Danny Tenaglia will deliver a masterclass in DJing that can only come from someone with nearly 50 years of experience under his belt.


In 1976, at 16, Danny Tenaglia’s parents were okay with him playing his first DJ gig at the confusingly named Miami Lounge in Brooklyn. The caveat was that his older brother had to chaperone him, and he had to be home before 1 a.m.

While Tenaglia’s career began in New York at places like Miami Lounge and rollerskating rinks, it wasn’t long before he was spinning in the actual city of Miami, helping build its nightlife one set at a time.

When he takes over the decks of M2 nightclub on Saturday, December 16, as part of Ultra Music Festival’s Resistance winter residency, he’ll deliver a masterclass in DJing that can only come for someone with nearly 50 years of experience under his belt.

“I heard great things about the layout and sound system,” Tenaglia tells New Times from his New Jersey home. “I look at venues of this magnitude as indoor music festivals. It’s much bigger but can still be intimate. I think I can go somewhere I want to go.”

Tenaglia’s first involvement with Ultra occurred in 2005 when he hosted his “Be Yourself” tent featuring Steve Lawler and Timo Maas at the festival. Since then, he’s sporadically appeared on the lineup, bringing a blend of the old and new each time.

However, his Miami origin story goes back two decades before he played Ultra at a little club in South Miami called Cheers.

“A DJ who recently passed away, Frank Corr, moved to Florida and asked a friend of mine, rest in peace Tommy Moore, to help open Z in 1983-84. (Editor’s note: Club Z later became Mansion and is presently home to M2.) To this day, Cheers was the only club in South Miami that had a 6 a.m. liquor license.”



After Moore reached out, Tenaglia became the resident DJ at Cheers.

“I got an apartment around the corner, and I was there for five years,” he recalls. “They slowly took over another storefront and added a patio bar.”


After Warsaw Ballroom in Miami Beach became the go-to venue, Cheers eventually closed down, later becoming BT’s Gentlemen’s Club. Tenaglia stopped at the former Cheers space two months ago after a meal at Deli Lane Cafe & Sunset Tavern. While the layout somewhat remains the same, the place still packed an emotional wallop for Tenaglia.

“It was a sad era, too. A lot of people were dying. It was something you don’t really want to remember,” he remarks.

After debuting in Fort Lauderdale in 1986, Winter Music Conference moved to Miami the following year while Tenaglia was DJing at Cheers, allowing him to play all over the city and connect with artists, producers, music journalists, and other industry players.

“The regular crowd would come, and what worked for us at Cheers was that they could come to Cheers for three more hours when all the other clubs were closing at 3 a.m,” Tenaglia says. “I had them in the palm of my hand. Not at first — it took me a while.”


Tenaglia’s ability to germinate his sets with New York City house gems other Miami DJs didn’t have in their collection made him stand out from the pack.

“And back then, you couldn’t lose the crowd. You’d be out of a job. I would defer back to a Madonna or Whitney Houston record that would keep them there, but then I kept pushing the envelope and playing house music from New York and Chicago.”


Recently, Danny Tenaglia was diagnosed with early-stage colon cancer. However, his prognosis looks good.
Photo by Spencer Zabiela


His debut album, Waiting for a Call, was released on Atlantic Records in 1989, leading to calls for remixes and numerous releases on Tribal and Twisted Records. Tenaglia returned to New York in the ’90s to take on a residency at the revered club Twilo, located in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

While Tenaglia has seen a lot over the decades, a recent diagnosis of early-stage colon cancer has put past successes and tribulations into perspective. Thanks to early screening and treatment, Tenaglia’s prognosis is good, and he feels blessed while keeping an eye on the future

“The excellent news is that the tumor has responded to the treatments,” he shares. “It’s not fully gone, but I have an appointment for further screening.”

Next year, Tenaglia is dedicating considerable bandwidth to his Stax events. The concept brings ten literal speaker stacks to dance floors around the globe, acting as an homage to New York’s Paradise Garage.

“In March, we’re going to do another event and keep the sound system there so we can go for another night [at an undisclosed location],” he says. “One night will be more house-y, another night will be techno, and the last night will just be classics.”

Even at 63, Tenaglia still feels like a kid when he hops on the decks.


“To think back even before that and reflect is insane,” he says. “I’ve recently been going through my records and getting pulled by all these memories and emotions. As long as I keep doing these gids, I will always keep feeling like a kid.”


Danny Tenaglia. With Magdalena and Magit Cacoon. 10 p.m. Saturday, December 16, at M2, 1235 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-771-0388; resistancemiami.com