Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs through high school, Jay played sports like tennis and basketball, as well as played baritone horn in the band. In 1970, Jay graduated after four years at Washington University in St. Louis, studying Architecture.
After college, Jay worked in urban planning and graphic design in San Francisco, Baltimore and ended up in DC in the mid-70s. In DC, Jay worked as a graphic designer, while developing a part time interest in DJ’ing. By the late 70’s Jay secured some small venue gigs. As his interest in DJ’ing grew, he joined DJ Eardrum’s Tables of Distinction, a DC record pool. Jay enjoyed DJ’ing so much that he decided to learn more about the music business. He traveled often to NYC to record shops and attended clubs like Better Days and the Paradise Garage. In DC, Jay became a member of the legendary Club House. Having little understanding of the industry in the early 80s, Jay started to attend the yearly New Music Seminars in NYC, to learn as much as he could and meet people. Around 1980 Jay moved back to Baltimore working as a graphic designer for Baltimore City’s Department of Planning. He also continued to DJ at some influential House parties and ended up head DJ at a small club in Baltimore (Hats).
Pursuing his growing interest in the music business, Jay, working with Club House DJ Mandrill, began to develop an idea to syndicate a morning mix show/workout for R&B radio. He managed to secure the help of a prestigious music lawyer in NYC who gave him a lot of support. Jay also took a studio engineering class at Sheffield Studios, outside of Baltimore. In pursuit of producing this radio show, Jay began to collect equipment and create a small studio in his basement. As the studio developed, DJ friend Thommy Davis and Jay began to experiment in the new studio. They developed tracks that they could exclusively play at their gigs. Thommy’s friend, record store co-worker and DJ Teddy Douglas, joined them in the studio. There was no plan, just three friends having fun creating exclusive tracks to play at their own gigs. The radio project fell through the cracks after, quite by chance, a cassette tape of one of our tracks fell into the hands of Cynthia Cherry, A&R for Jump Street Records in NYC. While working at Baltimore City’s Department of Planning, one day, out of the blue, Cynthia called Jay at work. Within a few weeks, Teddy, Thommy and Jay drove to NYC to meet Cynthia. As the saying goes, the rest is history. Not only had they suddenly become producers, their first record featured Basement Boys as artist (“Love Don’t Live Here” one hit wonders as artists). In 1986, they became incorporated and officially became Basement Boys Inc..
After their 1991 international hit “Gypsy Woman” by Crystal Waters, produced by the Basement Boys (all in Jay’s basement studio), Jay was able to leave his job at the City of Baltimore and make Basement Boys a full-time endeavor (as did Teddy and Thommy). Thommy, around this time, decided to pursue a different career direction, leaving Teddy and Jay to continue with an ever growing lineup of work.
In 1993 the Basement Boys bought a building in their downtown Baltimore neighborhood of Seton Hill and built a state of the art recording studio. As the music business was changing in the mid 2000s, the Basement Boys started their own underground dance label. As our run with major label projects evaporated, the studio overhead became too much to handle. Just before the recession of 2008, they sold the studio and regrouped. Teddy continues to produce records for Basement Boys Records, using local studios. Jay continues handling business and graphic design tasks for Basement Boys Records and Publishing Company.
Jay and Teddy continue the Basement Boys legacy, as we continue releasing records on our label, working with other labels, and maximizing our publishing company.
GO BANG! Magazine: When and how did you first get an interest in the DJ’ing and the music industry?
Jay Steinhour: I really started to DJ in about 1974. I got interested because I enjoyed going to the club, and had an ear for good music. So it wasn’t long before I wanted to be the DJ, programming the music. By the late 1970s, I was playing in a few DC clubs (as a part time gig) and joined Eardrum’s record pool in DC (Tables of Distinction). As I became more involved in my side job of DJ’ing, I started to learn more about the music industry. In the early 1980s, I started going to the New Music Seminars every summer in NYC to learn more about the industry and meet people.
GO BANG! Magazine: What influence, if any, do you feel you have brought to House music and how has House music influenced you?
Jay Steinhour: Not sure it is my place to judge what Basement Boys have brought to House music. But, from my perspective, I feel we brought a lot of soul to House music. We always tried to incorporate live instrumentation and soulful vocals in practically everything we produce. I love House music (along with other genres like jazz, soul, and R&B), it is such a misunderstood genre of music. It is energetic, uplifting, often soulful, and you can dance to it, how primal is that!
GO BANG! Magazine: You’ve had the opportunity to travel around the world, in the name of House. How would you describe House’s acceptance in other countries, in comparison to here in the States?
Jay Steinhour: I have traveled some, in our early years as producers. I was slowly retiring from DJ’ing, leaving that to my superstar partner Teddy. My skills could not stand up to those of Teddy or our other original partner Thommy Davis (both outstanding DJs). Though on one trip to London, near my retirement from DJ’ing, I got to play a set in the bar of the Ministry of Sound. It was a high point in my DJ career. But to answer your question, from my perspective, as most of my travel was only to London and Paris, House music seemed much more accepted overseas, especially in London. It’s not a big surprise.
