Renowned DJ and music producer Teresa Kaye Bristol, aka Teri Bristol, died Sept. 25 in Beechgrove, Tennessee of kidney failure, following an over three-year battle with the disease. She was 66.
Bristol was born Dec. 26, 1956, in Joliet, where she lived with her parents, Bob and Bettie, older brother Tony and younger brother Michael. They moved to Nashville in 1957 where they lived for the next eight years. The family returned to Illinois in 1965 and lived in the small town of Justice adjacent to Chicago. Bristol graduated from Argo Community High School in Summit in 1975.
For the next seven years, Bristol worked in various jobs including as a waitress at Chuck Mueurs in Old Orchard Mall in Skokie; food prepper at Va Pensiero in Evanston; hairdresser-receptionist at Hair Performers in La Grange; and as a cab driver when she lived in near Naples, Florida.
In 1982, while Bristol was working as a cocktail waitress at Celebrity Club, across the street from O'Hare Airport, she was told to go into the DJ booth and play records, despite never having done this before. She was a natural talent right away. Some patrons that night told her she was better than the regular DJ, and should be doing that as her primary job.
During a 2012 interview with Jacob Arnold, Bristol described that first time DJing: "I had a ball watching everybody dancing. I thought it was fun. They liked what I did so much that they fired him and they hired me, and that's how I got started DJing."
Bristol also said in that same Arnold interview of her love of music, "If you tell me something, I won't remember it. If you sing it to me, I'll never forget it."
Shortly after DJing that first time, her now longtime friend and future DJ partner Valerie Scheinpflug, aka DJ Psycho-Bitch, took her to the famous after-hours teen club Medusa's on Chicago's North Side, so Bristol could get a taste of the music scene there and overall city life. Bristol's first DJ job in Chicago was at Punchs, adjacent to The Baton.
In 1985, Bristol and Scheinpflug decided to team up as DJ partners, spinning tunes at Medusa's while living together in a small apartment inside the club. Additionally, Bristol did solo DJ gigs at Limelight, the Orbit Room, Smart Bar and InnExile in the late '80s.
Bristol also founded the Sunday LGBTQ+ night GLEE Club (Gay, Lesbian, Everyone's Equal) in 1993 that brought many people into Crobar. She and Scheinpflug spun together there from 1995-2002. They put on a regular show called Interactive Saturdays, which saw 2,000-3,000 people in attendance each week.
According to Scheinpflug, "We played so well together as a seamless duo that people used to say they didn't know when one of us stopped and the other one started."
In the '90s and 2000s, they DJ'ed at numerous bars and clubs including Cairo, Crobar, Hydrate, Karma, Ka-boom!, Roscoe's Tavern, Shelter, Smart Bar, Spin, the Mission, Transit and Vortex.
Bristol expanded her DJ'ing reach often, spinning tunes at the Wavefront Music Festival, Taste of Randolph and Milwaukee's Pride celebration. She also played in almost all 50 states, Mexico, Poland, Puerto Rico and Switzerland.
Her radio career included a show called Sonic Boom on Chicago's WKQX Q-101 and she was a resident on what was then XM Satellite Radio in the early 2000s.
Additionally, Bristol branched out into music production and remixing in 1992 with DJ Mark Picchiotti. She also did solo music production and remixing via her Puddin-Tree Productions. Bristol also produced records and mixes of other artists work via the Live, Metalworks and Strictly Rhythm labels as well as collaborated with Scheinpflug on two mix CD's for Master Dance Tones.
Bristol worked as a reporter for Billboard and co-wrote the Gay Chicago music scene column from 1989 to 1990. Gay Chicago also gave her the magazine's Best DJ award in 1987.
When Bristol moved to Tennessee in 2017 to be with her parents, she continued to DJ until her health issues got too acute.
Bristol is survived by her parents Bettie and Bob Bristol; brother Michael (Anita) Bristol; Aunt Ofelia Bristol; and nieces and cousins. She was preceded in death by her older brother Tony Bristol; other aunts and uncles; and nephews Jake and Alex Spicer.
Longtime friend and former girlfriend Jenny LaPorte said, "The moment I first laid eyes on Teri, she became the love of my life. There was a warmth, a kindness, a childlike sense of wonder and a sincerity in her smile that I was simply unmatched. I actually stalked her for a short time before eventually earning her trust and her love. We spent seven absolutely flawless years together. Ultimately our love for one another evolved into something even more special and for twenty six years, Teri was my best friend, my biggest supporter and my whole heart. She helped me through the darkest and most difficult moments of my life with a patience and an unconditional love I never knew possible."
Scheinpflug said of her longtime friend and DJ partner, "Teri used to tell me the answer to every question is love. She had a huge heart, a warm smile and a beautiful soul. The reason Teri and I became DJ's was simple … we wanted to touch people through the music. Teri accomplished that in a huge way … globally"
Longtime friend Heather Robinson, aka DJ Heather said, "She was a pioneer in every sense of the word. Responsible for bringing a lot of joy to so many. Her kindness transcended her skill as a DJ and producer. I am blessed to have known her and grateful that she set an example for artists like me in Chicago and all over the world. She will be dearly missed."
Another longtime friend, Darlene Jackson aka DJ Lady D said, "To know Teri was to love her. She was always one to welcome you with warm arms and give sound advice, not to mention her sense of humor. I was so lucky to have had her in my life. … We will miss her."
Shannon Dayhota Lalongo aka DJ Dayhota said of her longtime friend, "In the 90's you couldn't walk into a club and not get to experience the sounds of Psycho Bitch and Teri Bristol. These two women were the first ever I had seen DJ. Eventually as time went on, and I caught the DJ bug, I got to play in various clubs throughout the city with these two reigning queens of the decks. I was blessed to grow up in that scene with great shero's like these two women."
Another fellow DJ and longtime friend Ralphi Rosario called Bristol "legendary and most of all Inspirational. Teri Bristol helped paved the way for so so many Chicago based DJs, including
myself. She spun an amazing web of DJ residencies all over Chicago. She told her story musically; every week/weekend. A talent that is now missed; gone but never ever forgotten."
Bristol's funeral has already taken place in Nashville. A Chicago-based celebration of life is currently being planned. Details TBA.