Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale the “Godmother of House Detroit

Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale is Detroit’s first female of House Music,  she plays dance floor bangers and orchestral melodies with live music fusion.  She has played in legendary venues like the Apollo, Studio 54 and the Warehouse. Hale has performed in London, Ibiza, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Toronto and across the USA. She has been referred to as a “Detroit treasure” and is in the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville Tennessee.

At a young age, Hale discovered that she could record songs from the radio and her older brothers’ LPs and components to make reel to reel mixtapes. Back then it was close and play but “I didn’t like the silence so I would combine them into one continuous dance mix.”  Hale was forward thinking and choose this method to host and entertain basement parties.

At 17,  she went into the Chessmate, after hours club and coffee shop and heard two songs blending & mixed together.   “I climbed up the stairs, observed  2 turntables and a mixer. I  thanked them for letting me observe and the next day I went out and bought 2 turntables and a mixer and began practicing”. Hale got a job at Club Hollywood for $30 a night playing 12m-6 am.  It was predominantly a female after-hours club and would play to about 800 girls. In the late 70’s early 80’s Detroit’s icon, Ken Collier & her uncle vocalist Freddie Hughes taught her “Beat-matching” and the rest is herstory

Hale was discovered by Duncan Sound Company and she joined their team of 10 DJs that booked for events and clubs all around Detroit and surrounding suburbs.  An organization called the “Fun Time Society” introduced her to the mainstream her debut was at the Cleary Auditorium in Windsor Ontario.  There were other female DJ’s at the time but they were more like radio announcers playing a song and talking about the songs, Hale was unique and as she said “I was “Bringing the heat with emphasis on making them dance and sweat”

Other milestones for “Hotwaxx” were being hired at the Cheeks Club which was phenomenal because all the Who’s Who’ of Detroit was there, Tommy Hearns, Anita Baker, Rebe Jackson,  Vinnie Johnson Isaiah Thomas, movie stars, musicians and DJ’s from around the world all over would come Friday and Saturday Nights.

While working at the Cheeks she was going to school full time for Electrical Engineering at Lawrence Tech. In 1985 she beat out over 600 DJs in WJLB’s Motor City Mix Contest. She submitted two mixes one in a guy’s name and one in hers and both were selected. The finalist, which included rappers, played and performed at the Fox Theater and Hale was the overall winner claiming the 10K prize and amazing opportunities.

“I listened to the producer of the show Don Was of Was Not Was , and he stated “I was now a performer, not a DJ,” he said, “I want you to put that in your mind and act accordingly.” Hale admits “I was progressive and I would step outside the box but, I’d observed  my audience. To be successful you have to know what you are doing and adjust to what they want.”

Opportunities opened up like DJing on a TV show the New Dance Show and supplying radio mixes for Electrifying Mojo and WJLB. She became a Billboard reporter for 10 years and that opened doors everywhere. Hale produced mixes for Columbia Records, MCA, Mercury Records.  “Now I’m playing big clubs and I’m daring and on the cutting edge so I figured just because they haven’t heard a song it doesn’t mean I can’t play it, especially when I know it’s a hit”  After attending several  (WMC) Winter Music Conferences in Miami Hale & Detroit’s John Collins then started the (DRMC) Detroit Regional Music Conference to help expose local Detroit artists.

In the late 80’s early 90’s, Hale went to radio and was given her own show at WJLB, she was the first female to play house music on the radio in Detroit.  After she was told she reflected more energy in the club, WJLB’s MD started the live broadcasting in the Warehouse. Then she moved to the competition 96.3 and continued doing live broadcasts and travelling a lot.

Hale didn’t set out to be “the first woman” DJ who mixed or the “Godmother of House,” “I just did it because it was inside me and I love the music.” Hale has a passion for Jazz, Fusion, Funk and Rock and has shared the stage with superstars from all genres. When I asked her what moment when she knew she had made it, she responded: “When I was on stage at Pine Knob (DTE) performing with “Beyonce Destiny’s Child.” Juvenile & Mark Morrison.  Her music influences are Chaka Khan Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Louie Vega an American DJ, record producer and Grammy Award Winner.  She believes that “You can’t just be mediocre, you have to be on top of your game.”