GO BANG! Magazine: When did you know that you wanted to be a composer/producer?
Jay Steinhour: I started to know in the late 70’s as I started to play with the studio equipment and utilize modern sampling techniques to create ideas. I do not feel I could be a totally independent composer/producer, but what I do can contribute to a creative team. Starting off as more of a tech guy, it was in the context of that niche, where my creativity intertwined with others. Teddy is definitely more of the concept guy, the creative source of what we do.
GO BANG! Magazine: You’ve accomplished great success as a composer/producer. You’ve worked with many icons in the music industry as well, including Diana Ross, Crystal Waters, Byron Stingily, Lady Alma, Ultra Nate, Tony Humphries, and many more. Please describe what it felt like to compose/produce songs for artists of this high caliber?
Jay Steinhour: Well it has just been amazing. Someone like Crystal Waters, we basically discovered her, and our collaboration was very successful. The same can be said with Ultra Nate, who was our first discovery as producers/song writers. It is always exciting creating and working with other creative people, icons or not. It is such a high honor to work with people who are at such a high level. It feels rewarding to be working with successful artist, who you look up to and are fans of.
GO BANG! Magazine: After working with those artists over the years, are there any other artists, current or classic, that you would love to work with?
Jay Steinhour: I have to leave that question up to Teddy. It is always so exciting to work with other creative people, and there are so many who would be great to work with. I would hate to start rattling off names.
GO BANG! Magazine: The Basement Boys currently consists of yourself and Teddy Douglas. How did you guys meet, why did you decide to form a company, and why name it Basement Boys?
Jay Steinhour: As I started to build a home studio, Thommy Davis, our former third founding member, and I were both DJs and friends. Thommy was a good friend of Teddy’s, so he decided to bring him around. Both Thommy and Teddy were record salesmen, so I knew Teddy from the record store. The three of us got together, not really thinking of starting a production company. We were three DJ friends creating tracks we could play in the club. We had no idea, until Cynthia Cherry, A&R at Jump Street Records in NYC, heard one of our rough tracks and asked what we wanted to do with it. We were not shopping for a record deal, it is a long story how she got a hold of the tape. One day she called me, out of the blue, at my job at the City of Baltimore. On our drive to NYC to meet Cynthia, we decided we needed to have a name. Many were batted around the small car we were in. Since our studio was in my basement (besides our music was kinda underground), and of course we were all boys, Basement Boys just seemed to resonate. That is what it had to be, it was unanimous. I designed our logo. As our first record deal with Jump Street proceeded, we started to have a vision of becoming a production company. To do business, you have to become legit and form a company. Through other contemporaries in NYC, we found a good music lawyer who was heavily involved with dance music creators and who was key in making many important business decisions.
GO BANG! Magazine: Having two international music industry moguls working together has got to be an exciting venture. How does the individual notoriety of each of you complement each other and enhance your business?
Jay Steinhour: We have been in business over 30 years, an especially long time for a creative partnership in the music business. Just as your question implies, we complement each other. We are on the same wave length, when it comes to taste in music and musical goals. I greatly respect Teddy’s musical creativity, as well as he respects my musical taste and the skills I bring to our business. We work well as a team and have mutual respect for each other. I also do the promotional videos.
GO BANG! Magazine: What are the Basement Boys currently working on?
Jay Steinhour: I will also leave this question for Teddy, as the creative director it is his agenda as to what we are working on. He can best describe our current projects.
GO BANG! Magazine: In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has caught the world off-guard. How are you dealing with it?
Jay Steinhour: Four years ago I moved to DC, and Teddy stayed in Baltimore, his home town. I felt I could move to DC, where I wanted to live, as our roles had changed when we had to sell our studio. We are still close enough to meet at least once a month. The restaurant where we have our monthly meetings closed the day of our March meeting. Now we are doing everything virtually, and through the mail. The studios Teddy works in are also closed down due to the pandemic. Business goes on, but projects have ground to a halt with studios closed.
YOU CAN FOLLOW JAY STEINHOUR AND THE BASEMENT BOYS ON FACEBOOK: @Basement Boys
Pierre A. Evans is a freelance writer of Entertainment, Music, Art, Culture, Fashion and Current Events, and previously for SoulTrain.com, NDigo.com, ChicagoDefender.com, EmpireRadioMagazine.com, and UrbanMuseMag.com, an author, singer/songwriter, actor, model, poet, dancer, and DJ. He is also the Owner of Pinnacle Entertainment Productions and the Owner/Publisher of GO BANG! Magazine. Follow him on Facebook @Pierre Andre Evans, Twitter @Playerre, and on Instagram @Pierre_Andre_Evans.