My last gig: DJ Terry ‘Kool T’ Spears: ‘Music means everything to me’

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DJ Terry “Kool T” Spears, 64, has been a DJ in San Diego since 1979 at venues across the county and has mentored an array of younger DJs. Prior to the pandemic, he was the “Sunday Fun Day” house DJ at Breakfast Bitch in Hillcrest. facebook.com/terry.k.spears

My last gig was March 15, 2020, at Breakfast Bitch, where I had performed every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It was a great weekly gig — the most fun you can have while eating great food on a Sunday morning or afternoon. People would dance at the front counter, in the aisles and at their tables.

I have at least 70,000 songs in my MacBook, and I always played my gigs by ear. At Breakfast Bitch, and at all my gigs, I’d do a diverse batch of music — hip-hip, funk, rock, pop, cha-cha, you name it. Some of my go-to artists at Breakfast Bitch were Megan Thee Stallion, Beyoncê, Bruno Mars, Frankie Beverly & Maze, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. I’d also play some San Diego artists, like Mitchy Slick, some classic old-school things, like Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up,” and some gospel stuff by Kirk Franklin, which people would sing along to. And I’d always play (the 2008 V.I.C. hit) “Wobble,” which got everybody moving.

The closer we would get to 3 p.m. at Breakfast Bitch, the saltier and spicier the music would get. The mood of the audience at my last gig there was normal. It was like a club where a lot of the same people came in each week, except it was during the day at a restaurant and there were little kids as well as adults. That last Sunday, some of the staff was saying: “This is the end of a good thing” and asking what was going to happen.

Then, bam! It was over, just like that. I thought: “It can’t be that serious, right?” Wrong. Everyone who worked at Breakfast Bitch was a team/family. The owners did their best with their takeout business. But no more parties there on Sunday.

When the city briefly allowed them to have limited indoor dining, we tried “Sunday Fun Day” one more time, but it was not the same. Having those plexiglass dividers, me being stuck in the corner by the Coca-Cola machine with my DJ rig, and the general vibe of knowing people were dying like crazy killed the party mood. And now Breakfast Bitch has closed (permanently) in Hillcrest.

That was not the only major gig of mine the pandemic knocked out. I was scheduled to DJ last April for the Robert Griffith Celebrity Charity Golf Tournament party at Sycuan Casino. And that was going to kick off “41 & Up,” a weekly club night for the grown up crowd.

I used to play birthday parties, quinceañeras, graduation events, baseball league banquets and a lot more, but those disappeared with the pandemic. I have two adult sons and two adult daughters, and — when they were growing up — I DJ-ed at all their schools, from kindergarten to high school. One of my sons, Terry Spears Jr., is a San Diego barber and he DJs under the name DJ PBT. We’ve done some gigs together.

I’ve been a carpenter since 1996, and I knew I could try to start doing a little more construction work to make up for the loss of my DJ income. But without those unemployment insurance checks coming in, I wouldn’t have made it.

A few years before the pandemic, I would play up to four or five gigs per weekend, then I cut back to four or five a month. With the shutdown, I’m missing a big part of my life. I want to do more gigs so bad. There’s a big part of me that is missing — talking to people, rubbing shoulders and high-fiving them, talking on the microphone between songs. For me, being a DJ is really spiritual and a little bit financial. The biggest loss is an emotional one.

Music means everything to me. It’s really like my religion. I like to play as many songs as I can that make people feel good. Now, the only way that I DJ is outdoors. People say: “Why outside? It’s cold. It’s hot.” I tell them: “No, it’s safe!”

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