Interview: Jesse Saunders – Going “On and On” with the Chicago house music innovator

by Marcus K. Dowling

Prepare to be taken to school.

Yes, the Jungle Brothers talk about “house music all night long” on the legendary 1990 cut “Girl I’ll House You,” but imagine a time before there was any house music at all. The disco era of the 1970s and early 80s had ended, and dance music was preparing for its next evolution. In New York City, there were DJs like Larry Levan who were crafting pure elegance at spots like the Paradise Garage, his “garage” music sound a very jazzy and melodic post-disco.

However, if you looked due west, out to the Windy City of Chicago, namely to the mostly African-American and mostly gay discos of the South Side, something just as important was happening. A cadre of free- thinking and very influential DJs were taking disco songs and tracks and adding elements of Kraftwerk, new wave and 808 drumbeats to existing sounds, creating a new, fresh and very entertaining style. Called “house music” due to what many believe is the name of the club where many of these tunes originated, the legendary Warehouse, the sound evolved disco and changed dance floors forever.

Jesse Saunders is credited with having the first disco track on wax, the legendary, proto-electro classic “On and On.” The 88 DC crew brings him to Red Fridays at Washington, DC’s already vaunted U Street Music Hall on Friday night as a part of the 25th Anniversary of House Music tour, and we had the opportunity to talk about the early house music era, Saunders’ career that spans over 25 years, his favorite DJs of the current era, various regional styles of house music, the production of “On and On,” so much more. Do enjoy, and absolutely come out to the Temple of Boom this Friday night to see a legend at work. While I can definitely guarantee you won’t hear “On and On,” you will hear a master at work.