Marshall Jefferson Interviewed – A History Of House…
August 8, 2010
I was looking at Deep House Pages and Marshall Jefferson has been getting involved taking questions from all the forum members and the stories are pretty incredible. I’ve pulled out my favourite points and it’s still pretty long so I’ll keep this intro short and sweet. The copy is as it is on the site. So get your favourite Marshall moment out, press play and read on…
Posted by Julian_Kelly: Marshall, whats the history of the “House Music National Anthem” …how did that tune come to be?
I heard it in my head on my job at the Post Office, but with female vocals, and different words. I got home and did the piano, bass and drums. I thought it was hot as hell, and booked a session at Lito Manlucu’s studio. Called up my buddies from the Post Office (Curtis McClain, Rudy Forbes, Thomas Carr) wrote the verse and the backgrounds in the studio. Recording and mixing time was about 3 hours total. They thought it sucked. I thought it was the hottest shit the dancefloor would ever hear, but I have quite the ego.
The night, I took the song 1st to the Sheba Baby club, where Mike Dunn, Tyree Cooper, and Hugo Hutchinson were DJ’ing. This was before they all had records out, and I was known as Virgo. (loved that nickname!) They loved the song and I gave them a cassette copy, but they said it wasn’t House music because of the piano. From there i drove to the Music Box to give Ron Hardy a copy. Outside in the car i played it on my car system for some friends (One was K-Alexi) and I don’t think they were too impressed. I’d had about 15 unreleased songs playing in the Music Box at that time and they thought some of my other stuff was much hotter. They also said it wasn’t House Music because of the piano.
After that, I went into the Music Box and gave DJ Ron Hardy a copy while he was playing. I didn’t expect him to play it right away; usually i just gave him a copy and he’d listen to it later and maybe play it the next weekend. This time he put it in the cassette machine right away. I saw his head quickly go into a violent bobbing motion and I knew he liked the song. He immediately put it on and played it 6 times in a row, putting on a sound effects record while he rewound the tape.
From there it got to be the biggest song in the Music Box. Ron told me not to give it to anybody else, and I held off for awhile, but there were other DJ’s in the city that wanted it and finally I gave in when Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy’s biggest rival got a copy of it. Prior to that,I took it to Trax Records to press it up on my own label. At that time Larry Sherman, the owner, considered himself a House music expert because he’d previously put out Jesse Saunders stuff and also 4 of my records. He hated the song and said it wasn’t House music because of the piano. I didn’t care and paid him to press the record up.
13 months passed before he finally pressed it up, but there were some things that happened before that………………….
After Frankie Knuckles got a copy of it, it seemed the flood gates opened. I had to give Lil Louis and Fast Eddie copies, because Eddie lived 2 doors down from me on my block and Lil Louis lived on the next block. Mike Dunn, Tyree Cooper, and Hugo Hutchinson already had copies. Pretty soon it seemed like every DJ in Chicago had copies…………….some really bad and some passable, but crowds freaked every time it came on.
International DJ’s played it to and this is how I tracked down how they got copies, after talking to the DJ’s and members of the press:
1. Frankie Knuckies got his copy from my friend Sleezy D.
2. Frankie Knuckles’ best friend was Larry Levan from New York’s Paradise Garage. At that time, DJ’s from all over the world would fly to New York to hear what Larry played, because whatever was popular there became hits.
3. Somehow DJ Alfredo from Ibiza got a copy of it, and started playing it in Ibiza.
4. English DJ’s Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling, and Jazzy M got copies. Pete Tong and Paul “Trouble” Anderson got copies too, but I’m not sure if they got it at the same time as the 1st 3 or not.
5. Once the English DJ’s started playing, things got weird, because the press got involved. England was quick to jump on a new music trend and got on it right away. “Move Your Body” had the words “Gotta have House music, all night long”, and with that “House” music, you can’t go wrong!” so naturally, the next task was finding out what house music was and getting the full scoop.
