As Marion County’s last remaining DJ, Duane McCarty knows how to break out of the mold.
A police officer in Marion, McCarty always has been a lover of music. His interest in being a DJ, however, began in 1987, when he thought he’d no longer be able to play bass guitar.
“I went four of five years thinking I’d never play bass,” he said. “It broke my heart.”
That figurative pain was brought on by a literal one. McCarty’s fingers had to be reattached after an accident while he was working as a mechanic,
Having lost lost the dexterity required to play bass, he was presented an alternate route to his musical passion when McCarty DJ’d a wedding. He and a friend then started working regular gigs.
McCarty still works one to two weddings a month and is a staple of Hillsboro’s monthly Main St. cruises.
“I don’t have to be good at an instrument to play George Strait,” he said. “But in a band I have to be good vocally, instrumentally, and mix-wise.”
Playing in a band taught McCarty about making a set list, starting with mellower songs like classic country and progressing to heavier music as the night continues and older audience members leave.
It also taught him which people in a crowd to listen to.
“Who’s paying me,” he said. “If this old man’s a cowboy that’s paying me, then I’m going to make sure I play a lot of cowboy music because the young people aren’t paying me.”
As time has worn on, McCarty has been able to resume playing bass, but it was a difficult road back.
“I forgot where notes were on the scale,” he said. “I had to relearn where notes were.”
Despite the industry’s many changes, working with sound equipment has stayed largely consistent over the years, he said.
Many of the same standards are there — checking for a steady bass, which gets people dancing, and treble as contrast.
“It’s probably just a knack,” he said. “It’s like how you can either sing or you can’t sing; you can adjust sound or you can’t adjust sound.”