The music from Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes was blaring and John Luciano, better known as DJ Johnny Looch, couldn’t contain himself any longer.

Bouncing up from his seat, Looch started dancing uncontrollably, at times singing along. He was mixing one hit after another, grooving, dancing, entertaining.

The 49-year-old Looch, an accomplished professional mobile disc jockey from South Philadelphia, was clearly in his element.

It was a Monday night in June and Looch was hosting a two-hour music show, live from his home, that could be seen via Periscope and heard on his website, Johnnylooch.com.

The music was what his audience mainly tuned in for, but Looch’s passion, enthusiasm, and deep skills carried the show. So what if he was off-key when he sang a line or two? That’s part of his charm.

And thanks to the pandemic, more people than ever have gotten to experience it. Which Looch never saw coming.

He had been an in-demand DJ for years, setting tones with tunes at weddings, parties, corporate parties, baby showers, bridal showers — you name the event, he’s programmed its soundtrack. His gigs kept him in heavy rotation, in venues like the Valley Forge Casino, Caesars Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, and every spot in between.

For the last four years, he had often hosted a Periscope show on Sundays and Mondays — the quietest days in the DJ business. He called it “Looch Radio — Radio like it used to be” — and broadcast it live from his home basement / studio. But the shows had never been more than something fun to do between DJ bookings.

Then came the COVID-19 quarantine. The bookings got canceled. And that’s when he decided to crank up Looch Radio.

For 89 straight days he deejayed the show Mondays through Saturdays, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The service was free — not that any price could rival the satisfaction Looch felt by filling the void the pandemic had created.

John Luciano, better known as DJ Johnny Looch, poses for a portrait along South Broad Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on June 25, 2020. Looch, a longtime DJ, did 89 straight shows on Periscope just to entertain people during the pandemic.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
John Luciano, better known as DJ Johnny Looch, poses for a portrait along South Broad Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on June 25, 2020. Looch, a longtime DJ, did 89 straight shows on Periscope just to entertain people during the pandemic.

His listeners went crazy for it.

“Love u for the tunes rock in Maryland,” wrote karenmarie227 in the comments section beneath the Periscope screen on that recent Monday evening, when 510 listeners tuned in (the overall number of viewers has since gone up, thanks to those watching the replays.)

“Johnny you are never tired,” marveled donedeal67.

“Jammin all over the house!!!!” said Abruzzi1.

And from rreed526, simply, “Looch is on fire.”

The grateful responses have meant the world to Looch.

“I get a little lump in my throat, seeing this social reaction,” he said. “Imagine, to possibly see that I help people get through the pandemic. It’s one of the most grounding moments in my life.”

The streak of 89 straight shows ended when Looch booked a deejay gig, but he was back on the air the following evening. His schedule is now beginning to fill up, but he said he’ll continue doing a few shows a week,

Looch, a lifelong Philadelphian who graduated from Central High and Drexel University, has been a deejay for more than three decades. He learned the trade from his uncle, Joe Abbruzzi, a former mobile disc jockey 14 years Looch’s senior. From the age of 12, Looch would tag along on Abbruzzi’s jobs, serving as his helper and taking it all in.

By the early 1990s, Abbruzzi’s business commitments kept growing and he stopped performing as a DJ, passing the torch to his nephew.

“Johnny was a student of the game from the beginning,” Abbruzzi said. “And his passion really shows.”

“I learned so much from him, especially weddings,” said Looch. “Any success I have had comes from what he taught me.”

In May of 1996, two years after graduating from Drexel with a business finance degree, Looch opened his own mortgage company, working full-time while continuing to deejay on the side. In 2009, when the market crashed, he decided not to renew his mortgage license and became a full-time DJ.

A lot has changed since the days when his uncle literally carried boxes of vinyl records from job to job (actually, Looch did most of the lifting). Looch keeps his own collection of music stored on a computer. He estimates he has more than 350,000 songs.

That inventory gives him versatility, which he believes has been the ticket to his success. In 2019 alone, for example, he booked about 120 jobs.

“I can do an 80th birthday party all the way to a 21st party,” he said proudly.

In fact, he’ll be handling the music at the upcoming 21st birthday party of his daughter Olivia, one of his four children.

John Luciano, better known as DJ Johnny Looch, poses for a portrait along South Broad Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on June 25, 2020. Looch, a longtime DJ, did 89 straight shows on periscope just to entertain people during the pandemic.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
John Luciano, better known as DJ Johnny Looch, poses for a portrait along South Broad Street in Philadelphia, Pa. on June 25, 2020. Looch, a longtime DJ, did 89 straight shows on periscope just to entertain people during the pandemic.

What still catches Looch off-guard is when he is recognized by strangers who tune into his show

“The show has enhanced my relevance,” he said. “I have heard from so many people who said it makes them happy.”

And that, in turn, has made the DJ happy.