Ron Hardy Born May 8, 1958-(died 1991) was an instrumental figure and
DJin the development of house music. An innovator and originator of the genre, he is highly regarded not only for his iconic performances at the Music Box, a Chicagohouse music club, but for his pioneering edits and mixes of disco, soul music, funkand early house music (sometimes known as Chicago Deep House).
Hardy started his career in 1974 in Chicago
gayclub Den One. Here, with a set-up of two turntables, a mixer and a reel-to-reeltape-deck, he played long nights of underground black dance music. Around 1977, after working with renowned DJ Frankie Knucklesat the iconic Chicago club the Warehouse, he went to work in Los Angeles. At the end of 1982, when Chicago's legendary Warehouse club closed and re-opened as the Powerplant at another location, Hardy was asked to play at the old club, now renamed "The Muzic Box". Hardy of course competed with Powerplant DJ (and former colleague) Frankie Knuckles, and he was very experimental in his playing style.Producer Chip E.introduced Hardy to recordingmusic in 1986 when the two mixed "Donnie" by The It (featuring Chip E., Larry Heard, Robert Owens, and Harri Dennis). From humble beginnings, Hardy's contributions to House Musicare considered mammoth.
Musical and Mixing Styles
While Frankie Knuckles at the Warehouse (and later the Powerplant) had a very smooth style of playing, Hardy was very different. He had less regard for sound quality and would play with a manic energy, mixing everything from classic Philadelphia Disco classics,
italo discoimports to new wave, mutant disco and rock tracks. Hardy also pitched records up way more than Knuckles (pitch being the difference between normal speed and the speed at which the record is currently playing. Usually expressed as + or -, with 10 being maximum/minimum). Techno artist Derrick May remembers hearing Ron playing a Stevie Wondercut with the speed at +8.
Hardy played a lot of reel-to-reel edits and was always tweaking the soundsystem and playing with the EQ. A Ron Hardy trademark was playing records backwards. He did this by mounting the turntable headshell upside down to the tone-arm, placing a cylinder on the platter, putting the record on the cylinder and by removing the tone-arme weight, pushing the now upside-down needle into the underside of the record. The platter spun normal, but the record played backwards. The Music Box was also known for its insanely loud sound volume.
Favorite Song Selections
Ron always opened his set with "Welcome To The Pleasure Dome" by
Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Among the classic disco that was a staple in Chicago clubs at the time, typical tracks one could hear him play were Visage- "Frequency 7", Klein & MBO - "Dirty Talk", ESG - "Moody", Patrick Adams - "Big Phreek", Liquid Liquid - "Optimo", First Choice- "Let No Man Put Asunder", a lot of Philly SoulClassics and even pop hits like Eurythmics- "Sweet Dreams" and Talk Talk- "It's My Life". He also played Electronic Body Music acts like Nitzer Ebb. Such eclecticism and the technical wizardy described were highlights of a unique style that separated Hardy from others like Knuckles and Levan. The main ingredient, however, was the soulful black disco tracks.
Beginnings of Chicago House
Midway through the 80's, many Chicago DJs and clubgoers started experimenting with creating their own rhythm tracks. DJs would play these homemade tracks, and (in short) this is how house music was born. Hardy was no exception, often getting the hottest acetates and tapes. A roll-call of major Chicago producers including Marshall Jefferson, Larry Heard, Adonis, Phuture's DJ Pierre and
Chip E.all debuted their compositions at The Music Box. When DJ Pierre and his friends Herb and Spanky created a weird squelching rhythm track from a Roland TB 303 bassline machine, they gave this track to Ron Hardy. The first time he played it, the dancers left the floor. He played the track 3 more times that night, and by the fourth time the audience was going crazy. The track was named "Acid Tracks", and the band was called Phuture. But actually it was is was the Adonis "space mix" of Sleezy D's (Marshal Jefferson) 1986 release "I've Lost Control" [Issue information fro Sleezy D's [http://www.discogs.com/release/2237 "I've Lost Control"] at Discogs.] that first introduced the sound of the TB 303 to the house music community and in doing so opened the way for acid house.
Later In Life
It has been alleged that lingering problems with
heroinaddiction may have forced him to leave the Music Box around 1986. Though he continued to DJ around the area, Hardy wasn't around when Chicago became house music's mecca later in the 80's. He died in 1991, from a heroinoverdose.
Lately, there has been a renewed interest in Ron Hardy's legacy as a DJ. In 2004, two
bootleg12" records were released with "Ron's edits" and in 2005, Partehardy Records, run by his nephew Bill released authentic edits not heard in over 20 years. There is also another bootleg series of edits called "Music Box", containing either genuine Ron Hardy re-edits or tibutes by other dj's imitating his editing style. DJ Theo Parrish also made a series of tribute-remixes called "Ugly Edits" some of which bear a striking resemblance to Hardy's re-edits. These have been bootlegged too. Some of DJ Harvey's Black Cock edits records are tributes to Hardy's edits as well.
In addition to his DJ mixes, long-buried original productions have also come to light -- among them, "Throwback 87", a collaboration between Ron Hardy and Gene Hunt.
Ron Hardy has a section dedicated to him on the 2nd DVD of the DJ documentary [http://www.maestro-documentary.com "Maestro"] .
* [http://www.discogs.com/artist/Ron+Hardy Ron Hardy] discography at
* [http://www.5chicago.com/features/january2006/backtothemusicbox.html Back to the Music Box] Photos of Ron Hardy and the Music Box from 5 Magazine.
* [http://suenomartino.net/ronhardy.htm Suenomartino.net] Brief biography and playlists.
* [http://www.djhistory.com/bb/displayStory.php?id=62&group=m_general DJ History] Article from Faith magazine.
* [http://www.gridface.com/features/ron_hardy_playlists.html Ron Hardy Playlists] .
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