I started hearing English accents asking me for interviews when I answered the phone. I thought it was my friends screwing with me, but damn, those accents sounded authentic. I did a few phone interviews and suddenly, a whole herd of British Press all flew to Chicago to interview any and everyone involved with House music. They sat in on sessions and took loads of pics. Of course, Larry Sherman considered himself the resident expert on House Music and offered to take all the press around to all the House music clubs in the city. At that time I’d tried everything to get Larry to press up Move Your Body, but he hated it and said it wasn’t House Music. It was because he said it wasn’t House music that I called it “The House Music Anthem”.I even paid him with my own money to press it up. and he still hadn’t done it.
Well, when Larry took the press around to all the House clubs, Move Your Body was the hottest song playing at every single club-on dirty cassettes. The day after he took the press around to all those clubs, Move Your Body was finally on vinyl.
Posted by jj11: i also heard an interview you did marshall, and you said you were thinking ‘elton john, piano’ when doing ‘move your body’. is there a specific elton john song that your were thinking about ? also the intro reminds me a little bit of ‘deputy of love’. was that any inspiration for it also ? i hear how ‘let’s get busy’ was inspired by the rolling stones.
No specific Elton John song moreso his general piano playing style, which was pretty churchy. I had no idea the intro sounded anything like “Deputy Of Love”.
“Let’s Get Busy” was inspired by “Move Your Body”, but I always liked the Stone’s “Sympathy For The Devil” so I may have grabbed the hook either consciously or unconsciously, can’t remember.
Posted by Prince HiFi: Marshall, I’m wondering about the version of Move Your Body that came out on DJ International, it’s very different than the piano version on Trax – the DJ International 12″ is a beast, for sure. Can you tell us a bit about the different versions, which came out first etc.
Also, can you tell us a bit about the Virgo EP, that EP is pretty is pretty insanely deep, My Space and R U Hot Enough are my jams.
After Move Your Body got hot in the clubs, I stupidly thought I could do a better version in a big studio. The DJ International version is a 24 track version recorded at Paragon in Chicago.
The Virgo EP was supposed to be 2 songs from me and 2 from Adonis and was supposed to be called “Virgo and Adonis”. “No Way Back” was supposed to be on there but Adonis pulled it when it got played at a party and he found out how hot it was. There was another song called “The Final Groove” that he wrote and he pulled that too, but it never came out. “My Space” and “R U Hot Enough” were last minute replacements.
There was also a version of “Under You” called “The Pleasure Exchange” it had female vocals and breathing on it, kind of like a cross between “Sensuous Black Woman” and “Love To Love You Baby” that version never came out either. Hardy played it and copies of it are still floating around. Maybe Jamie will have it. I think Gene Hunt has a copy, but I’m not sure.
Posted by julian_kelly: This is good stuff Marshall. Also, how did Ten City come to be? What the story behind “Devotion” ? I always admired the musicality of Ten City…very well composed songs…and the strings were the trademark that always set it off.
I met Byron Stingily down at Trax records. He’d sang lead on a song called “Funny Love” by Dezz 7. I loved the words and found out he wrote them. From there we started working on songs together……..did about 5 that never came out. Among the ones that did come out were “Devotion” and I Can’t Stay Away”
“Devotion” came about when we were out on a double date. The girls went off on their own and we started singing about them. I went home and did the music, then let Byron hear it the next day. I told him it was the song we wrote last night and he didn’t believe it. After that we could write songs together over the phone just singing parts back and forth. Byron Burke and Herb Lawson were friends of Byron’s. Atlantic Records wanted to sign Byron as a solo act but he didn’t want to be on stage by himself. In fact, his 1st 10 shows as Ten City he performed with his eyes closed. Byron and Herb eventually got more involved in the songwriting process and took over on the 2nd album.
Posted by RAS: Of course the previously mentioned tracks were bangin’. I have very fond memories of your records get dropped at the ‘G’ as I was a newbie in 1985. However, my JOINT is ‘Open our Eyes’…
“Open Our Eyes” is probably the only song I’ve ever done that I don’t think I could do better today. Kenny Bobien and Eddie Stockley sang the backgrounds LIVE to the 2 track master
Posted by julian_kelly: Marshall, I remember first hearing “Just A Little Bit” when I bought one of those import volumes of the Jack Trax series in the mid to late 80’s. What’s the history of Ce Ce Rogers’ “Someday” ? That was a definitely a progressive and socially conscious tune.
