Due to his importance in the development of the genre, he is often known as "The Godfather of House Music".
While studying textile design at FIT in Manhattan, Knuckles began working as a DJ, playing soul, disco and R&B at The Continental Baths with fellow DJ Larry Levan. When he became better known, he DJed at the club Better Days. When the Warehouse club opened in Chicago in 1977, he was invited to play on a regular basis. He continued DJing there until 1982, when he started his own club, The Power Plant.
It is possible that the term 'house music' surfaced in reference to the sounds played at the Warehouse by Knuckles. Initially it was a catch-all term to describe the wide range of music being played at the Warehouse. It soon became the word used to define the raw, drum machine based edits and tracks that Knuckles was playing in the early 1980s. Knuckles bought his first drum machine from a young Derrick May who regularly made the trip from Detroit to see Knuckles at the Warehouse, and Ron Hardy at the Music Box.
Knuckles also had a musical partnership with Jamie Principle, and helped put "Your Love" and "Baby Wants to Ride" out on vinyl after these tunes had been regulars on his reel-to-reel player at the Warehouse for a year.
As house music gained momentum, producer Chip E. took Knuckles under his tutelage and produced Knuckle's first recording, "You Can't Hide", featuring vocalist Ricky Dillard. Then came more production work, including Jamie Principle's "Baby Wants to Ride", and later "Tears" with Robert Owens (of Fingers, Inc.) and (Knuckles' protégé and future Def Mix associate) Satoshi Tomiie.
Knuckles left the Warehouse to start his own club, The Power Plant, in 1983. When the Power Plant closed in 1987, he DJed for 4 months at Delirium in the UK before moving to New York. He was the featured resident DJ at The World, and also had numerous subsequent residencies, including at The Choice club.
In New York, he immersed himself in producing, remixing and recording.
Knuckles did a number of popular Def Classic Mixes with John Poppo as sound engineer. Knuckles partnered with David Morales on Def Mix Productions. With several important original productions and remixes to his name, by the early 1990s, Knuckles was becoming a well-known name in the increasingly popular house music genre.
In 1991, Knuckles' debut album Beyond the Mix, released on Virgin Records, contained his biggest hit to date, "The Whistle Song". The Def Classic Mix of "Change" by Lisa Stansfield done around this period also featured the whistle like motif. Another track from the album, "Rain Falls" featured vocals from Lisa Michaelis. Key remixes from this time include his rework of the Electribe 101 anthem "Talking With Myself" and "Where Love Lives" by Alison Limerick.
As his productions and remixes were becoming more popular, and he was also breaking new ground. When Junior Vasquez took a sabbatical from Manhattan's The Sound Factory, he took over and launched a successful run as resident DJ until Vasquez made his return, at which point Knuckles became the resident DJ at The Sound Factory Bar. Knuckles remained part of the underground scene. Knuckles won the 1997 Grammy Award for Remixer of the Year, Non-Classical.
Knuckles continued to work as a remixer through the 1990s and into the next decade, reworking tracks from Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Diana Ross, Eternal and Toni Braxton. He released several new singles, including "Keep on Movin'" and a re-issue of an earlier hit "Bac N Da Day" with Definity Records. In 2004, he released a thirteen track album of original material - his first in over a decade, entitled A New Reality, which was critically well received. In October 2004 "Your Love" appeared in the videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, playing on house music radio station, SF-UR. On 19 September 2005, Knuckles was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for his outstanding achievement as a DJ.
Knuckles is featured in the 2006 documentary film, The UnUsual Suspects - Once Upon a Time in House Music by Chip E., and the 2005 documentary film, Maestro by Josell Ramos.
"You Better Work!" Underground Dance Music in New York City by Kai Fikentscher
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Wesleyan; 1st edition (August 18, 2000)
Amazon: "You Better Work!" Underground Dance Music in New York City
"You Better Work!" is the first detailed study of underground dance music or UDM, a phenomenon that has its roots in the overlap and cross-fertilization of African American and gay cultural sensibilities that have occurred since the 1970s. UDM not only predates and includes disco, but also constitutes a unique performance practice in the history of American social dance.
Taking New York City as its geographic focus, "You Better Work!" shows how UDM functions in the lives of its DJs and dancers, and how it is used as the primary identifier of an urban subculture shaped essentially by the relationships between music, dance, and marginality. Kai Fikentscher goes beyond stereotypical images of club and disco to explore the cult and culture of the DJ, the turntable and vinyl recordings as musical instruments, and the vital relationship between music and dance at underground clubs. Including interviews, photographs, and an extensive discography, this ethnographic account tells the story of a celebration of collective marginality through music and dance.
More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Persistent Voices
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