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Frankie Knuckles (1955 - )

Related: house music - Chicago house music - interview

A Profile

Frankie Knuckles was born in the South Bronx of New York City on the 18th January 1955. He was the Dj from 1977 to 1982 at the Warehouse. It is widely accepted that his style of DJing and his selection and the appeal of the Warehouse gave house music its name, although in the beginning, the word 'house' was used only in Chicago to denote something which was cool, hip, fresh or bad. Frankie Knuckles had been long time friends with Larry Levan, they had had their musical upbringing together from going to clubs like Loft and the Gallery.

The Warehouse

Says Frankie: "When we first opened in '78, I was playing a lot of the East Coast records, the Philly stuff, Salsoul. By '80/81, when that stuff was all over with, I started working a lot of the soul that was coming out. I had to re-construct the records to work for my dancefloor, to keep the dancefloor happy, as there was no dance music coming out! I'd take the existing songs, change the tempo, layer different bits of percussion over them, to make them more conductive for the dancefloor." -- Greg Bowes for Electronic Mail & Guardian, August 14, 1997

Frankie Knuckles on the Loft

Frankie recalls the good old days: "The first club I ever went to was The Loft (David Mancuso's now-legendary private party); the first time I went there I wasn't sure what kind of crowd it was: at times it looked very straight, at others, very gay. At that point (in the mid Seventies), sexuality didn't mean a thing

How He Started DJing (1)

He got into DJing after being offered a job by Tee Scott, who he sees as one of the legendary DJs, and was further prompted into it by Larry Levan when they used to work together back in 1972/73 at a New York club called The Gallery which was owned by Nicky Siano.

How He Started DJing (2)

He first took to the turntables in the late Seventies, mixing up disco and funky soul at gay venues like Better Days and the Continental Baths, before moving to Chicago in the late Seventies for a residency at the Warehouse, where modern dance music reached a crucial turning point.

His Move to Chicago

TIMEWARP: Chicago, 1978. The Windy City is not exactly a dance music mecca. Like the majority of American cities still are today, Chicago was a rock and blues town. Plenty of live music and beer swilling bars, but not much in the way of dancing or clubs. A young DJ, newly arrived from New York, opens a club named The Warehouse, and will unwittingly change the lives of thousands of people in the late 80's and early '90s. That DJ was Frankie Knuckles.

Origins of the Word House

The rumour that the term "house" music is derived from the name of the Warehouse is probably not far from the truth, for it's almost certain that this is where - under throbbing strobes and among sweaty bare-chested men and the faintest whiff of amyl-nitrate - the trend found its feet.

"The term 'House Music' is derived from the club that the music stems from, 'The WareHouse', in Chicago. Between 1977 and 1983 it was presided over by DJ Frankie Knuckles [he moved there from New York City in 1977], where he played a mixture of underground Disco, Funk, Soul and classic Philly sounds to a loyal following of predominantly black, gay clubbers.

Use of Drum Machines

To enhance the music, and create new sounds, innovative ideas were employed such as playing a Roland 909 drum machine under old Philly records - thus emphasising the beats. He would also blend in rhythm tracks that he'd created on reel-to-reel tape recorders to link and boost the music"

Rap and Homophobia

[...] What hasn't changed is the gap between rap and house, an antipathy which exists between these two forms of soul music. [...] According to Frankie Knuckles, this goes to the core of attitudes towards gays, especially amongst the black community. "The fact that house got started in the gay clubs makes it tough for some of them to deal with it." This is about more than musical taste; for Frankie, it goes to the core of the future of minority groups in the US. And, ironically, it's rap, with all of its violence and too-frequent lapses into intolerance and homophobia, that has pushed things along.

Power Plant

Knuckles moved to another new venture in 1983, The Power Plant, which is situated on the north side of Chicago, and already a scene was beginning to emerge. [...]

Ron Hardy

Ron Hardy is the only man who can test Frankie Knuckles' status as the godfather of Chicago house music.Though he never recorded under his own name and left little evidence of his life, Hardy was the major name for Chicago dance music from the late '70s to the mid-'80s. By 1974, he had already effected a continuous music mix with reel-to-reel machines plus a dual-turntable setup at the club Den One. Several years later, Ron Hardy played with Knuckles at a club called the Warehouse and though he spent several years in Los Angeles, he later returned to Chicago to open his own club, the Music Box. While Knuckles was translating disco and the emerging house music to a straight, southside audience at the Power Plant, Hardy's 72-hour mix sessions and flamboyant party lifestyle fit in well with the uptown, mostly gay audience at the Music Box. A roll-call of major Chicago producers including Marshall Jefferson, Larry Heard, Adonis, Phuture's DJ Pierre and Chip E all debuted their compositions by pressing up acetates or reel-to-reel copies for Hardy to play during the mid-'80s. Lingering problems with heroin addiction forced him to leave the Music Box around 1986 and though he continued to DJ around the area, Hardy wasn't around when Chicago became house music's mecca later in the decade. He died in 1991. [...]


  1. Frankie Knuckles - Collection of Classics [Amazon US]
    Two cds, one disco, one house, the house one is not exceptional, the disco one is. Disco CD (mixed) 1. Convertion - Let's Do It 2 .Cheryl Lynn - You Saved My Day 3. Bumble Bee Unlimited - Love Bug 4. Positive Force - We Got The Funk 5. Tempest Trio - Do You Like The Way That It Feels 6. Sharon Redd - Can You Handle It 7. Billy Frazier & Friends - Billy Who? 8. Candido - Thousand Finder Man 8. Billy Ocean - Nights (Feel Like Getting Down) 9. Paradise - Change 10. George Duke - I Want You For Myself 11.Eumir Deodato - Night Cruiser 12. Nick Straker Band - A Little Bit of Jazz 13. Juggy Murray Jones - Inside America
  2. Frankie Knuckles - Motivation [Amazon US] [Nineties mixed album, haven't heard it yet]
    . Keep on Movin' [Original La Familia Mix] - Frankie Knuckles 2. Faith [Original M&M Mix] - Annette Taylor 3. Deliver Me [Original Mix] [Original Mix] - Michael Proctor 4. All Through Me [Original Mix]/Alright With Me [Marki's Sunday Vocal Mix - Bop Brothers 5. Walkin' [Grant Nelson's Divine Gospel Mix] - Adeva 6. We Are One [Original Mix] [Original Mix] - Bobby Pruitt 7. He Is the Joy [UBP Classic Dub] - Donna Allen 8. Higher [Journey to Heaven Mix] - Vernessa Mitchell 9. Father [Frankie Feliciano Remix] - Kenny O. Bobien 10. Hallelujah [Kaoz Club Mix] - Kerri Chandler 11. Pressure, Pt. 1 [Sound Factory Mix Revisited] - Sounds of Blackness

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