Haymond Van Allan Clay is a man with a passion for music, a larger-than-life personality, and the energy to entertain.
He’s known to his fans by many aliases — DJ Al, The Night Al, Altastic —but I know him as The Golden Voice.
Whatever you call him, his combination of charm and passion has propelled DJ Al to popularity since he started working as a DJ in 2004.
Al grew up in a military family, and lived in Japan for a good part of his childhood, into his teens.
“One of the first moments that I found I had talent is when my mom was singing in the car when I was a young child,” he said. “I just started singing harmony, as she looked back in amazement.”
Al’s family noticed his talent — and his fondness for Elvis Presley, whose portrait he has tattooed on his arm — when he put an Elvis track on the family’s Pioneer Laserdisc Karaoke system and started singing in the basement.
Later on, Al left Japan and moved to Wisconsin, where he worked as a bartender and hosted karaoke at a local Moose Lodge.
He moved to Florida in 2001, and started hitting the bars and singing karaoke at places such as Rizzo’s Tavern in Orange City.
In 2004, at Dale’s Ales in Orange City, Al met Cale Capps, a disc jockey and owner of Shogun Entertainment Enterprises. Capps offered Al an opportunity to substitute as a karaoke host.
The bar patrons told Capps that Al did a fantastic job, and Shogun started offering him other karaoke gigs around town.
The rest is history. DJ Al now has a full schedule entertaining, singing and giving others a chance to sing all around Volusia County.
I met him at The Inn Between, 2486 Old New York Ave. in DeLand, for his Tuesday-night show that starts at 9 p.m.
The Inn Between is a dive bar near DeLand’s Amtrak station. The drink prices are great, and it’s a good place to have a fun night out outside of Downtown DeLand.
DJ Al pulled up in his van, and regulars and fans at the bar offered to help him bring in his equipment, including speakers, a computer, a karaoke screen, and all the other necessities for a successful karaoke night.
As he got set up, the bartenders knew to get his drink of choice — Goldschlager on the rocks — before the show.
He turned on a microphone, and the magic began.
“Ladies and gentlemen, coming at you live, welcome to Tuesday nitro at The Inn Between. Make sure to take care of your beautiful bartender: super sexy Sha-nae-nae,” Al said in his energetic voice.
Shogun Entertainment supplies DJ Al with an extensive binder of almost any song imaginable. Guests thumbed through the tome, looking for what they wanted to sing, and filling out slips with their names and preferred songs.
One by one, throughout the night, singers took to the mic and did their best to re-create their favorite songs in their own voices.
A few years ago, I took Al to Rising Star, a karaoke bar at CityWalk in Orlando, for his birthday. He stole the show singing Billy Joel’s 1980 hit “You May Be Right,” and received a standing ovation.
I gave Al the nickname “GV,” or Golden Voice, for his ability to sing almost any style of song in harmonic perfection.
At Al’s events, singers run the genre gamut from country, rap, rock and soul, to whatever genre is out there. They sing their hearts out, but some people are not blessed with the gift of a golden voice. Often, liquid courage helps people have fun nonetheless.
Back in the day, Al nicknamed me “LG,” or Lyrical Genius, for my ability to freestyle rap and speak whatever comes to my mind on the microphone.
At The Inn Between, I was called to the stage, and rapped Dr. Dre and Eminem.
The karaoke slips started to pile up. Sometimes, customers struggle to understand why they have to wait to sing.
“Patience is a virtue in this line of work,” DJ Al said.
Still, the freedom that a microphone in your hand gives you as you perform your favorite song is therapy for some people.
DJ Al is a talented, personable, fun and exciting disc jockey. You’ll find him at a variety of restaurants and bars, and he does private events, as well.