Most disco establishments died out in the ‘80s, but the music itself never died. In fact, thousands of DJs emerged after the disco era with access to sophisticated sound system technology including monitor speakers, headphones, mixing boards, laptop computers, and special DJ software.

DJs from the early ‘70s learned how to extend popular recordings, like the “Theme From Shaft,” by using two turntables. Today’s DJs use technology to alter or enhance existing recordings. The DJ and remix industries would not exist if it were not for the groundwork laid by DJs during the disco era.

The post-disco DJ phenomenon was popular in many parts of the country but the Warehouse was where the term “House Music” was born.  An extraordinarily talented DJ named Frankie Knuckles routinely transported dancers to surreal dimensions, just as the DJs in the early ‘70s did. Here’s how writer Frank Brewster described Knuckles’ impact: “…here you could forget your earthly troubles and escape to a better place. Like church, it promised freedom, and not even in the next life. In this club, Frankie Knuckles took his congregation on journeys of redemption and discovery.” Frankie Knuckles was so dominant during that period, he became known as “The Godfather of House Music.”

 Disco Boom Precursor

When historians and writers talk about the start of disco, they often mention France during the occupation by Germany before World War II when swing bands played American jazz music that reflected black and Jewish heritage. Adolf Hitler outlawed swing bands, referring to it as “nigger music” and “degenerate music.”[1] With swing bands outlawed, young people in France embraced the idea of dancing to another version of the music they loved…records. However, the European style of discotheques never took hold in this country. After all, swing bands were not outlawed in America, and live music — with its superior sound quality — was strongly preferred over the poor sound quality of records. Following [KH1] the war, discotheques continued to be popular in France and other parts of Europe. But in the U.S., aside from a few spots like the Hippopotamus and the Peppermint Lounge in NYC, the concept did not take root. Even the Peppermint Lounge, which did play records, relied primarily on live music.

Most music writers and historians acknowledge that the disco craze started in New York City in black and gay “underground” clubs. There are accounts of gay clubs, like the Loft and the Sanctuary, but until now, the role that black clubs played in popularizing this phenomenon has remained untold. Black performers dominated the music that powered the disco era, as did black club promoters and owners. The clubs we promoted and built attracted larger crowds than the gay clubs and our patrons were more diverse. Even though writers and historians often fail to mention the impact of black club promoters, our role was significant in the escalation of disco into a national phenomenon. My organization, The Best of Friends, Inc., promoted discotheques at the Ginza, La Martinique, Casa Blanca, Al Mounia, and Barney Googles starting in 1971. By 1973 we started building our own clubs and successfully monetized our love of music and dancing. Our clubs included Leviticus, Justine’s, and Bogard’s – the first three black-owned clubs in midtown Manhattan – as well as Lucifer’s in Queens, and Brandi’s in Brooklyn. These clubs, along with key competitors, created a firestorm of excitement and interest in discotheques that reverberated across the country and paved the way for “Saturday Night Fever,” Studio 54, and the nationwide explosion of disco.


[1], 2012 by Kurtni

 [KH1]I only changed this because you started the previous sentence with “After”