Twin Cities DJ Keeps It All in the Family

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Minneapolis—If you ask Howard Walstein, he’ll tell you it’s all about the word “Welcome.”

Says the Twin Cities jock, “I think I was born with the ability to make people feel comfortable.”

Ask any kid he grew up with: As a child he’d perform puppet shows in his backyard to crowds of children—each paid a 25-cent admission fee. During his teens, he was the “most-requested” babysitter in the neighborhood, telling stories, playing games and goofing around with the kids. Neighborhood families requested his services months in advance, sometimes drawn into bidding wars to secure his services.

By the time he was in his early 20s, Walstein—with his older brother Les and his DJ friends from high school and college radio stations—began Total Entertainment Sound & Light Shows. “I found the instant revenue stream quite appealing,” he says.

At the height of Walstein’s popularity as a DJ at an area roller-skating rink, the city Fire Marshall would stand by the entrance of Roller Garden with a clicker, in accordance with capacity laws, to make sure attendance didn’t exceed 800 people at his Sunday night hip-hop session.

Walstein, now 52, recalls DJing in the ’70s and ’80s. “Quite a different process—much more mechanical,” he says, referencing the lifting of crates of heavy records—and the three hernia surgeries to prove it. “The smell and touch of vinyl was as important to the sensation of being a DJ as what record to choose to keep the flow going on the dancefloor. Back then, you identified records by what label the artist was on. Each song was ‘more your friend’ when you picked it than it is now.”