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Disco Roots | Disco Timeline

Disco timeline by Barry Lederer

When did Disco begin? Although we acknowledge that Disco started in the 1970s, there were many events that led up to it. Here is a shortened version of some of the events which gave us a great moment in time. These comments are paraphrased from a book as referenced at the end of this piece.

Spring 1939 - The Swing Kids were a smalll middle class youth movement that were dedicated to jazz and its outrageous fashion. It was a reaction to the Nazi movement, growing in Germany. A movie was made telling of their story. Unfortunately, the SS eventually closed them down.

1942-3 - La Discotheque, a basement nightclub with only one turntable opens in Paris.

1947-8 - Paul Pacine opens the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Paris and sets this club as a forerunner for European nightlife, especially for the Jet Set.

1961 - The Twist becomes the craze in the United States and the Peppermint Lounge is the place to be in New York City.

Roger Earle starts Djing at The Twisted Earle in Manchester, United Kingdom and creates the foundation of the Northern Soul scene which would have a big impact on Disco.

May 1965 - The trendy Arthur opens in New York. It was here that DJ Tery Noel became the first DJ to mix records (However I have heard many others claim to be the first).

1966 - The Equals version of Hold Me Closer and Baby Come Back becomes a big hit in Europe setting in motion Europop and then Eurodsco.

September 1968 - The Contentinal Baths opens in New York City. (The rest is history)

1969 - The Church, later called the Sanctuary opens on West 43rd Street in New York City and the legendary Francis Grasso is the DJ.

1969 - Jerry Bulter's Only The Strong Survive is released and helps define the Philly Sound that would become one of the most important components of Disco history.

1969 - The Stonewall Riots (-need I say more.)

1969 - The Cockettes, featuring Sylvester opens as a theatre troupe in San Francisco

1970 - David Mancuso and his Loft parties begin in New York and become a foreunner of many clubs to come.

1970 - The Ice Palace opens in Fire Island, followed by the legendary Botel and The Sandpiper in the Pines. All three discos are major forces in the disco movement.

1972-3 - Eddie Kendricks Girl You need A Change Of Mind and the Temptations' Law Of The Land become a prototype of Disco records.

1973 - Kool "DJ" Herc throws his first party in the Bronx and Hip Hop is born.

1973 - Salsoul changes it name from Mexicana and becomes one of the most successful record labels.

1973 - Soul Makossa enters the pop charts after being a favorite at top New York nightclubs.

1973 - The Love I Lost is released featuring the incredible drummer Earl Young whose hi-hat sound would soon define the disco beat.

1974 - Tom Moulton does his first extended remix on Don Downings' Dream World.

Tom Moulton, Barry Lederer, Mel Cheren and Billboard Magazine push Disco into the main stream of America and become important forerunners of the disco movement.

1974 - Love Unlimited's Love's Theme hits # 1 on the pop charts.

1974 - Love Is The Message by M.F.S.B. is released and becomes Disco's national anthem.

1974 - WPIX 102 FM in New York City starts the world's first disco radio show.

1974 - The legendary Flamingo discotheque opens in New York.

1975 - Silver Convention's Save Me, the calling card of Eurodisco is released.

1975 - Van McCoy's The Hustle is released and takes over the music industry.

1975 - There are over 10,000 disco's in the US alone.

1976 - The Walter Gibbon's remix of Double Exposure's Ten Percent becomes the first commercially available 12"

1977 - The Warehouse opens in Chicago with Frankie Knuckles and house music is born.

1977 - Studio 54 opens in New York (you know the rest)

1977 - Donna Summer arrives on the scene and rest is history.

1978 - The Paradise Garage opens with the legendary Larry Levan at the helm.

1977 - The soundtrack to the movie Saturday Night Fever is released and disco explodes worldwide.

1979 - Chicago radio disc jockey Steve Dahl explodes 10,000 disco records at Comiskey Park.

1979 - Heaven, Europe's most famous gay disco opens in London.

1980 - The Saint opens in New York and is considered to be one of the best discos ever.

1981 - John "Jellybean" Benitez" plays at the The Funhouse bringing with him the influence of freestyle to disco music.

1999 - Disco is enshrined by the US Postal Service with its own disco stamp.

*NOTE- There are problably many names of clubs, performers, labels, djs, producers and the like that are not mentioned.

You all know who they are. Anything left out is only due to the length of this article as I am not writng a book.

Please feel free to write in and voice your comment.

***Credit for the above information goes to Peter Shaperio from which these dates were parprashed and added to for disco history.

Barry Lederer About the author:
Barry Lederer is a former writer for Billboard's "Disco Mix" column during the 1970s as well as being a principal owner in Graebar Sound, which outfitted many top clubs in the 70s and 80s with critically acclaimed sound systems. He is still involved in dance music by way of the Dance Music Hall of Fame and regularly contributes articles and various commentary for DiscoMusic.com. You can find out more about him by reading this interview.

