How the 909 sound came to Chicago

This Pitchfork feature is riddled with great anecdotes by Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Eddie Fowlkes, Blake Baxter, and Mike Grant, as well as Chicago House legend Tyree Cooper. I especially love this one, on how Frankie Knuckles bought a 909 from Derrick May. For some reason 909’s were hard to get in Chicago, and because of this guys from Detroit considered the 909 their secret weapon.

Eddie Fowlkes:

Derrick was my roommate at the time. At one point Derrick stopped working so I was the only one to pay my half of the rent. One day I get home and Juan was there. I was tired and wanted to get to sleep. Then Juan wakes me up and says: “Fowlkes, Fowlkes! You know what this motherfucker did? Derrick went and gave away the fucking sound! He couldn’t pay his rent and sold his 909 to Frankie Knuckles in Chicago!” Juan was very protective of his sound and Derrick didn’t understand this. That’s how the 909 sound came to Chicago. This is how the sound between Detroit and Chicago merged.

Tyree Cooper:

Frankie Knuckles allowed Chip E to borrow the 909, and he used it to make “Like This”.

Eddie Fowlkes:

And the 909 still had Juan’s beats on it which he used to teach Derrick how to program.