Thursday, 3 April 2014


Nicky Siano was one of the original NY disco DJs, setting up and spinning records at the legendary Gallery club from 1972 onwards. He taught Larry Levan how to DJ, and also Frankie Knuckles. Major h/t to Thump for getting him to write a piece about his friend, the man who gave us house music.

Frankie Knuckles (center, in hat) blowing up balloons at the original Gallery location in NYC

Meanwhile, Larry’s career had taken off. The great sound-man Richard Long hired Larry to play his house parties at a spot called the SoHo. And Frankie had taken over Larry’s spot as DJ for the Continental Baths. As Larry blew up, Frankie felt he needed to make his own mark, and an opportunity to move to Chicago unfolded. His life unfolded perfectly when he got there, and he would soon outgrow his role as Larry’s sidekick to become the undisputed Godfather of House music.
It was already 1978. I was playing at Studio 54, then took a few gigs at an after-hours clubs called the Buttermilk Bottom. A year or so went by and I heard that Frankie had secured a job at a new club in Chicago called The Warehouse. But disco was seeing hard days, and many people were crying, “Disco is dead!” I was one of them. The record industry had taken a pure loving idea, and turned it into their cash cow, ruining all its credibility along the way by pushing bad songs with disco banners across their record jackets.

But Frankie was playing a new type of dance music - house. In Chicago, disco fans began a new trend by investing their own money to record a more stripped-down, funkier style of dance music. They immediately brought their records to Frankie, who had a great ear for music, and he picked the hits from the beginning. Sharing them with his NYC counterpart at the Paradise Garage, Larry Levan, the two of them made house music the dominant dance music of the 80s and 90s.

One of Frankie’s production hits was “The Whistle Song,” a house music monster.  His name circulated in the industry as “the man with the new sound.” He went on to mix songs for Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and his version of “Unbreak my Heart” by Toni Braxton has always been my favorite. His name was everywhere, and everyone started calling him - and rightfully so - the Godfather of House. He introduced the world to artists like Jamie Principle and his song “Baby Wants to Ride,” then in 1989 it was Frankie Knuckles presents Marshall Jefferson’s “Move Your Body” - now that’s house music at it’s best!

I took a long break from the music industry to work with People with AIDS from 1984 to 1996. When I came back to play records for Larry Levan’s birthday party at Body and Soul, Frankie was one of the first people I spoke with. We started our friendship up all over again. When he couldn’t play a gig because he was booked too heavily, he would recommend me. By then, he had won a Grammy award for Mixer of the Year, which he would keep out o -  the table at his loft in Manhattan. I remember going over, and asking, “Can I hold it for a while?” We laughed hard.

Read the whole piece here. 

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