Someday, I wrote after watching the news one day. It sat around for a few months because I didn’t know who I was going to get to sing it. Curtis McClain was usually my 1st choice for songs, but we were constantly at each other’s throats while touring for Move Your Body, and I didn’t want to do him any favors.
A promoter named Billy Prest had taken really good care of us while touring the East Coast and asked me if could write a song for his singer, Ce Ce Rogers. He gave me a cassette of Ce Ce singing and I gave it a quick listen and told him I’d do it. I just “happened” to have Someday lying around and gave it to Billy. Made me look like a genius coming up with a song so fast instead of the screwup I actually was.
Billy immediately flew Ce Ce to Chicago to sing the leads. I had the music all recorded when he got into the studio. Billy had specifically instructed Ce Ce to not play keyboards around me, because he didn’t want me to get intimidated. Ce Ce was a Berkley grad and an awesome keyboard player. Ce Ce is also a born showoff and absolutely the most competitive person I’ve ever met in my life, and of course within the 1st minute of him getting in the studio he found a grand piano and was playing so great he could have intimidated Rachmaninov.
Didn’t phase me a bit and I told him when he was done to get in the vocal booth and sing.
I recorded Ce Ce’s warm up and told him to go back to his hotel. It was absolutely phenomenal. Ce Ce panicked and asked to re sing it. I said no at 1st, then finally gave in, but my mind was made up. I told Steve Frisk, the engineer to record him while I went to Macdonalds. When I came back, Ce Ce seemed a bit more satisfied with the second vocal. I took it home and listened to it, but the second vocal seemed a bit contrived compared to the 1st.
My next trip to the east coast, I let Merlin Bobb at Atlantic hear it and he signed it immediately. He also played it on the radio the night he got it.
Ce Ce panicked again and asked Billy and Atlantic to send him to Chicago to sing it one more time. Ce Ce flew to Chicago and re sang it, but this time I had Merlin backing me up that the original vocal sounded better and that’s what went on the record.
Ce Ce Rogers is absolutely, positively the greatest live performer I’ve ever seen in my life, period. No artist should ever follow his performance, I’ve seen singers totally destroyed after watching him sing. I’ve seen him sing to an audience of 3 and had them all standing with their hands in the air and screaming at the top of their lungs.
Anyway, he greatly helped record sales and what went down on record was a performance in the studio, not a production. It was an honor just to be a part of that session and watching him let loose like he did.
Posted by So Easy:hey marshall, if you were virgo, why is vince lawrences name all over the records as if he did it? And tell chauncy, I will get him those other tunes asap.
I did Virgo Go Wild Rhythm Tracks. Vince Lawrence produced it. What Vince did was micromanage the recording process until everything seemed as difficult as Harvard physics. he even had me convinced dust affected the sound. He also convinced me to take all the keyboard parts off, so the end result was a beat tracks album. I felt this was by design because Vince and Jesse didn’t want everybody making house records.
It almost worked. I had lost my confidence and almost quit the music business. Vince and Larry Sherman thought I quit and gone forever because I stopped coming around, but the I guess the album did pretty good because Vince did “Virgo Trax Again”.
What got my confidence back? Ron Hardy was playing 4 of my songs at the Music Box, and people were literally stampeding the dancefloor when they came on………
I also released an EP called “Virgo”, that had “Free Yourself” and 3 other songs. It had produced by Virgo and Adonis on it, but Adonis pulled his 2 tunes at the last minute. One of those was No Way Back. I had to scramble to get the last 2 tunes, so I gave Larry 2 songs on cassette. Those were R U Hot Enough and “My Space”
Posted by ‘Magic’ Juan: Did you have any input at all on “Virgo Trax Again”? If not, did it upset you that he used the Virgo moniker to put out that release? Virgo Go Wild Rhythm Trax is still the sh*t. I sorely regret trading my copy years ago.
