Gary Titus is a fixture in Canton, having spent three and a half decades spinning tunes and entertaining an audience that includes 5-year-olds to those aged 80 and older.
Titus, 55, remembers being 6 years old, sitting with a stack of his sister Donnas’ 45’s in the attic of their apartment above the family café on Washington Street in Downtown Canton.
He remembers buying his first very own 45 “Elenore” by The Turtles at a store called Ronnie’s at Cobbs Corner which is now The Mill Store. It wasn’t long after that Gary started to build a 45 collection of his own.
For Titus it was more than just a hobby, his music became his passion in life. He even bought magazines like “Hit Parader” and “Song Hit’s” to study the lyrics. When he started to buy albums he’d sit beside the family stereo and read the liner notes while listening to the likes of The Guess Who, The Raspberry’s, Grand Funk Railroad, and other popular groups and solo artist’s of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Music became the bond that Gary had with friends (and girlfriends) throughout his teenage years. It also landed him a job at “Good Vibrations” a record store located in Canton’s Tri-Town Mall.
Much to the dismay of his thrifty Italian mother every spare dollar went to support his record collection, but it all paid off in June 1977. Now in his 36th year as the owner of a very successful mobile Disc Jockey business Gary Titus and his wife Sarah make their home in Canton. They have two children, Louie, a senior at Boston College High School, and Caroline, a junior in the Culinary Arts program at Gary’s alma mater, Blue Hills Regional Technical School.
Titus recently sat down with Canton Patch to discuss what he describes as the best job in the world.
Canton Patch: When did you start working as a full-time disc jokey?
Gary Titus: It was actually a fluke. I was in the right place at the right time. Although I recognized my love for music at 6 years old, I became a “for real DJ” on June 1, 1977 at “Shenanigans” Nightclub on Rte. 138 (now the 99 Restaurant). It was a great place to start. It was six months before “Saturday Night Fever” came out, and when it did, “Shenanigans” was the place to be on the South Shore. I was also put in charge of writing and voicing Shenanigans ads on Boston’s KISS 108. After five years I took a job at “Pufferbellies” nightclub in Hyannis for the legendary Happy Hour singer John Morgan. Pufferbellies held four thousand people on busy summer weekends. It was a very powerful experience to work with such a BIG crowd. Everyone was on vacation and looking for a great time. I was happy to help them out.
Canton Patch: Did you do any radio work?
GT: While working at Shenanigans, I enrolled in a few communications courses at Curry College in Milton. It was a great way to learn how to speak properly and get rid of any signs of a Boston accent. I did radio stints at WBET and WCAV in Brockton, and WKPE and WCOD on Cape Cod. I was also a producer and interviewer for a nationally syndicated one hour radio show called Radio New England Magazine.
Canton Patch: Who did you interview? Anyone we may know?
GT: I interviewed a lot of performers who were at the beginning of their careers like Jay Leno, Kathy Lee Gifford, and the Country Music Band “Alabama”. I also got to interview a few of the greatest in the entertainment world like George Burns, Tony Bennett, and Sammy Davis, Jr., just to name a few. I got $35 an interview and a few priceless photos that hang in my office. I soon realized that the real money was in my Mobile Disc Jockey company, so I started booking enough weddings and private parties to make it my full-time business.
Canton Patch: How did you get your bookings?
GT: My exposure as a nightclub DJ was priceless. Club goers would call me and book me for their weddings and parties. To this day I still get calls from them except now it’s to do their kid’s weddings. I also have a great corporate agent who has gotten me some great gigs for companies like Fidelity, Perini Construction and other high profile clients. This past summer I was part of Liberty Mutual’s 100th anniversary celebration at Fenway Park. I DJ’d from center field between sets of Gary Sinise’s “Lt. Dan Band” and The James Montgomery Band. That was a blast.
Canton Patch: What sets you apart from the typical wedding DJ?
GT: Oh wow, again it’s my experience as a Nightclub DJ. In the clubs I learned to “work” the crowds and always leave them wanting more. Although a wedding is more of an elegant event people still want to have a great time. It's fun meeting with Brides and Grooms and creating a picture in their minds of exactly what a great time that they and their guests are going to have. I take all of their requests, introductions, and details and add my fun, but professional voice and personality to their special day. Every job usually brings residual bookings. I’ve done multiple weddings for many families.
Canton Patch: How has all of this competition changed your business?
GT: I have to “sell” myself now. That’s something I never had to do. Now in a good month I’ll do two weddings a weekend. Now with the Internet Brides and Grooms are more informed. They are able to price shop in a larger pool. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not so good. Convincing potential clients that experience is worth the price of a successful wedding day isn’t always easy. Good online reviews are my best tool. Couples can relate to a good review. They can see the big picture. Vendor recommendations are also priceless. I work real hard to maintain my relationships with function coordinators and wedding planners. As a solo operator you really have to keep your nose to the grindstone. Answering e-mails, setting up meetings, and following up till you are hired for the big day is the hardest part of my job. Keeping up with the changing technology and always expanding what I offer is also a new challenge, but I still love it.
Canton Patch: What are some of your new offerings?
GT: As far as weddings go some couples are looking for a DJ that also offers extras like Up-Lighting and photo booths. I offer both. It’s helped me to be a better fit for the ones who want to do “one stop shopping” for their wedding day. 2013 is my first whole year offering extras. About a quarter of weddings will now include Up-Lighting and/or a photo booth.
Canton Patch: You also do a few local trivia nights in the area?
GT: When Louie and Caroline were toddlers Sarah stayed home with them and I took various day jobs to get health benefits. As soon as the kids were both in school I was able to become a full time DJ again. Sarah, a Tuft’s graduate continued her education to earn a Master’s in Education and a certification as a school councilor. She is now the lead guidance councilor at Blue Hills Regional. Not wanting to give up a chance to make weekday money I started a pub trivia company called “It’s Trivia Time”. I started out just doing Wednesday nights at my families bar Big D’s – Neponset Café in Canton. Now in my sixth year I also do my trivia contests on Tuesday’s at Cheng-Du in Stoughton, and Thursday’s at The Fat Cactus in Randolph. I’ve always been a fan of trivia. My shows are two hours long usually from 8-10 p.m. I ask twenty questions on various subjects and the winning team gets a Twenty five dollar gift certificate. It’s fun.
Canton Patch: After 36 years, what do you think the future holds for DJ Gary Titus?
GT: Sarah and I just had this conversation. I’d like to go full steam ahead for another ten years. I’d like to continue growing my business and start a stable of DJ’s who are professional and reliable. My daughter Caroline is starting to do some smaller jobs. Who knows maybe Louie will become a part of the business as well. Sarah is also a horse enthusiast and a licensed therapeutic Riding Instructor. She has always dreamed of owning a small farm. So in ten years I guess I’ll be riding a John Deer tractor with a cell phone in my ear booking jobs and sending out younger DJ’s to do the jobs.