1966–74: Proto-disco and early history of disco music

The term disco is derived from discothèque (French for "library of phonograph records", but it was subsequently used as a term for nightclubs in Paris). By the early 1940s, the terms disc jockey and DJ were in use to describe radio presenters. During WWII, because of restrictions set in place by the Nazi occupiers, jazz dance halls in Occupied France played records instead of using live music. Eventually more than one of these jazz venues had the proper name discothèque. By 1959, the term was used in Paris to describe any of these type of nightclubs. That year, a young reporter named Klaus Quirini started to select and introduce records at the Scotch-Club in Aachen, West Germany. By the following year the term was being used in the United States to describe that type of club, and a type of dancing in those clubs. By 1964, discotheque and the shorthand disco were used to describe a type of sleeveless dress worn when going out to nightclubs. In September 1964, Playboy magazine used the word disco as a shorthand for a discothèque-styled nightclub.

In Philadelphia, R&B musicians and audiences from the black, Italian, and Latino communities adopted several traits from the hippies and psychedelia. They included venues with a loud, overwhelming sound, free-form dancing, trippy lighting, colorful costumes, and the use of hallucinogens. Psychedelic soul groups like the Chambers Brothers and especially Sly and the Family Stone influenced proto-disco acts such as Isaac Hayes, Willie Hutch and the soul style known as the Philadelphia Sound. In addition, the perceived positivity, lack of irony, and earnestness of the hippies informed proto-disco music like MFSB's album Love Is the Message. To the mainstream public M.F.S.B. stood for "Mother Father Sister Brother"; to the tough areas where they came from it was understood to stand for "Mother F**kin' Son of a Bitch", a reference to their playing skill and musical prowess.

A forerunner to disco-style clubs was the private parties held by New York City DJ David Mancuso in The Loft, a members-only club in his home in 1970. When Mancuso threw his first house parties, the gay community (members of whom comprised much of The Loft's attendee roster) was often harassed in New York gay bars and dance clubs. But at The Loft and many other early, private discotheques, men could dance together without fear of police action thanks to Mancuso's underground business model. The first article about disco was written in 1973 by Vince Aletti for Rolling Stone magazine. In 1974, New York City's WPIX-FM premiered the first disco radio show.

Philadelphia soul and New York soul were evolutions of the Motown sound, and were typified by the lavish percussion and lush strings that became a prominent part of mid-1970s disco songs. Early songs with disco elements include "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (the Supremes, 1966), "Only the Strong Survive" (Jerry Butler, 1968), "The Love You Save" by Jackson 5 (1970), "Soul Makossa" (Manu Dibango, 1972), "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder (1972) Eddie Kendricks' "Keep on Truckin'" (1973) and "The Love I Lost" by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (1973). "Love Train" by the O'Jays (1972), with M.F.S.B. as the backup band, hit Billboard Number 1 in March 1973, and has been called "disco".

Early disco was dominated with producers and labels such as Salsoul Records (Ken, Stanley, and Joseph Cayre), West End Records (Mel Cheren), Casablanca (Neil Bogart), and Prelude (Marvin Schlachter), to name a few. The genre was also shaped by Tom Moulton, who wanted to extend the enjoyment of dance songs — thus creating the extended mix or "remix". Other influential DJs and remixers who helped to establish what became known as the "disco sound" included David Mancuso, Nicky Siano, Shep Pettibone, Larry Levan, Walter Gibbons, and Chicago-based "Godfather of House" Frankie Knuckles.

”The DJ was central to the ritual of 1970's dance culture, but the dancing crowd was no less important, and it was the combination of these two elements that created the conditions for the dance floor dynamic." In disco parties and clubs, a "...good DJ didn't only lead dancers...[to the dance floor,] but would also feel the mood of the dance floor and select records according to this energy (which could be communicated by the vigor of the dancing, or level of the crowd's screams, or sign language of dancers directed towards the booth)." Disco-era DJs would often remix (re-edit) existing songs using reel-to-reel tape machines, and add in percussion breaks, new sections, and new sounds. DJs would select songs and grooves according to what the dancers wanted, transitioning from one song to another with a DJ mixer and using a microphone to introduce songs and speak to the audiences. Other equipment was added to the basic DJ setup, providing unique sound manipulations, such as reverb, equalization, and echo. Using this equipment, a DJ could do effects such as cutting out all but the throbbing bass-line of a song, and then slowly mixing in the beginning of another song using the DJ mixer's crossfader.

Disco hit the television airwaves with the music/dance variety show Soul Train in 1971 hosted by Don Cornelius, then Marty Angelo's Disco Step-by-Step Television Show in 1975, Steve Marcus' Disco Magic/Disco 77, Eddie Rivera's Soap Factory, and Merv Griffin's Dance Fever, hosted by Deney Terrio, who is credited with teaching actor John Travolta to dance for his role in the hit movie, Saturday Night Fever, as well as DANCE, based out of Columbia, South Carolina. Attribution Wikipedia

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