By Barry Lederer


Your Comments

David |

First of all, you had the year wrong as far as Donna Summer (I don't know if she was still alive when this webpage went up) was concerned. As a previous poster pointed out, she came on the scene in 1975 (when she released "Love To Love You Baby", not 1977. Secondly, I don't know exactly what and when THE first radio station to broadcast disco music full-time (WPIX-FM began the first disco-music radio show in 1974, but it had been Top 40 for three years at that point and continued as such for the next three years, including an eventual modification to a daytime top 40/nighttime disco format), but one station that could probably make that claim would be WCAU-FM Philadelphia (from 1975 [yes, 1975] to 1981) or WBLS New York (which sometime in the mid-70s began to emphasize disco music as part of its progressive R&B sound (the latter also added rock, jazz, contemporary pop and sometimes even traditional pop--the latter genre from its better-known singers, at least, in the spring of 1975. You also forgot to mention that the original WKTU became New York's first literally all-disco station in 1978.

frank cisco castillo |


Patrick |

For me, it started in '73-'74 at the early gay clubs in Cleveland, with my girlfriend and our whole crew, gay and straight. The rock clubs were fun but then we were introduced to this magical, happy sound that became "disco." It was so much better for dancing. Nobody sat still when it was playing. Everyone in the place was best friends: even if it was your first time.

My baptism continued with a College trip at 18 to Montreal: home of Place Ville Marie in Old Town and the Altitude 737 Club in the penthouse. Kung Fu Fighting was top of the charts and Biddu was king. Whoever said grinding is from the '90's never danced to this music with a hot partner back in the day.

Thanks soooo much for this trip into better times!!! KEEP DISCO ALIVE FOREVER!


JoeDon |

Very nice timeline. For me, it seems circa 1977 was the real disco explosion, especially on national and worldwide levels. And a lot of that had to do with the release of the motion picture "Saturday Night Fever." So many actors and actresses, recording artists, soundtracks and huge memorable hits - all in one blockbuster movie. And then, of course, came the fashion, a movement all its own to fit the times - sleek, shiny, satin, spandex, form-fitting, attention-grabbing. And with the Studio 54's and other famous clubs, came television exposure - the music, recording artists, fashion, and the dancing - as we watched on shows like American Bandstand, Soul Train, Dance Fever with Deney Terrio, d*** Clark's New Year's Rockin Eve, Midnight Special, etc. Those were the days...

James |

Disco died in name only. As Frankie Knuckles said, "House was disco's revenge"! Although I don't really like the type of Electro House that is everywhere now, at least something has finally come along to rival that aweful, boring, rap music.

Rose |

Disco era was the best of times.Our whole block would go out to Ozcos in Hollywood and dance the night away! What a blast we had! And lets not forget about the outfits we were wearing! :-)

Donna |

That was my favorite time in my life. I was in high school from 1975-1977. It was one of the shortest music eras but I truly think one of the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ruby Troncin |

For the baby boomers, the disco era defined their primary dating era. I will never forget going to nightclubs dancing to these songs and how much fun I had with my friends and young men I dated! It was a blast! I will never forget the disco era and the excitement it made me feel.

Roger |

For me the beginning of DISCO was HONEYBEE by Gloria Gaynor, the original release on Columbia Records (not the later release on MGM). HONEYBEE was the first record that (although it barely charted into the top 100) showed record executives and producers that it was possible to sell records that only played in clubs. GLORIA GAYNOR went on to have the FIRST successful true disco cross-over hit with her cover of NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE (not mentioned in brief above) and followed it up with the ground-breaking NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE album which for the first time mixed three songs together on one continuous play on the A side. A trend which later artists like DONNA SUMMER followed. GLORIA GAYNOR was crowned "The Queen of the Discos" by the American Association of DJs in 1977. GLORIA GAYNOR also won the first, last and only "Best Disco Recording" Grammy in 1980 for I WILL SURVIVE.

gabrieleguazzo |

Is there someone who can make a sort of disco roots chart? Something like the best 30 singles that have influenced disco.

jesus brown |

1973 for me,it's the year that defined the real beggining of disco,that year manu dibango came out with soul makosa,that song,also inspired a new sound called afrobeat.,and that same year the fania all stars recorded the album latin soul rock,wich i highly recomend,in fact,if i may say,it's a must,listen to the songs there you go and smoke,and enjoy a true listening pleasure and experience.


I remember BARRABAS, is the first Latin/funky/rock group most famous from spain. But don't forget LOS CANARIOS, if you found the song GET ON YOUR KNESS from 1968 is the best song of SOUL from Spain

vyniljunkie |

I think that Barry was saying that DONNA SUMMER'S full impact arrived in 1977. But we all realize that we know nothing in comparison to you.

mixmachine |

Donna Summer arrived at the "Disco" scene in 1975 with "Love to Love you baby".

She followed that hit with the even more popular Disco hit "Try me" (I know we can make it) released on her 1976 LP "Love Trilogy".

JR |

One thing overlooked was a major 'Rolling Stone' article - I think a cover one - about a year before 'Fever'. It had quite a few pages of models illustrating basic dance steps (and doing actual steps while holding onto a partner had been out of fashion for more than a decade) and basically characterized disco as a hip reincarnation of the Astaire-Rogers era. I think this definitely laid the groundwork for the explosive impact of SNF.

vyniljunkie |

What you fail to mention, is what was the FIRST disco recording?? I remember WAR and Eric Burden's SPILL THE WINE as the FIRST. It didn't even make your lists of DISCO songs. Eddie Kendricks and the Temptations were there as well. Early BARRABBAS? Titanic and RAIN 2000(also missed your lists) was played in New York clubs and Dance Halls in late 1969 or early 70. Can anyone tell me different????

Alvaro Estrada |

I would like to get some information about the cultural and sociological aspects of the dance culture particularly the race and gender integration, and its effects in contemporary lifestyles.

I would also like to contribute with a brief history of the Disco movement in Mexico through the 70's and early 80's.

Thank you for your accurate and reliable timeline.

Andrew |

Please what was the most popular disco track in The Flamingo

If you reply to this it would be heaven and good business.


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