntables, mixers, and crates of vinyl records to the gyms, halls, lodges, clubs, garages, backyards, and anywhere else music lovers would congregate to party to the music. Sometimes they filled skating rinks, bingo halls, or high schools, and sometimes they even packed them into the Norfolk Scope, the Norfolk Arena, the Hampton Coliseum, the Virginia Beach Dome, or even the beaches and drive-in theaters.
Some of the names were legendary, and there were legendary battles which ensued when a combination of DJ Crews competed for area supremacy. There was Bob Fields and Bob’s Lounge, Scooby Doo, Heart-Attack, Hammerhead, Billy Doo-Wah, The Dome.
There were the DJ’s who helped usher in the Hip-Hop era like The Portsmouth All-Stars with The Master Blaster and Dr. Feel-Good, there was The Controller, Bobby Roscoe (with ET and Shag Nasty), Ron & Twin, and many others.
But then there was Big Bad Base.
Base, aka Keith Little, was a fixture at many events in the Hampton Roads Area and beyond. Big Bad Boss Bold Bodacious Black Beautiful Base (his full title given to him when he played high school football) was the son of a powerful record promoter for Atlantic Records, Leroy Little, Sr., and his brother was also a force in the record industry--Leroy Jr. was VP of Polygram and headed other promotions departments.
Base learned some of the tricks of the trade from his predecessors and friends like Bob Fields and developed a style of his own. Base built his empire from old, discarded speakers and barely belt-driven turntables, with an rusty old microphone which he fed tons of personality and a party atmosphere--and transformed it into a wall of speakers and stack of amps which would make your shirt dance all on its own from 50 yards away.
Frank "The Master Storyteller" Halison with the Base Rockers
Base had a constantly revolving crew of DJ’s who helped him pack the clubs, the hole-in-the-walls (like the Game Room in Foundation Park), clubs (like Batman’s Den/Benson’s), the open fields of race tracks, beaches, and drive-ins, and the large venues. Ready Eddie, Boss, King Wolfman, HB, Bo Jack, Casper, DJ Vince, and General Jo were just a few. Base also teamed up with General Jo to record records on the Dangerous Jams label. Some of the songs became hot items in dance halls and club scenes in Europe as well as America. Base was also the guest MC and intermission entertainment for some of the hottest acts to ever visit the area, Salt & Pepa, Run DMC, LL Cool J, The Fat Boys, Kid-N-Play, The Beastie Boys, MC Shy D, Ready for the World, Lisa Lisa & the Cult Jam, and many more. Whether it was at Stars, Fame, Scope, The Norfolk Arena, The Hampton Coliseum, Washington Beach, NC, or any other hot spot in town, Base was popular with promoters because they knew he delivered and would also draw a crowd. Sometimes Base & Crew would even be flown up to New York or T-Neck, NJ, to DJ for celebrity parties, or spin the music in the hotels for the after-parties. Wherever he went, he was known and loved. Even after a double amputation on his legs, Base would still bring his magic to events at special requests, many people not even realizing the man was standing on prosthetic legs and making audiences leap out of their seats to the dance floor.
Base passed away one recent Thanksgiving, leaving us with a lot of smiling memories, his DJ pioneering spirit, and his constantly hustling mentality to make money for him and the people who worked for him and with him.
"Back Off" - Tripple B. Co. featuring Big Bad Base & General Jo
Base Rockin’ Rockin the city Rockin’ the city Showing no pity
The Old Killer Keyboards
LIna Brown of Precious Metal (Never Fall in Love Again)
If you have some memories, photos, or memorabilia from "back in the day," you would like to submit, please contact us at Virginia's Music Soul.
I remember the thrill I felt when my friend and partner, Base, pulled his white Lincoln around the curve and we saw all those people on Diggs Park field. It was an August night in the middle of the 80s. The music was pumping loud with the funky club sounds of the day. Kenny had ran a power cord from one of the project unit’s outlet, on to the open field to play his DJ set.
Teens, little kids, parents, all piled on to the field from Diggs Park and neighboring Oak Leaf Park, as well as nearby Foundation Park. There were some more people who lived in Campostella but not in one of the projects. Plus, there were people like me and Base, who lived elsewhere but knew a lot of people from the area.
Hell, they knew us. We were pseudo celebrities, DJs with a following and name recognition. Big Bad Base and Company featuring General Jo on the Killer Keyboards.
