State of Sound

The sonic connection between Disco and House music is unique to Illinois.

During Disco’s powerhouse years of the mid-1970s, the Rhythm and Blues-influenced dance groove crossed over to fashion, nightclubs from Chicago to Peoria, and even Rock music. Gaudy outfits, orgasmic lyrics, layered synthesizers, and blow-dried hair made the genre’ an easy target for satire---none as remarkable as 1979’s Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park in Chicago. The promotion was sponsored by rock station WLUP-FM and hosted by popular on-air provocateurs Steve Dahl and Garry Meier. A small riot ensued, and the second game of the White Sox doubleheader was canceled.

This was the day commercial Disco died.

House music followed. Its beat was closer to the street and it defied any marketing. It was real. Frankie Knuckles, the late maestro of Chicago’s internationally known House music scene said that Disco Demolition meant nothing to him. He saw that record companies stopped signing Disco acts, so he created his own deal. House has a fast rhythm that is drenched in body movement and it’s  bass heavy nature punctuated Knuckles early samples of the Talking Heads, The Police, and others. The art of mixing in House music employed more effects and created a more trippy vibe than Disco.

Knuckles said, “House Music is Disco’s Revenge.” And without House, there’s no EDM (Electronic Dance Music.) Just like all powerful musical genres, House music continues to move forward with adventure and passion.

Featured Artist:
Frankie Knuckles

Play the Biography

 Biography Transcript

Frankie Knuckles

Frankie Knuckles, the godfather of house music, often referred to the genre he was credited with birthing as “Disco’s revenge.” Moving to Chicago from the Bronx in 1977, Knuckles first stop was a residency DJing at the Warehouse.

Although the Warehouse never actually played house music, it is reported that the title originated from a condensed version of the club’s name. Other clubs where Knuckles played including the Power plant, a club he started after leaving the Warehouse, are credited with starting the house music scene.

Frankie Knuckles went on to be one of the most sought after remixers working with many stars including Michael Jackson and Chicago’s own Chaka Kahn. Signing in 1988 with production company Def-Mix he went on to have great success as a producer and traveling DJ.

In 1998 he won the inaugural Grammy for Best Remixed Recording and in 2004 then senator Obama backed a campaign to have the location of the original South Jefferson Warehouse renamed Frankie Knuckles Way.

Frankie Knuckles died at the age of 59 in 2014 after some serious health issues. 

Artists of the Sound

Steve Silk Hurley
Earth Wind & Fire
Jamie Principle
Derrick Carter


Technics 1100A Turntable Used by Frankie Knuckles

Frankie Knuckles used this turntable in the Warehouse nightclub in Chicago during his career as a pioneer and innovator of House Music. Knuckles was considered a master at utilizing multiple turntables to create unique sound experiences.

Courtesy of the Estate of Frankie Knuckles
and the Frankie Knuckles Foundation

Technics RS-1520 Reel Tape Recorder Used by Frankie Knuckles

Frankie Knuckles was the Godfather of House Music. He used this tape deck in the Warehouse nightclub, a former three-story factory in Chicago’s West Loop widely considered to be the birthplace of House Music.

Courtesy of the Estate of Frankie Knuckles
and the Frankie Knuckles Foundation

Steve “Silk” Hurley’s Akai S 612 Sampler/MD280 Disc Drive

Pioneering House producer Steve “Silk” Hurley utilized this sampler for bass and keyboards early in his career, in the mid-1980s, including on Hurley’s hit song “Jack Your Body” and vocal samples on Ten City’s “That’s The Way Love Is.”

Courtesy of Steve
“Silk” Hurley

Stage Costume Jacket from Earth, Wind & Fire

This glamorous stage costume jacket was worn by a backing band member of Earth, Wind & Fire. One of the most iconic R&B and Disco artists, EWF came together in Chicago in 1969. Their music has evolved over the years as they continue to put on a show like no other.

Courtesy of The Rock & Roll
Hall of Fame 

Derrick Carter’s Numark PPD DJ Mixer and Digital Turntable

International superstar and master of underground House keyboards, Derrick Carter grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago. As a producer, remixer, and DJ, Carter used this 4-channel audio mixer control center early in his career. Originally, it featured two analog turntables, but he eventually updated to digital CD turntables like this CDJ-1000 digital turntable owned by Carter.

Courtesy of Derrick Carter

Enjoy this Sound?
Check out:

Social Links