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Francis Grasso (1948 - 2001)

Related: disco - New York music - The Sanctuary - DJ - Klute - (1971)

Francis Grasso, who used to DJ at The Sanctuary in Manhattan, is considered the first modern DJ because "before him the DJ might have known that certain records had the power to affect the mood and energy of the crowd; only after him did the DJ recognise that this power belonged to him, not to records. It lay in the skilful DJ's manipulation of the dancers, in the way he sequenced or programmed records, and only to a far lesser degree in the records themselves."

Francis Grasso behind the turntables


Francis Grasso was an American disc jockey from New York City, best known for inventing the technique of slip-cueing and later beatmatching which is the foundation of the modern club dj's technique. Francis started his DJ career in 1967 at a New York City nightclub called Salvation II. When the primary DJ Terry Noel failed to show up on time, the owners offered Francis the job. It was there and at subsequent New York City clubs such as Tarots and his most famous nightclub, Sanctuary (featured in the movie Klute) where Francis perfected his craft. Though he died in March of 2001, the skills and techniques he pioneered remain the foundation of what you will hear in a modern nightclub. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Grasso [Aug 2006]


Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001 16:48:24 -0800
Subject: francis grasso
From: bill brewster

I got an email from a friend of Francis Grasso this morning telling me that,unfortunately, he passed away last weekend. He was found in his apartment,alone, with his cat, Abbra, and dog, Dante, on 18th March, though no-one is sure yet how long he had been there. The cause of death is not yet known, but he had been having a difficult time in the last period of his life. It's a very sad end to one of the most remarkable lives in the history of the DJ and worth emembering that when Francis invented what we now know as the modern DJ, he was doing it because he loved music and not because he ever expected to earn vast sums of money. There are many people with a lot less talent who have become considerably wealthier than Francis could ever have hoped to.

His mother Mary has organised a cremation service for today (23rd March), but I though this would be a chance for some of you to remember a genuine pioneer. Tragically, it would have been his 53rd birthday this Sunday March 25th.

From: "Richard C"
To: jahsonic@yahoo.com
Subject: DJ Pioneer Legend Francis Grasso passes away 3/20/01
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 23:13:40 -0000

DJ Pioneer Legend Francis Grasso passed away 3/20/01, three days before he was found in his home.
Other interesting facts: Francis Grasso was a good friend to Jimi Hendrix, dated Liza Manelli, was engaged to a Playboy Bunny, and other famous friends included Jackie O, Truman Capote, Calvin Klein, Andy Warhol, etc...remarkably he remained very down to earth.
The Maestro Documentary staff is pleased to have been able to work with him prior to his death, and have shot the only motion footage of him in existence. He always wanted his story told as he is the unsung hero of dance music, and he was extremely excited to work with us. We are proud to have Francis choose as his story tellers.
We have posted a tribute to Francis on our official site http://www.maestro-documentary.com, where you may learn more about his fascinating life. He will not be forgotten.
RIP Francis Grasso,
Richard Costescu
Maestro PR Director


White DJ Francis Grasso invented the technique of `slip-cueing': holding the disc with his thumb whilst the turntable whirled beneath, insulated by a felt pad. He'd locate with an earphone the best spot to make the splice, then release the next side precisely on the beat...His tour de force was playing two records simultaneously for as long as two minutes at a stretch. He would super the drum break of 'I'm a Man' over the orgasmic moans of Led Zeppelin's `Whole Lotta Love' to make a powerfully erotic mix...That anticipated the formula of bass drum beats and love cries...now one of the cliches of the disco mix." (Referring to DJ Francis Grasso at the Sanctuary) New York in the mid-seventies, from Disco by Albert Goldman. Also referred to in "Behind the Groove," by Steven Harvey, in Collusion #5.


I had such power at that time that two female friends of mine came to visit. They were just friends, at two o’clock in the morning, a weekday night, and I had James Brown Live At The Apollo on, 25 minutes and 32 seconds, and I said if you don’t let them in, you better get somebody up there to change that record. So after about five minutes of this stalemate, they let them in. Jane Fonda filmed the movie Klute there. She had a big argument with Seymour and Shelley because they wouldn’t permit lesbians in the club. I’m the disc jockey in the movie, and I had like three weeks work, doing the whole thing. It was fascinating to watch. Only thing is I was doing double duty, I was showing up at the movie set at 7.30, driving home, to Brooklyn, walking my dog, shave and showering, going back to work, till 4 o’clock in the morning. It took its toll.


"Back then, you couldn't adjust the speeds. You had to catch it at the right moment. There was no room for error. And you couldn't play catch up. You couldn't touch the turntables. I had Thorens, and you couldn't do that on Thorens. All you had to do was start at the right moment. Nobody mixed like me. Nobody was willing to hang out that long. Because if you hang out that long, the chances of mistakes are that much greater. But to me it was second nature. I did it like I walk my dog."


  • http://ped111251.tripod.com/francis.htm includes profiles on Phil Dickerson, Francis Grasso, Rick Squillante and Stuart Gardner.
  • http://www.rhino.com/features/liners/75595lin5.html

    Klute (1971) - Alan J. Pakula

    1. Klute (1971) - Alan J. Pakula [Amazon.com]
      Jane Fonda came into her own with this Oscar-winning performance as an insecure high-class call girl who can't make it as a legitimate actress or model yet can't give up her addiction. She loves the control too much. But when she's stalked by a killer, she's forced to confront the darker aspects of her nature and profession. It's a complex and authentic performance and Fonda plays it cool and smart. Typical of early '70s films, Klute peels away social inhibition and hypocrisy with precision and candor. It's also typical of director Alan J. Pakula's intelligence and ability to work so well with actors. Donald Sutherland plays John Klute, the vulnerable detective trying to determine if his missing friend is the stalker and sexual deviant. This is the kind of moody, character-driven film so many of us miss today, even if the plot is pure hokum. --Bill Desowitz for amazon.com [The Sanctuary is also shown in a movie - 1971's 'Klute' , where you can see Grasso in action for a couple of seconds.]

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