As the music pumped and the crowd grew, packing the field, the word spread, and more people emerged from those project units to join in on the free entertainment, bringing bottles of 40s, fifths, cans of soda, pitchers of iced tea, sandwiches, snacks, or just themselves.
The DJ set was set up on the basketball court, which seemed like a dance floor out there in the field. People just roamed around and met with their neighbors. As you walked around the field, over near the playground equipment, you could detect the pungent aroma of cannabis. The tell-tale little glowing red ember in the dark, pinpointed the exact position of the participants.
Overall, it was a happy atmosphere, whether from internal chemical stimulus or external. It seemed as if everyone used the opportunity to escape the doldrums of their lives and the frustrations of poverty.
Campostella Road is a major street which separates Oak Leaf Park from Diggs Park. People coming from Oak Leaf, had to cross four lanes in moderate traffic in the night. Perhaps it was causing a traffic hazard, because 2 police units pulled onto the field. It seemed the whole atmosphere began to change.
As the officers emerged from their units, inquiring about who was in charge. Nobody answered. The uniformed officer started asking to see if anyone had a permit for such a gathering. No one said a word. The music was still pumping, but hardly anyone was dancing. I stood there silently and observed it all.
Out of the night sky, like a slowly falling meteorite, a large, brown 40 ounce bottle, empty of its contents, crashed near the police officer. Suddenly, all sorts of debris began to shower around the officers as they crouched into a quick retreat back to the safety of their vehicles, throwing them into reverse, and exiting the field in the same direction they entered.
I could hear the DJ complaining about how he had a permit every year and never had any problems.
“They just want to start something,” he grumbled, as he put on a record guaranteed to make the crowd holler and everyone started falling into a favorite dance to the rhythm. Things begin to return to normal as one hit after another worked the crowd into a dancing frenzy.
Over near the playground equipment, in the dark, you could see a sea of movement in one direction. And in that sea of people was a stream of screams, shouts, insults, and threats, as a group of angry, young men, armed with sticks and pipes, chased another group of young men who were out of their territory.
This wasn’t looking good. But the chased were faster than the chasers, so nothing evolved other than hurt feelings. Eventually, the chasers gave up the chase and returned to join the crowd and mingle. I stood there in silence, observing it all.
Project girls in the summer time, dancing in provocative clothes with seductive moves and a knowing glance, can cause a rational man to have irrational dreams, even instant fantasies. As I watched these silky, sexy, sirens slide around Diggs Park field, teasing and taunting the males as if it were an ancient ritual passed down for generations, to insure there would be a next generation, I felt a familiar sensation developed from years of training and working security.
Something was out of place, and as my eyes diverted from the sumptuous forms of these female visions to scan the landscape, a rush of movement in my peripheral vision, followed by a burst of screams and gunfire, and the sight and sound of a rampaging herd dispersing in multiple directions, followed by a wailing sound which attracted my body to the source.
There beneath a big tree, near the end of a project row, was a semi-circle of posteriors, examining the body which lie motionless on the ground.
“SOMEBODY CALL 911!!” a shrieking voice pierced the now quiet of the park in the dark, underneath the dim glow from a high street lamp.
Instinctively, magnetically, I moved closer, as if I were propelled to investigate. First I saw his feet, then his blue jeans, then the dark colored shirt he had on his small frame. A young man in his late teens was stretched out on the ground.
I stood there silently, staring at him, listening to the panicking voices all around me. Everybody seemed to be talking at once with nobody saying anything. Everyone was an expert shouting out instructions with nobody to follow the orders.
A woman burst out of the screened door with a rush of loud words, exclaiming how she called the ambulance but how the victim would die before they got here. Somebody said his name, but I didn’t catch it, as I stood there staring at the body, which was struggling to draw breath. In the dark, with a dark shirt, you could barely make out what was wrong, except someone said he was shot.
“Somebody take him to the hospital so he won’t die,” screamed one woman.
“No, don’t move him, you could kill him. Wait for the ambulance,” cried another woman.
A huge debate rose up over what was the best thing to do. He wasn’t looking any better. For some reason, I decided to elevate his head by letting it rest on my feet, out of the dust. I gently started speaking to him, telling him to hang in there, because the ambulance was on its way, as I carefully, moved his head on to my red pair of suede Champions, the most comfortable shoes I ever wore in my entire life.
