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The madcap musical legacy of DJ Mad Mike Metrovich

November 14, 2008 | 11:11 am

Mad_mike On Oct. 31, 2000, aging Pittsburgh DJ and consummate iconoclast Mad Mike Metrovich broadcast his final Halloween show -- his favorite holiday of the year -- went home and passed on into the great record hop in the sky.

Although his peak years were between 1964 and 1967, he had accumulated a legion of die-hard fans that remained with him to the end -- and beyond, as evidenced by Norton Records' new three-volume tribute to the man, the DJ and the legend, “Mad Mike Monsters.”

“He was  the ultimate Norton demi-god,” says Norton honcho Miriam Linna, whose label has long championed obscure but noteworthy American roots music, from rockabilly to soul and R&B. “He was obsessed with records. He shared them, but only enough to make you crazy wanting a copy.”

In his heyday, Metrovich spun records at off-the-radar Smokey City radio stations, headlined record hops for dance-crazy teens and collected 45s by the truckload. As the kooky DJ is quoted in the liner notes of the new tribute, “I walk through stacks of records and I hear voices. The records are calling out to me, ‘Play me! Play me!’ These things haunt me and I have nightmares.”

Known for defacing and hiding information about his finds to keep the records exclusive, Metrovich issued a series of compilation LPs in the mid '60s titled “Mad Mike Moldies,” which featured the DJ's grinning face on the covers. Those records are almost impossible to locate now, but thanks to Norton, modern listeners can get a dose of Mad Mike’s madness with more than 50 vintage, foot-stomping party cuts from such acts as the Sonics, Ronnie Cook and the Gaylads (whose “The Goo Goo Muck” was later covered by the Cramps), the Savoys, Corvettes and Big Danny Oliver.

Accompanying the lovingly designed albums (the vinyl versions are full-color gatefolds) are more than 30,000 words of bio notes, featuring interviews with fans, critics and the fearless DJ himself. Mad Mike’s favorite holiday may be past us, but the music he championed sounds good any time of the year.

--Jason Gelt