The NYC dance music pioneer left an indelible impact with his long-running party.
Born in Utica, New York, in 1944, Mancuso ran his private party The Loft up to the time of his death, while also coming up with the idea of the Record Pool and inspiring scores of selectors along the way.
After moving to New York City in 1962, Mancuso rented a loft at 647 Broadway near Bleecker Street. The size of the space allowed him to purchase two Klipschhorn loudspeakers, which he paired up with McIntosh amps and two turntables. This summer, Mancuso described this formative period to Red Bull Music Academy Daily, saying: "During this time, I would go out to rent parties. They were at someone's apartment, or somebody would throw an event, and it would be just to raise money for the rent. So I had this loft space on Broadway and in order to pay rent, I threw some parties between '65 and '70. It worked out really well. About half-a-dozen of them happened over that five-year period of time, even though I always say The Loft started in 1970."
His first official "The Loft" party, held on February 14th, 1970, was called "Love Saves The Day" and eventually went down every Saturday night, starting around midnight and running until the morning. By this point, the audiophile Mancuso avoided using the pitch control on turntables, preferring less components and high-end speakers to convey the musician's vision as opposed to the DJ's. Famously, records were not mixed at The Loft. The likes of François K, Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, Nicky Siano and David Morales were regulars at The Loft, which eventually led Mancuso to establish the New York Record Pool, acquiring promos from record labels for the qualified DJs in his circle.
Mancuso started up the pool after moving his operations to 99 Prince Street in SoHo. He ran the pool as a non-profit operation until 1978 before deciding to refocus on the parties and handing the DJ's record network over to Judy Weinstein. He continued to host The Loft on Prince Street until 1985, when skyrocketing real estate forced him into Alphabet City. In the '90s, reasonably priced downtown spaces became so scarce that he began to tour, limiting the NYC events to four to six a year. Speaking with Disco Music, he said: "I can't find the space and I don't have the resources like I used to… I've had offers that you can't believe, but there are catches to them and I can't give in to them. I'd rather take the subway and do without the Mercedes-Benz. I've known some of my guests for more than 25 years and I can't go away from that. The Loft parties are very personal, intimate thing. It's the thing that keeps me going in life."
The private party kept an egalitarian ethos at its core. "I want a situation where there are no economic barriers, meaning somebody who didn't eat that day or only has a few dollars in his pocket can eat like a king, drinks are included, you see your friends, Mancuso told Disco Music. "There's no difference if you have a lot of money or a little."
The Loft continues on. It was last held on October 9th, 2016. Though Mancuso hasn't been the DJ in a number of years, he still oversaw all aspects of the event. A pair of compilations released by Nuphonic in 1999 and 2000 attempted to capture the seminal's party sound.
Mancuso's longtime friend and NYC disco legend Nicky Siano broke the news of Mancuso's passing via Twitter.
After a great night, I got the worst news possible, goodnight the father of all dances, David Mancusso has left us.,.RIP my friend of 45 yrs— Nicky Siano (@NickySiano) November 15, 2016
For more on Mancuso, check out an excerpt of Tim Lawrence's new book, Life And Death On The New York Dance Floor, 1980-83.