I stood there for what seemed like far too long. The argument never ceased on what was the best thing to do, but the side favoring taking him to the hospital was growing with each minute, while those who were convinced the best thing to do was to wait, diminished.
A green looking Gremlin pulled up near the curve, and the loudest of the females arguing to take him to the hospital, grabbed me by the arm with tears in her eyes and pleaded for me to pick him up and put him in the car.
“If you don’t, he is going to die right here. The ambulance isn’t coming after all this,” she begged.
My Boy Scout training said never move an injured person, wait for help. I had seen medical programs showing the dangers of moving an injured body, how easily it was to paralyze them. Every fiber in my brain screamed for me to wait. The woman begging me to put him in the car won out.
Slowly, I removed his head from my feet, moved around to the side of him, crouched down next to him, slid my hands underneath his back, and lifted him from the ground. As I did, my index finger on my right hand, slid into the bullet hole in his back. He moaned ever so slightly and I instinctively withdrew my finger from the bloody crater.
He was still alive, but he was definitely dead weight. It is strange how heavy he felt, being such a small guy. But I was strong, and I had him cradled in my arms like a baby, instructing people to clear a path so I could get him into the car.
The driver had opened the passenger’s side and leaned the seat forward. I struggled to maneuver the lifeless feeling body into the backseat of that little car. I felt for the victim who was definitely feeling the pain of the process. Finally, I got him in the backseat.
There was an eruption of applause and cheers. I thought it was for me at first, but it probably was for the police cars which pulled up. The same officers who were there earlier.
“Where’s the victim?” one officer commanded.
I pointed to the backseat of the car.
“You have to take him out and put him on the ground or we can’t do anything.”
I stood there momentarily in disbelief. I stood there a moment longer, dreading the thought of having to reverse the hard process I had just managed. I looked at the officer, hoping he would help or offer me a better alternative. Nobody moved. Everyone stood there silently looking at me.
I leaned back into the car, apologized to the victim, and drug him back out of the car, to stretch him out in the middle of the street, with his head resting gently on my red pair of suede Champions, the most comfortable shoes I ever wore in my entire life.
For what seemed like half an eternity, I stood there, with me being in the middle of a bizarre scene which I could not have imagined if I tried. Finally, you could make out the wail of the ambulance siren.
Me, Base, and about 4 or 5 members of our DJ crew, who were also at the incident on Diggs Park field walked into McDonald’s not long after we left Diggs Park field. That’s when I learned that the guys who got chased home, came back with their own sticks. Their sticks had nails in them. One of them had a gun. The neighborhood news grapevine was usually more trustworthy than the newspapers or local news channels. But neither media reported that shooting.
I was standing at the counter, trying to figure out what I could tolerate to eat from McDonald’s. It seemed people behind the counter were staring at me with a confused look. Maybe I looked confused to them. It had been a crazy night. I placed my order. Then I headed for the restroom while they put it together so I could wash my hands.
As I stood there washing my hands, I caught a glimpse of a bloody shirt reflecting out of the bathroom mirror, and a smudge of blood on my chin and cheek. I stood there silently, observing it all, confused and on the verge of losing my calmness. I closed my eyes for a few moments. Maybe to pray. As I slowly opened my eyes, the reflection of blood in the mirror, reminded me that it was all true. I wasn’t imagining anything.
About a year later, I spoke to a familiar looking face which strolled into the store. He was quiet, somber like, barely replying to my greetings. He looked at some cassettes for awhile as I watched him forcing myself not to stare and act oblivious to him. I didn’t know his name but I knew we had a relationship from a summer night on Diggs Park field.
He didn’t buy a tape. He got a soda, handed me the money, looked in my eyes with no glimmer of recognition. My heart was pounding as I urgently fought back the desire to ply him with questions about what he remembered about that August night on Diggs Park field, when he was shot and lay in the dirt with his head on the feet of a stranger wearing a pair of red suede Champions, the most comfortable pair of shoes a person ever wore. I wanted to know every detail, how he felt, did it change him, what is he doing now, what did the police ask him.
But instead, I stood their silently, handing him his change with a polite nod, and watched him disappear up the road, oblivious to who I was and how we were tied together through a strange series of events, one memorable August night, on Diggs Park field.