House Music – A Brief History of Early House Records

In the Beginning

The origins of house music can be traced back to the early 1980’s in Chicago, Illinois. House rhythms were originally rooted in disco, but the music was influenced by a wide range of styles including blues, jazz, soul, R&B, and funk.

Framing the “House”

The coining of the phrase “house music” is a hotly debated topic among musicians and DJ’s. Some say it originated from a club called “The Warehouse” where longtime resident Producer/DJ Frankie Knuckles played his unique brand of dance music until 1982 when the venue closed. Knuckles himself said he first heard the term while passing by a bar on the south side of Chicago that displayed a sign in its window reading “We play house music”. DJ Leonard “Remix” Rroy claims the sign was a reference to the type of soulful music one would play at home.

Another opinion is that the term referenced the creation of music in the homes of pioneering DJ’s and dance producers. These early creations would be recorded using synthesizers, drum machines and sequencers. Others claim that “house” references the correlation of certain tracks with their respective DJ’s, as in the house DJ’s played their own house records.

The Pioneers of House

The Chicago club scene of the early 80’s was fueled by DJ’s spinning various forms of music including disco, hip hop, funk, pop, and R&B. The advent of relatively inexpensive electronic instruments led to many DJ’s producing their own blend of existing songs by mixing in drum machines and effects.

Considered by many to be the first original house music record, “On & On” by Jesse Saunders was released in 1984. The album’s success stimulated a wave of recordings from the early DJ’s trying their hand at producing house music. The music soon branched off into subgenres of house such as deep house and acid house.

With the support of club DJ’s such as Lil Louis, Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, and radio stations like WBMX, house music quickly gained popularity in Chicago. At the same time, house began to spread to neighboring DJ’s and producers of Detroit, Michigan. Artists like Marshall Jefferson helped push house outside of Chicago with his widely popular track “Move Your Body”. From the mid to late 80’s artists like Larry Heard, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Farley Keith, and Steve Hurley, continued to popularize the genre.

Today, house music is stronger than ever and can be heard in some form throughout clubs across the globe. The genre has continued to branch off into subgenres including progressive house, electro house, techno house, breakbeat, and the list goes on. House is not just a form of music, but is a religion supported by devoted practitioners the world over.