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The Playground

1347 S Michigan Ave

The Playground opened its doors and 1,000 square feet of dance floor space in 1982 and, as its original resident DJ Jesse Saunders told cultural historian Micah Salkind, it was open to everyone. The regular Black, white, straight and gay dancers would line up around the block to enter this juice bar. This was also the space where DJ Farley “Jackmaster” Funk (a.k.a. Farley Keith Williams) took up a residency at the time he became an original member of the Hot Mix Five DJ team at radio station WBMX, which spread house music across the city. Farley Funk helped craft the distinctive sound of house music at The Playground through incorporating the latest synthesizer-driven European dance records, which, at that time, were only available as expensive imports. He also wired a Roland 808 drum machine through a microphone to play along with the records and that lent them stronger beats and sent house music into new directions. In 1986, Farley Funk’s single “Love Can’t Turn Around,” featuring vocalist Darryl Pandy, became one of the biggest house music hits in England, which brought this sound more global attention.

– A.C. 

Caption: Former location of the Playground.

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