Ask any gay man in South Florida about DJs and more often than not, the name Herbie James comes up. The well-loved DJ made his presence known here on the Gold Coast in 1989, and the dance scene hasn’t been the same since.
Listening to a Herbie James set is the most energy-filled experience one can find on a dance floor: loud bold beats, hypnotic synths, and mind-blowing vocals. As he describes it, “The lines between musical genres have blurred so much over the years, I play so many styles of music over the course of a night. I'd have to say that my musical love right now is with big, melodic progressive vocal house, with the lean back to funky vocal house. Mix it all up and throw in some old-school classics, and voila, ‘Herbicidal.’”
That label, Herbicidal, has become an infamous tag-line for the thousands of fans that download his podcasts, listen to his weekly radio shows on Gay Internet Radio Live, and attend his live performances.
But what many of the legions of fans don’t know about James is that he’s a trained musician, and began his professional music career in a band. Majoring in piano at the University of Southern Mississippi, he explains he “got caught up in jazz composition.”
“After college, I moved to Madrid for three years, where I played the organ for the Base Chapel Sunday services. I ended up spending many late nights hanging out in the jazz clubs, where I met a lot of the local musicians,” James recalls. “After some time, I bought a Fender Rhodes, and played with some local funk and jazz musicians, and we ended up becoming the house band for one of the jazz clubs there.”
Once back in the United States, he played for a 10-piece disco cover band in the once-popular live-music club scene in Fort Lauderdale.
James’ first residency was at the famous Marlin Beach Hotel in 1991, where he played 12-hour sets Thursday through Sunday. “At the time, the hotel had installed an incredible Renkus-Heinz sound system,” James recalls. “I have some really fun stories of those days.”
Since then, James has grown into a local icon, playing sets for many local and national venues. That status is reinforced every year at the Sleazy Awards, a local in-the-biz charity event, where he’s won the award for Most Popular DJ in 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010.
“It is such an honor to have won an award that comes from your peers and fans,” he says. “I am truly blessed to be a part of this great community in South Florida.”
Although James has played numerous large events in South Florida, some stand apart from the rest. “I've played some very special events and they were all pretty incredible, but I'd have to say some highlights were the Muscle Beach party during White Party and the infamous Mineshaft party for Winter Party,” James recalls. “People still talk to me about both of those. And of course, there were the Winter Music Conference events where I was almost arrested that also come to mind.”
Now dabbling as a producer and working on his own CD, he says, “If I had started all this some 20 years ago, like I preached to all the children, it would be a whole other story.”
Herbie’s radio show can be heard at Gayinternetradiolive.com Saturday (Friday nights) at midnight - 2 a.m., and Tuesday (Monday night) at midnight - 2 a.m.
Herbie’s podcasts are posted regularly at HerbieJames.com
Herbie’s current DJ residence is at Ramrod bar, Thursday and Friday nights, starting at 10 p.m.