I had nothing to do with “Virgo Trax Again”, and yeah, I was pissed off. Not only was “Go Wild” my 1st record, but Virgo was my 1st nickname…..and Vince wasn’t even a Virgo dammit, lol. I also didn’t get paid for it, even though I paid to press it up
When “Move Your Body” got released, it wasn’t released on my label, it was released on Trax records. Larry did a last minute hack job because he was so excited , and didn’t even bother to re-cut or remaster it, he just scratched out my label number (OS2 for Other Side Records 2) on the mothers and added his own (Tx 117) to this day you know you have an original pressing if you see where he scratched out my label number.
Another thing that gave me grief was he put down “Marshall Jefferson” as the artist. I had been using the nickname “Virgo” for more than a year and it was my 1st nickname. All my life i wanted a nickname but never had one, the song being so popular totally blew Virgo to the side and I haven’t used it since. The artist on “Move Your Body was supposed to be “On The House”-my friends from the Post Office, Curtis McClain, Rudy Forbes, and Thomas Carr, and putting it mildly, when the record came out as “Marshall Jefferson”, they weren’t too pleased.
They stormed over my house and asked me wtf was going on. I told them Larry Sherman put it out on his label instead of mine without my consent. They didn’t believe me and I gave them the address to Trax Records so they could go and talk to Larry and straighten it out.
Well, when they got there Larry basically told them that Marshall Jefferson was the name on the label and they could kiss his ass, before telling them to get lost not very politely. They came back over my house and told me how Larry was a crook and all that. Norman Davis, who was Curt’s friend came up with the idea of me signing an affidavit that they sang on the record and that’s what I did.
They then took the signed affidavit to Larry and Larry told them that they were really great singers, and he’d given me $150,000 and put my name on the song because I’d signed a contract. They stormed back over my house and asked me for some of the $150,000. I told them I he hadn’t given me $150,000 and in fact i’d paid him $1500 to press up 1000 copies on my own label, but they didn’t believe me, even after i showed them the receipt. They said they were going to sign a contract with Trax Records because Larry was going to put their names on records and pay them a lot of money. I tried to talk them out of signing a contract, but I guess when your record’s playing on the radio and you have no money and your friends and family are all telling you how great you are things get irrational.
This is what I put it down to and I tried my best to talk them out of signing a contract, but they did it anyway. To make a long story short Larry gave them no money, but he did put their “On The House” as the artist on 2 records.
The problem was, after I started meeting with major labels, everybody wanted to sign the guys that made Move Your Body, but they’d already signed with Trax records.
Posted by julian_kelly: What was your experience like when you first went to the east coast? How did it differ from the Chicago scene? Did Chicago and New York artist/jocks really know each other? Do you know if Hardy knew Levan?
Chicago vs New York club scene: this may. Take awhile because I’m on my iPhone and I may not be up to it.
The 1st thing I remember is New York was infinitely better financed than Chicago, in fact, way better financed than any club system I’ve ever seen in the world before or since. Everything was 1st class-over 300 clubs all had Richard Long sound systems and separate sound AND lighting systems for the live acts as standard, and even unknown resident DJ’s were getting over $1000 a night. This because the Mafia was laundering money through all those clubs through one guy – Steve Juliano. They’d tell Steve to set up a new club for them and he’d do it within weeks. I remember Steve getting busted and the entire New York club scene collapsed by 1988 except for 1 or 2 clubs – one of those was the Junior Vasquez’ Sound Factory. I remember DJ’s going from $3000 a night to like $50-and they were happy to have somewhere to play. Live acts started singing through DJ mixers with no stage and no lights, it was sad man. Artists with records out could count on making hundred of thousands per year performing just in New York, all that was over…….
Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan were best friends since they were about 12 years old. Robert Williams was also from New York at one time was a guidance counselor for both boys. Robert was the 1st to come to Chicago and he tried to bring the New York club experience to Chicago.he tried to get Larry 1st but Larry was already playing at successful clubs, so he got Frankie. Of course, things were pretty ghetto in comparison because the Mafia wasn’t involved-at least not the sophisticated system New York had where you basically had almost unlimited money, so Chicago never had a live dance music scene.