Hale continues to play a major role in the Techno scene by blending house and techno with funk, hip hop and Motown soul creating a diverse, multi-age following.  She teaches DJing & production at SPIN INC., (DIME) Detroit Institute of Music Education, (GRD) Girls Rock Detroit, Give a Beat, Seraphine Collective and (DSA)Detroit Students of the Arts. She will be instructing at Girls Rock Windsor when they open this summer.

Besides radio shows and podcasts, Hale has also performed with her two bands her own “Nyumba Muziki“ which means house music in Swahili and Black Women Rock. BWR perform annually at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.  She is currently the Assistant Music Director/DJ performing in Jessica Care Moore’s “Black Women Rock” which has included, Divinity Roxx bassist for  Beyonce’s and B52’s bassist Tracy Wormworth, guitarist/songwriter Kat Dyson, vocalists Nona Hendryx, Kimberly Nicole, Steffanie Christi’an  and many more.

BWR has performed in Atlanta, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Detroit to name a few.  They play funk and soul and rock and pay homage to women like Funk Rock Diva “Betty Davis” (Miles Davies wife) who was considered a pioneer for women rock artists. Each year features 5 – 6 performers/ artists/ vocalist  using different women.

Hale has left her mark on the music by participating in the 1st  (DEMF) Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival  that later evolved into Movement the Electronic Music Festival held annually at Hart Plaza.  It is one of the largest and longest-running dance music events in the world. This techno adventure lasts 3 days attracting performers and an audience from around the world.  Hale was a Red Bull Radio host for the monthly show Generations and was a part of the week-long broadcasting before Movement.  She has also performs with Charivari Detroit a 3-day music festival and after-parties.  Hale created Sheometry Music and Arts Festival in 2019 featuring artists yet to be discovered with artists of international fame.  Predominantly females with a splash of men performing on the 2 stages and one of those stages is named after Ken Collier. In addition, she collaborated with Marrisa Guzman and release a single on the Juicy Lucy label in 2017, a project that strives to give young artists the tools to create music in a world where computers and music equipment are not accessible.

When I asked her how she managed to stay in music all these years and what advice she had for artists she said that keeping her day job in electrical engineering allowed her many opportunities in music, she could take opportunities and know that she still had security.  She still works at refurbishing homes, property management and is Super Host for Airbnb. “ I didn’t have to work so hard but it was always the passion of the music that kept me going.”

What impressed me the most about Hale is her commitment to family.  She chose to stay in this area to care for her mother and because of her love of the music history of Motown and her passion for the birthplace of Techno and its development here in Detroit. We talked about the gift of caring for others and teaching those around you the importance of generational care.  She spoke passionately about what an incredible experience sharing the end of life could be and the honor of being that special caregiver in someone’s life.

Stay tuned for “Girls Gone Vinyl” a documentary movie on female DJ’s featuring this activist and supporter of the arts, a true Detroit Icon and the “Godmother of House”

Author: Sherrilynn Colley-Vegh

Sherrilynn is an award-winning Community Leader and Influencer with over 30 years’ experience as an Educator, Administrator, Speaker, Author, Writer and Community Leader. She is the Director of Public Relations and Intern Liaison at ??? and Assistant Editor/Contributor for Music Player Magazine, and Leadership Columnist/Photo Journalist for Biz X International Magazine. Her experiences are broad including Entrepreneur, Chief Communications Officer, Leadership Consultant, Director of Leadership Development & Training, Music Manager and Public Relations Consultant and Education Administrator. Sherrilynn has developed and taught Leadership Programs and Administrator Qualification Programs for school boards, universities and the International Baccalaureate Organization. She has a Masters in Administrative Leadership from Wayne State University, three degrees from Canada and she has studied music management at the Detroit Institute of Music Education. Her passion is music and travelling to over 50 countries for music, business, education and service and she represents numerous Boards/Organizations including Founder of Girls Rock Windsor, Chair of 40 Leaders Under 40 and Vice-Chair of Build A Dream. Some of her awards include the prestigious Athena Award Windsor Essex Chamber of Commerce-Business Excellence Awards, 20 Women of Impact Award, Odette Community Leader Award - University of Windsor, Leadership Windsor-Essex Alumni of Distinction Award, Women of Windsor, and the Gloria Nane Award for Journalism and Service.

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