On January 9th, 2011 history was made. Chicago House DJ Day was born, and to commemorate this event 100 of some of the most influential DJs came together at The Shrine to take an historic photograph entitled “The Architects of House Music”. It was a day filled with legends, memories, camaraderie and most of all pride for Chicago’s musical legacy.
To say the concept caused a stir would be quite the understatement given the heavy politics ingrained in the Chicago House scene. Terry Hunter (website, facebook, twitter), whose brainchild this was, gives us the 411.
I remember when you first called me a little over a month ago at midnight with this crazy idea! Tell me exactly what was going through your head at that very moment and who you called first.
I was just sitting in this bar and that whole day I was thinking, damn Chicago has some of the baddest House DJs in the world but doesn’t get the fame that other cities or countries have! I’m thinking like, I gotta see this idea through, I had this in my head for over a year!
So now fast-forward to later that night, I’m in the bar chilling and my mind is going 100 mph, something is telling me, “You gotta do this!” I’m like, naw, because I knew the HATE that something like this would cause! But I just said fuck it, went outside (it had to be like 10 degrees) and I called Wayne Williams… He didn’t pick up so I called Mike Dunn about the idea and he liked it, and then I called you (Czarina) and you liked it. Now the whole time I’m calling people I’m thinking, How can we do this and do it right? I knew I couldn’t do this by myself.
You had mentioned that the original idea actually stemmed from when New York Jazz musicians took a photo in Harlem?
Yes, but before that, I saw how all the Philadelphia DJs got together and paid respect to DJ AM (RIP) and called it Philly DJ Day, and I thought that was so dope that they all came together to pay respect for one of their own. Later that day I spoke to Jazzy Jeff and he told me how good and positive it went, so I’m thinking, damn that would be so dope to do something like that in Chicago, to come up with a DJ Day. But I wanted it to be more involved with House DJs, because that’s where I come from and so many DJs in Chicago don’t get the credit they deserve.
So some months later I’m online and I came across this famous photo of Jazz musicians in Harlem in 1958 and I was like, “Yeah, thats it – we’re gonna add in an historical photo with this DJ Day and put some of the most influential DJs in the photo!” So we came up with the top 100+ DJs that were influential from the years 1975-1995, because this was the first time something of the magnitude was being done. We wanted to start with DJs that were playing Disco because Disco was the foundation for House.
Remember when you originally thought we’d have only 25, 30, maybe 40 DJs tops?
I thought we could do a Top 25 at first but as we were going and coming up with names it went to 50 and then we just said, “Okay, 100+!” I thought that was a good number because we can make a fair list with those DJs involved.
Who are the GRIOTS, and what made you choose this particular group of individuals to help make your vision a reality?
Alan King, Courtney Harris, ESmoove, Frederick Dunson, Hula, Lamont Garrett, Mike Dunn, Reggie Corner, Scrap, Wayne Williams and you (Czarina). I used that All Star cast because everyone brought something to the table that was needed. We put a lot of HARD WORK into this event and long hours of conversation over the phone. We all had the same passion for House Music and all agreed that this was something that was necessary and needed to be done. I’m proud of the GRIOTS because we created history and this is just the start.
What exactly is the purpose of having a Chicago House DJ Day in your own words?
The purpose was to celebrate every DJ that plays and loves House Music in Chicago, no matter if you are a bedroom, club, or radio DJ or even just thought about being a DJ because you loved the art form.
As with anyone with a vision, inevitably there is resistance. What was some of resistance you encountered?
WOW! Where do I start? First of all, when we said we were gonna do a photo entitled “Architects of House Music” with 100+ DJs, people lost their goddamn minds! Now, again: I knew this would stir up some shit, but I had no idea it would have gotten that crazy. Everybody felt that they should have been picked for the list and that they were influential.
I’m saying to myself, “This is all about love and finally seeing our city come together for a common cause.” But naw, that’s where the bullshit began. After we (the GRIOTS) came up with what we knew was a great list, we started emailing the selected people and it was all love… But then wait! Those same people started calling me saying, “This person didn’t play House… That person wasn’t around or influential in those years… I sold this many records…”
And I’m like, “Wait a minute everybody – this is a photo!” One-by-one, I found myself on the phone arguing with people trying to make them understand this is about DJs, not about a track you made or if you are an artist! And then the emails started coming…
So I just started focusing on all the great and positive feedback we were getting and that became the fuel to keep going as well as the support of our GRIOTS fam… myself and Reggie Corner stayed up for hours, days and nights grinding this out, on the phone with Wayne and Alan fine-tuning, with Lamont grinding away making logos and coming up with the invites, with Czarina and Rees finalizing calls making sure everybody got their invites and preparing 5 Mag business to be ready to cover the shoot, Frederick giving me so much wisdom and just being there, Courtney making sure press was lined up, Hula and ESmoove making sure the photos and videos were right.
With that being said, nobody knew or cared about the stress we all went through to make this historical day happen because we all did it for the LOVE! When that day came it was AMAZING to see so many people in one room together at one time. You just saw smiles on people’s faces, everybody talking and laughing and the funniest thing was some of us didn’t know who each other! Dana Powell said to me that we should introduce everybody so we can know who’s who, so Wayne got on the mic and introduced all the DJs: everybody was clapping and cheering for one another and at that very moment I knew this was powerful! Frankie Knuckles, one of my heros, walks over to me and said, “What a wonderful job you’ve done, no one has never done this and we are here for you.” What happened in that room was the reason I did this and it was a success. And to everybody I wanna just wanna say THANK YOU!
What is your hope for the future with the creation of this day?
My hope is that we can all can come together and celebrate Chicago House DJs and be proud of it and to support our movement because if you look around we’re not getting any younger, so it’s time to spread this music to our youth.