Ron Hardy of course knew who Larry Levan was, but because he was Frankies rival he had no direct contact. I don’t think Larry was even aware of Hardy. He’d gotten copies of Jamie Principle from Frankie, but he didn’t get Move Your Body from Hardy; he had to wait until Frankie got a copy from Sleezy.
Sound systems: the Paradise Garage had the cleanest, but the Music Box on 16th had the loudest I’ve ever heard in my life. And Hardy knew how to work it. Who was better? Personal preference on any given night; both were fueled by drugs and both were god.
Posted by DUBFLY: Damm my ears are still ringing from the Garage system and you said the music box was louder …….FUCK …LOL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Marshall this thread rocks good looking on the history brother!
The Music Box systems was only louder because it was in a much smaller room, technically the Garage had the greatest sound system ever put in a club, but some tell me the Loft was louder…….
When I 1st got to Zanzibar, Tony Humphries was the DJ and Tee Scott had Moved to the Cheetah. Both were great. I didn’t really listen to Tee the 1st time at Cheetah because I was too busy hitting on Queen Latifah, who’s career was just starting (yeah, she’s a BIG time househead from wayyyyyy back!).
Posted by Mike Barnes: Marshall, Slyvia Rhone(Former CEO of Atlantic/East-West records, During the early to mid 90’s), And, Merlin Bob put more than a few cats down on the Atlantic label, In regards to Dance music, Like, CeCe Rodgers, Jomanda(Big Beat), Ten City, Etc, Marshall, Would you Care to build on the impact and contributions that Slyvia Rhone and Merlin Bob had on the dance music circuit, During the late 80’s to late 90’s, Also, Was Dwayne Powell Ten City’s Manager(I remember seeing Dwayne Powells name listed on Ten City’s album’s, During the 90’s, Though, I never found out what role Dwayne Powell actually played with Ten City.
Dwayne Powell was a 25 year old extremely arrogant black attorney when I met him in 1986. I really liked his confidence and love of the music. Dwayne irritated all the old guard of music attorneys in Chicago because he got meetings with all the major labels at will. Problem was all the established music attorneys couldn’t even get majors to take their calls-until Dwayne broke down the door with House music.
It seemed like all the labels, attorneys, and music business establishment in Chicago all converged on Dwayne at the same time that year; his name couldn’t enter a conversation without insults and slander. I loved Dwayne; not only did he handle my 1st major label deals, but his boyfriend Andre Walker, who was Oprah’s hairdresser, would do my girlfriend’s hair for free. Needless to say a lot of perks came from that.
Early 1987, I was touring the east coast with Byron Stingily. It was Byron’s 1st trip and he wanted to make the most of it, so we stayed 2 extra weeks. Byron and Dwayne set up meetings with the majors. Our 1st meeting was with a guy at Capitol, and we had one rough demo, which turned out later to be “Devotion”. That A & R guy cussed us out for 2 hours about how unprepared we were; we had no photos, no bios, and only one song demoed on cassette. We felt 1 inch tall when he finished with us and we were ready to give it all up.
2 days later, we had a meeting with Merlin Bobb. Merlin listened to the demo of “Devotion” and said “This is the SHIT!” “I’m playing it tonight!”. Merlin not only played it that night, but he signed it 2 weeks later. He also signed Ce Ce Rogers when I let him hear that. He would ask me for stuff from cassette and immediately play it on the radio. Timmy Regisford at MCA was the same way, and I wish I could have thrown stuff his way, but Merlin was just beating him to the punch.
Sylvia was Merlin’s boss. She gave him the freedom to sign anything he wanted. When House music was there, Atlantic’s black music department made its 1st profit since 1967. We liked to joke that we financed En Vogue, Levert, and Mikki Howard, because they never spent money on videos for us. They could basically just drop us with no promotion and do good numbers.
The thing was though, we were out there and happy to be there, and Sylvia and Merlin were a major part of that and we appreciated it.
Thanks to Julian_Kelly, jj11, Prince HiFi, RAS, So Easy, ‘Magic’ Juan, DUBFLY and Mike Barnes of the Deep House Pages forum and Marshall Jefferson.