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Chicago Music History: House Music

Disco died some time ago, but not before procreating. Disco was the sound of the late 1970’s, a mainly instrumental sound full of flare, and bell bottoms, and John Travolta movies that made people want to dance. In the latter part of that decade Chicago was taking the ideas of disco and constructing the new electronic noises and faster pulses over it to create the legendary House Music.

At 206 West Jefferson is a honorary street sign for Frankie Knuckles, who passed away earlier this year.
Photograph taken by Marcus Dayton Bailey

It was during this time that Francis Nicholls (aka Frankie Knuckles), a Brooklyn native, was making a name for himself at the Chicago club, The Warehouse (formerly at 206 W. Jefferson) . From 1977 to 1982 Frankie Knuckles progressed from playing 1970’s Philadelphia Soul to a new style of music that had no name. The amount of dance music in the late 70’s/early 80’s was dying out, so Frankie took the current soul records of the day, sped up the tempo, and added electronic percussion over it. It was then that House Music was berthed. It wasn’t until a bar owner put a sign in a window that said “We play house music” ( which referred to the soul and disco records of the 70’s) that House Music received it’s name. Another stronger theory of the name origin’s comes from Frankie Knuckles time at The Warehouse (wareHOUSE). Here’s a link to one of Frankie Knuckles early jams, called “Rain Falls”

By 1985 House Music had gained global recognition, and major labels were snatching up any House DJ they could find, such as: Ron Hardy and Steve “Silk” Hurley. By this time Frankie Knuckles, who was now known as “The Godfather of House” , was DJing at his own club called The Power Plant. By 1997, he received a grammy for his career long achievement. And in 2004 a stretch of Jefferson street in Chicago was named after him. House music is still as popular as it was 30 years ago and is synonymous with other Chicago stereotypes, like well dressed hot dogs and psychotic weather. For more information on House Music and its origins please click on the links below.

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