Steve "Silk" Hurley Credit: courtesy the artist

The history of house music would be incomplete without southeast-side native Steve “Silk” Hurley. After landing a regular DJ gig at south-side house hot spot Sauer’s in the early 80s, he was inspired to make his own tracks, and the work he produced throughout the rest of that decade played a critical role in informing the world about house. As one half of J.M. Silk he created the “Music Is the Key” 12-inch, which in 1985 became the first release from DJ International, the local outfit that would become an influential house label; with 1986’s “Jack Your Body” he popularized “jack,” one of the genre’s definitive terms, and introduced Chicago house to the UK, where the song hit number one on the British dance charts; he also released some of the first major-label house hits through RCA. Hurley became a phenomenon as a solo artist too—his debut for Atlantic, 1989’s “Work It Out,” peaked at number three on Billboard’s dance chart—and made him an in-demand remixer for stars such as Michael Jackson and Madonna. By the early 00s the international spotlight on Hurley faded, but he remained active; in 2005 he teamed up with DJ Skip to form S&S Records, which continues to release warm, easygoing house tracks reminiscent of early days of the genre, when it owed everything to obscure lavish disco songs. In May S&S released a digital single of a track called “Reason” that features 15 different remixes anchored by Hurley’s eight-minute “House Banger” version with lively keys and unhurried hand drums that dreamily blend together. Hurley’s a masterful DJ too; when I saw him spin at last year’s Chosen Few Picnic, the part of the field in front of the festival stage grew so tightly packed with people I couldn’t see a blade of grass, but everyone kept dancing despite the crush and the afternoon heat. To study Hurley’s skills more closely, I’d recommend picking up Jack to the Lost Chicago Reels, Still Music’s new cassette series sourced from reel-to-reel mixes Chicago house DJs have made for local radio stations; the first set is made up of four tapes, each one designated with the letters J, A, C, or K. Hurley’s mini mix takes up the A side of the A cassette, and he blends hip-house and raw house so seamlessly I’d rather listen to these cuts as a whole than experience the individual parts as stand-alone tracks.   v