Chicago House was forged in the ashes of disco. Frankie Knuckles was a disco DJ in New York City when he was offered a chance to spin for crowds in Chicago. He ended up at Chicago’s Warehouse, playing disco and the popular dance music of the time to often black and gay crowds.
Soon, homegrown Chicago producers started experimenting with drum machines and production equipment that had become more affordable. The music they made was less expensive to record than disco, which often required bankrolling full orchestras for the lush string sections, or at the very least, paying entire bands. The market behind disco soon fell apart—people weren’t paying musicians to tour, they were paying DJs to play records, after all. Making beats was the economical future.
While hip-hop exploded nationally in the mid-1980s with Run-DMC and The Beastie Boys, house music was flourishing in Chicago. House got its name when Frankie Knuckles started playing these new, drum machine-centric dance songs; as they became more and more popular, people would go to the record stores and request “house” records—records played during Knuckles’ sets at the “Warehouse.”
New sounds evolved within the scene; acid house, for example, featured a strange, distorted-wormhole sonic texture that came from the Roland 909 drum machine. Many house songs, though, were simply disco tracks made on less expensive equipment, with all of the lush gospel and soul influences transposed to a harsher, more modern-sounding template. Think Farley "Jackmaster" Funk and Darryl Pandy's cover of Isaac Hayes' "I Can't Turn Around."
Eventually, this music crossed over in a major way, becoming the sonic template for dance pop of the late 1980s on, for example, records by Madonna. Gay, black, and Latino club culture had permeated pop music yet again, as disco by another name.