Welcome to 909rewind, a series from 909originals that explores the early musical careers of some of clubland’s biggest names, uncovering hidden gems and familiar classics from the archives [click here for past editions].

There’s a reason why Daft Punk namecheck Paul Johnson as the first of their Teachers (about 15 seconds in), on their 1997 track of the same name, such is the influence that the Chicago producer had on house music in the 1990s.

Having first graced a set of turntables in the mid 80s, Johnson’s work as a producer, on labels such as Peacefrog, Dance Mania, Relief, Cajual, Nite Life and DJax Up Beats helped establish him as a go-to name for tough synths and even tougher beats.

With tracks such as the Music In Me, Hear The Music, Just Whistle and 1999’s Get Get Down – which rightfully earned him chart success across the globe – and remixes for the likes of Ron Carroll, Steve Poindexter, DJ Deeon, Joey Beltram, Armando, Jesse Saunders and countless other legends, Johnson is rightly considered a pioneer when it comes to robust, uncompromising house music.

As Johnson told 5 Magazine a few years back, while Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy set the template for Chicago house music, it was up to him, along with contemporaries such as Cajmere and Carl Craig, to ensure the Windy City’s fire continued to burn bright.

“When Frankie was doing this, I didn’t know anything about him,” he explained. “I didn’t learn about Frankie Knuckles until… probably 1986. Those three years, all I knew about was Ron Hardy, Steve “Silk” Hurley, Farley… Frankie was playing was for a gay crowd, in clubs… I was only 13, Frankie was 28.

House Music in a club versus House Music in the street were totally different things. Once they started fusing together, once they accepted that we liked to play beatin’ tracks that didn’t have much to it but it sounded good – then they let us come by and play. And then around 1988, you didn’t hear anything but tracks.

“It was crazy, just tracks, everyone loves ’em and everyone wants to hear ’em and we were all making them, just tons of tracks. We made so much stuff that never even got released, it’s just ridiculous.”

With that in mind, we’ve compiled approximately two and a bit hours’ worth of his early work (both productions and remixes) including some well-known and not so well-known classic cuts – demonstrating the great man’s musical versatility. Stick it on shuffle and turn it up… loud! 🙂

As he battles COVID-19 in hospital, 909originals wishes him a speedy recovery – get well soon Paul Johnson! [Main photo from Paul Johnson’s Facebook page]

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