80 year old Don Barker is Britain’s oldest DJ and he’s still spinning records despite having to wear a hearing aid. His nickname is ‘Don Disco’ and he has been entertaining crowds for decades. Don has always regularly attracted a devoted following known as ‘Donettes’ who turn up each week to dance to the songs he plays.
Despite being recently fitted with hearing aids and his crowd numbers diminishing with age a steadfast following of around 30 are still supporting him almost every time he performs. Barker, who lives in Plymouth, Devon, with his wife Marie, 72, was once in the Royal Navy but gave it all up to become a full time disc-jockey, which he has done since 1977.
He said that although he’s now winding down, he is not ready to stop completely. Don Disco has a regularly occurring Thursday night gig at the Agerton Social Club in his home city. He said: “I was going to finish earlier this year but they asked me to stay. I don’t charge much, I just do it for the love of it.”
“I used to have around 70 people that would come and see me but lots have died and then their friends don’t come anymore. But I still have a strong fan base of at least 30.” Barker plays what he calls “the golden oldies” but accommodates the requests of the bars patrons as well. “I love my music. I can’t dance though, I’m useless at dancing. But I make other people get up and jig about.” Barker said.
Don Disco began his music career in two popular dance clubs and explained that even if he was to give up his DJ-ing career, he could never escape his fans. His DJ-ing career was “purely accidentally”. He found his love for music when he listened to The Clancy Brothers and Dusty Springfield while serving in the Navy.
Barker’s long time idol is Lonnie Donegan who was the first British pop superstar who provided early inspiration for The Beatles and a host of other music sensations in the 50s and 60s. He was seen as the biggest single influence on music in the world by the Beatles. Barker’s favorite Donegan tunes were “Pick a Bail of Cotton” and his rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow”.
Barker happens to live on the same road as his social club venue and he picked up the gig through a lucky break. He said he managed to prove to the club that disco was something they needed at the club by performing when a group it had booked failed to show. He added: “They had never had a disco there before, it was at a time when disco was still seen as a dirty word, but the group they’d booked never turned up and they needed to fill the space so I stepped in.”