Jeff Dexter (born 1946) is a British disc jockey (DJ), club promoter, record producer and former dancer, who rose to prominence in the mid-1960s as the resident DJ at the influential London club Middle Earth. He is closely associated with the Mod scene and popularising The Twist in England.
The first record that Dexter bought was Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford in 1955 or 56. It was a 78 that he got from the A1 Records stall at East Street Market. Dexter had to visit friends in order to play the record as his family didn't have a gramophone.
Dexter has been interested in clothing and style from a young age, influenced by his mother and brother, and as a boy joined the Sea Scouts and the Boys Brigade so that he could wear the uniform. He did dressmaking and tailoring which made him popular with girls which he enjoyed. Often he was the only boy at some of the places where he mixed.
When he was fourteen, some of the girls that Dexter knew asked him to go to the Lyceum, but Dexter later recalled: "I was 4’ 8 1/2” at the time, and probably looked about 11. How could I got [sic] to the Lyceum? I had all the clothes; I had every piece of equipment to look like I was a grown up, but I had this tiny little face and tiny little frame." Finally, he managed to become a member in August 1961, aged 14, by saying that he was 16. It was there that he first met the DJ Ian Samwell, and they soon became firm friends.
In the early 1960s, Dexter was friends with Mark Bolan and they used to visit the Lyceum together. Both had trouble gaining admission due to being small for their age, which they made up for with plenty of "front" and nice clothes. Neither could afford to buy expensive suits, so they would visit the children's department of high street shops like Woolworths and C&A and adapt the clothes themselves with help from friends.
In September 1961 Dexter was banned from The Lyceum for dancing the Twist, which had just arrived in England. According to Dexter, the management thought the dance obscene. Two weeks later he managed to get back in by promising not to do the dance but by now the Twist had been popularised by the Arthur Murray School of Dancing. Dexter's dancing was filmed and included in the Pathé newsreels shown in cinemas. As a result, he was hired by the Lyceum as a dancer aged fifteen, even though under sixteens were officially blocked from admission to the club. He dropped his tailoring and music studies to take the job and later said: "The thought of being paid to dance with women was just phenomenal!"
Dexter has commented on the number of French-run clubs in London in the early 1960s, such as Le Discotheque and La Poubelle. He recalls that the French became obsessed with The Twist and the dance even became known as the French Twist. In early 1962, Dexter made a record, written by Ian Samwell, called "Twistin’ Like The French Kids Do!"
Dexter was the resident DJ at the Middle Earth club in Covent Garden, along with John Peel. This was a bigger club than the UFO in Tottenham Court Road where Dexter was also the resident DJ. Dexter also DJ'd at the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre, a precursor to the current Glastonbury Festival.
Career in the music industry
In 1970, he became the manager of America, the American folk rock band formed in London earlier that year, consisting of Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek. He also co-produced their first album, America and got them their first gig. They went on to have number one hits in 1972 including "A Horse with No Name".
- Jeff Dexter Interview by Bill Brewster, London, 18 February 1999. Djhistory.com, 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
- Blokes Of Britain: Jeff Dexter paul gorman, 16 March 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
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