The Chosen Few Picnic & Music Festival is a celebration of the DJ, the elevation of the performer & turning a spotlight back on the dancers & the crowd that make up Chicago’s House Music scene. Held on the southside of Chicago each year, the picnic is attended by thousands of soulful house and disco heads from around the country and increasingly around the world.
And from the other side of the decks, we celebrate of this year’s event (Saturday, July 7 2018) with five classics produced by members of the Chosen Few.
That Shit’s Wild (Doctor Derelict, 1988)
Wayne Williams is in possession of more gold & platinum records (I’ve seen them) than probably any other House Music DJ in the world. You get those when you’re an industry titan and Senior VP of A&R at RCA Records.
But Williams was just starting out in the A&R business when he made “That Shit’s Wild,” one of those quintessential singalong party records of the late 1980s but with a low-slung Acid House swagger to it. Frequently bootlegged, for years this was credited variously to Van Christie or Adonis, though the name (a frequent alias of Wayne Williams in the 1980s) was right there on the label.
I went to the source and asked if Wayne made this.
“Yes, me and Adonis,” he told me. “Adonis produced the record. I did vocals and wrote it.”
Highly underrated Acid House gem if you can pinch a copy off a comp.
God Made Me Phunky (The MD X-(S)press, 1994)
You could pick “Phreaky MF,” “Magic Feet” – but with a looped piano stab and ad lib narration guiding you down into the underground, “God Made Me Phunky” gave Mike Dunn a theme song and DJs everywhere a stick of nitroglycerin that blows up every room you toss it in.
The brilliant simplicity of this track makes it into a sort of blueprint for a certain kind of euphoric and unabashedly positive House Music. If House were to disappear off the face of the planet, we could rebuild it from scratch just using all the tricks and magic Mike packed into “God Made Me Phunky.”
Love Can’t Turn Around (Farley, Jesse Saunders & Darryl Pandy, 1986)
You could write a book about the behind the scenes story of “Love Can’t Turn Around,” a take off of Issac Hayes’ 1975 “I Can’t Turn Around.” Steve “Silk” Hurley and Keith Nunnally as JM Silk recorded a version of “I Can’t Turn Around” in 1986 which went to #1 on the Billboard club chart. This one would cross over though and was blithely judged as pop music by the British public, who made it a #1 overall hit – the first House Music track to do so.
Headhunter (Terry Hunter, 1994)
Terry Hunter made some slammin’ records throughout the 1990s, and I’ve always thrown down for the raw lo-fi fuzz of “Madness” (it’s part of a trilogy in my mind with Ron Trent’s “Altered States” and Armando’s “151.” Play them together and it’s like three guys all painting the same scene from different angles.)
But The Headhunter EP is I think were Terry Hunter found what makes him Terry Hunter: smoothness, a sense of soul, a musicality that sets him apart. “No Excuses,” “Beautiful Place” but especially “On & On” have it, and from this point forward he never let it go.
The Theme (Terry Hunter Presents Chosen Few DJs, 2009)
There’s something unmistakably pure about the way that several of the Chosen Few DJs have remained simply that: DJs. It’s almost unimaginable for a DJ coming up in the scene today not to add “slash-producer” to their name.
This is the closest some of the Chosen Few got to that, though, in terms of a commercial release. Not old school except for the people making it, “The Theme” was a novelty track put together for Terry Hunter’s T’s Box. With Andre Hatchett and Alan King taking a spin at remixing, you get a tantalizing glimpse of what might have been.