If you’ve been to a Baylor basketball or volleyball game the last few years, you’ve heard the music of DJ Batman. Anytime the pep band isn’t playing, he’s spinning the tunes that are spilling out over the PA system.
Well, spinning isn’t the right word anymore. When Batman — whose real name is James Lewis — began his career as a DJ in 1988, music was only available on vinyl albums, so he had a set-up of two turntables and many crates of records. When he would provide music at a big party or concert, it would take more than three hours to get all his equipment and music unloaded and arranged. That time was cut down a bit with the advent of CDs, and now his set-up time is down to about an hour since all his music is on a laptop computer. In fact, he can carry his entire music system in a backpack.
“I’ve got over 200,000 songs” at my fingertips, Batman said.
“I was born in that era where I was right there with the old school and progressed into rap,” said Batman, who is 56 and graduated from La Vega High School in 1982. “And at La Vega, I was hanging out with some guys who listened to country, guys who listened to rock, so I learned to love country, and I love rock and everything.”
The ability to bounce from genre to genre comes in handy when he’s DJing Baylor games at the Ferrell Center. Prior to the start of the game, before the crowd is in the arena, he plays what the athletes want, what gets them pumped up, and that’s rap and hip-hop. But he’s careful to play the family-friendly versions of the songs, that are “super-clean.” When the doors to the Ferrell Center open and fans come in, he’ll switch to some older music but still keep it cranked up pretty loud.
Batman owes his Baylor career to Brittney Griner, the Lady Bears 6-foot-9 phenom. When Griner joined the Baylor team in 2009, fans started getting to the games early to watch her dunk. After her final season in 2013, Baylor was looking for a way to entice people to still arrive early for games, and the idea of having a DJ playing music was hatched. Actually, the idea had been formed when Baylor played longtime national powerhouse UConn at a neutral site, an arena that featured a DJ.
In addition to DJing at Baylor games, Batman does music at parties and concerts and works several shifts a week at 94.5 FM The Beat radio station. As if that’s not enough to keep him busy, he works the overnight shift at FedEx and referees high school football and basketball games. Batman previously worked in education for 27 years, beginning as a physical education teacher at Lake Air Elementary School and ending up as a truant officer at Waco High School, where the students — who knew him from dances he worked — called him “Mr. Batman.”
“I improved the attendance of some of those kids,” Batman said, “because I wasn’t going to let them in a dance of mine if they hadn’t been in school.”
The Forbidden Song
Since he began his DJ career 31 years ago, there’s been only one song that Batman has refused to play.
The song was “Laffy Taffy,” a 2005 hit by the Atlanta hip-hop group D4L. “Every DJ I knew refused to play this song,” Batman said. “One guy said his radio station manager threatened to fire him if he didn’t get the song in the mix, and he said it might be better to just lose his job.
“I eventually had to play it because at the dances every kid would come up and say, ‘Can you play that “Laffy Taffy” song?’”