Saturday, July 13, 2024

Coronado DJ Celebrates 50 Years

Coronado DJ entrepreneur celebrating 50 years - creator of the Boogie Machine

Dean Atkinson, still spinning music all these years later. Photo by Joe Ditler.

Dean Atkinson and his Boogie Machine concept celebrate 50 years this year. The entrepreneurial musician has provided soundtrack magic for thousands of events over the past half century, and was a pioneer in providing canned music for events in this country.

Most will remember Dean for the music he provided that set the mood for many events of our youth – proms, graduations, weddings, reunions, et al.

Although retired now, he continues to provide musical entertainment on request, and recently entertained the Class of 1968’s 55th high school reunion at the Coronado VFW. Dean was a member of the Class of ’68.

Dean discovered his love of music in 1972 on a trip to Europe. He saw first-hand that bands were hard to come by. Records provided most of the rock ‘n’ roll dancing music there. Upon his return he began to build on the idea that a traveling musical DJ might be an interesting profession. In the early years of his profession, Dean filled in the space between songs with trivia of the era. “Who knows how Chubby Checker got his name?”

Dean’s most recent gig was at his high school reunion last month, at the VFW Post here in Coronado. The Class of ’68 looked strong and ready for many more. Dean is in the back row, middle. Photo by Joe Ditler.

In October of that year he provided music at a Halloween party in San Diego. Word began to travel. He worked at KDEO Radio in El Cajon for a while. When “American Graffiti” came out in 1973, he was hired to set up dance machines in front of theatres for the first two weeks of screenings.

Of course Dean handed out business cards, and before long he had a new career. Soon he was asked to help promote a new Top 40 radio station, B100 FM.

That became the first Top 40 FM station to reach Number One. Dean’s Boogie Machines serviced thousands of dances from 1975-1985, when he sold the business to focus on a new concert sound company and disco installation business.

The first mobile music machine, with “Captain” Dean at the helm.

Locally, Dean provided the sound system for Concerts in the Park for 11 years. He worked the Coronado Bike Races and did 11 years of DJ-ing at the All-Class Reunion, from the early years at Mexican Village, to the Coronado Golf Course, where the popular event takes place now, every July 3rd.

He has done disco shows at most San Diego County high schools, as well as shows in Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Los Angeles and Disneyland.

Dean continues to maintain his enviable music collection, something he has been contributing to since 1955. The endless stacks of vinyl records, however, have been mostly replaced with thousands of music CDs.

The original B100 Boogie machine console.

His first “machine” consisted of a mixer, two radio station turntables, two 10” reel-to-reel tape recorders, and a cassette player. He kept himself on the cutting edge of music and music players his entire life.

Dean’s history in Coronado dates back to 1962 where he played drums, keyboards and bass guitar in various high school bands (until 1972) before starting his mobile music business.

Dean worked as manager for Joey’s Café (and pizza delivery service) in the mid-late 1960s. When the Coronado Chart House opened, in 1968, Dean was their opening prep man.

Dean Atkinson, playing his final set of music last month at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 2422, in honor of the Coronado High School Class of ’68. Photo by Joe Ditler.

As the years have gone by, Dean is proud of his work, and the pleasure he has brought tens of thousands of people with his custom-made soundtracks.

“I guess you could say I’m retired,” said the entrepreneurial entertainer. “But music continues to play a huge role in my life. I can’t imagine a day without a music soundtrack.”


Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler
Joe Ditler is a professional writer, publicist and Coronado historian. Formerly a writer with the Los Angeles Times, he has been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and Europe. He also owns Part-Time PR (a subsidiary of Schooner or Later Promotions), specializing in helping Coronado businesses reach larger audiences with well-placed public relations throughout the greater San Diego County. He writes obituaries and living-obituaries under the cover "Coronado Storyteller." To find out more, write or call [email protected], or (619) 742-1034.

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