Johnny Famolari never thought he would be a DJ and little did he know that he would also become an industry pioneer paving the way for DJs in the Latin market and catapulting artist careers to super stardom. Johnny was born and raised in Queens NY and is the proud father of two children. He always had a love of music and even played the saxophone in junior high and high school. As a young teen he would listen to all types of music from Kiss and Led Zepelin to Disco and Hip Hop. He would run home from school and record Paco’s battle of the DJ’s and never missed Mister Magic’s Rap Attack or Red Alert going biserk. Johnny would buy the latest songs on 45s or the albums not realizing that one day they would be the tools of his trade.
Johnny started in the music industry in 1989. While waiting to enter the police academy, he was going to John Jay College and working security for various clubs. Johnny’s career plans were put on hold after he broke his arm and his life changed completely. With his arm in a sling, a family member, Jose Gallegos gave him a job at Variety Recording Studios. All the top Latin artists recorded at Variety Studios. Johnny’s duties included answering phones, cleaning the studios and bathrooms and making transfers from reels to cassettes. In no time, Johnny was assisting and helping in recording sessions where he had the privilege of working with some of the best recording engineers in the Hispanic market such as Jon Fausty, Kurt Upper, David Lescoe, and July Ruiz to name a few. He also worked with top producers and arrangers such as Sergio George, Isidro Infante and many more. Johnny also got to work with the top artists in the business such as Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Ray Barrreto, Fernandito Villalona, El Torito, Ramon Orlando and the list goes on. As time passed, he started engineering recording sessions on his own where he recorded and worked with artists like The Beatnuts.
Working in Radio came in 1992. SBS needed someone to work in the production department producing commercials. He met with then program director Tony Campos and in less than fifteen minutes he was hired to work part time producing commercials and doing simple imaging. SBS had very primitive ways of producing spots. A 60 second commercial could take up to an hour or so to produce. Johnny showed them a method that would only take roughly ten minutes. His efficiency and creativity landed him full time employee status in charge of the production department for all SBS New York stations. In the summer of 1993, Johnny approached then program director Jorge Mier about an idea he had for a Spanish mix show. Johnny had never DJayed, but felt confident that he could mix the music like they had been doing in the Anglo market. That is when Jorge, Reymond Reynoso the Boy From Bonao and he created what was known as Club KQ on KQ 97.9 FM in NY. This was a two hour show on Saturday night where Johnny would play the music from the station and Reymond would go to a listener’s house with food and we would bring the party to you. Reymond only lasted two weeks going to people’s houses because there was no budget for the food but the mixes stayed. Johnny continued mixing the music for the show, putting Hip Hop on Salsa beats, Freestyle on Merengue and any other combination you can think of. Juggling production at the station and the show got to be too much of a load so he turned to his friend Norty Cotto who was a DJ years before to give him a hand with putting some of the music together. The mix show quickly grew to a four hour program with special invited DJ’s such as Aldo Marin, Albert Cabrerra, Carlos Berrios and Randy Redline Diaz. The success of the mixes prompted SBS to try a show on Saturday nights that took off. There was only one thing missing from the show, they did not speak on the air. The show was only music and then Johnny’s big break came. One Friday night, then program director, Ricky Ricardo went to the booth while Johnny and Norty were playing the mixes. He asked them why they did not talk on air and starting that night everything would change. Ricardo instructed them to open the mic and be themselves, but he warned them that the only thing they could not do was use profanities. They opened the mic and this is where Johnny showed his humor and personality. Being second generation Hispanic, his command of the Spanish language was limited so he and Norty would speak in Spanglish. This was the first bilingual mix show on commercial radio. Both nights, Johnny and Norty’s ratings rose becoming two of the top rated mix shows in NY.
When SBS decided to change KQ 97.9 FM to Mega 97.9 FM, Johnny changed the name of the shows and created the name La Mega Mezcla. Johnny convinced the then General Manager Alfredo Alonzo to start a midday mix and that’s when La Mega mezcla Del Mediodia was born and quickly became one of the highest rated hours on Mega and in the NY radio market. With the change of the name of the show, Johnny wanted a catchy name for Norty and himself, so he turned to his friend and coworker Luis Jimenez for advice. He told Johnny you’re a sinverguenza (shameless one) and Norty is bald, so call yourselves El Sinverguenza y El Calvo and so it was.
Johnny was the first to play and showcase artists like Marc Anthony, Oro Solido, Fulanito, India, Africando and countless others, along with resurrecting songs like Oscar D’Leon’s “LLoraras” to where they are played in every club to this day. Johnny was also the first to play and mix bachata on commercial radio, a musical genre considered to be non commercial at that time.
In 1996, Johnny approached then SBS General Manager Carey Davis with the notion of doing his mix show live from the clubs. Not only would the station get promotion in the clubs, but it would net the station profits. Then in spring of 1996, the first live broadcasts were done on Mega 97.9 FM from the Roxy night club. In the years to come, he produced CD’s such as India’s Megamix, Merenmix ’98 and did remixes for artists as La Makina, Kinito Mendez, and record labels such as RMM. In the summer of 1999, Johnny was able to be part of the team that made radio history by being the first Hispanic radio station in NY to make it to number one.
September 1999 brought Johnny a new opportunity when he went to work for the new rival station, Caliente 105.9 FM and started the Caliente mix. He was joined by his long time friend and radio partner Norty.
In January 2000 he got a call from friend and former boss Al Fuentes wanting to know if he was interested in being his assistant program director in Boston. Johnny jumped at the opportunity and went to work in Boston for Mega Communications. He brought his NY style and aggressive techniques to a market in need of attention. After about eight months of commuting back and forth from NY to Boston, it got to be a little much, so he decided to quit. Upon returning home for good he quickly got started on his next project. He approached Luis Jimenez with the idea of putting all the phone scams that Jimenez was known for and producing for him the cd Caiste. Right before Christmas 2000 he gets a call from the then General Manager for Mega Communications in Boston, Rafael Grullion and offers him the program director position of the three stations in Boston. Johnny once again accepted the offer and quickly took the stations to where no other Boston Hispanic stations had gone before.
He produced the Billboard award nominated CD Tortilla Party for Luis Jimenez in November 2001 and followed it up a year later with Vacilon 69. Then in 2003 he once again joined forces with Norty and returned to 105.9FM in NY which was then Latino Mix. In 2005 he returned to Mega 97.9 and started a Friday night show called La Esquina.
In 2007 he left SBS to go to work for Univision on La Kalle, which is now X96.3 where he is currently working with the Luis Jimenez show. He djs in clubs all over the tristate area and can be found hosting events.
Throughout the years Johnny has mentored many mix djs often times helping them in their careers by inviting them on his mix shows. He is dynamic, charismatic and well loved by his audience. Never one to shy away from hard work or helping others, Johnny has coached little league, spoken at many career days a different schools in the New York City area and is willing to help anyone in anyway he can. Johnny’s dynamic hosting skills and creative ideas make him a valuable asset to any company.