Ron Hardy was an instrumental figure and
Hardy started his career in 1974 in Chicago gay club Den One. Here, with a set-up of two turntables, a mixer, and a reel 2 reel tape-deck, he played long nights of underground black dance music. Around 1977, after working with renowned DJ Frankie Knuckles at the iconic Chicago club the Warehouse, he went to work in Los Angeles. At the end of 1982, when Chicago’s legendary Warehouse club closed and re-opened as the Powerhouse at another location, Hardy was asked to play at the old club, now renamed “The Music Box”. Hardy, of course, competed with Powerhouse DJ (and former colleague) Frankie Knuckles, however, he was very experimental in his style. Producer Chip E. introduced Hardy to recording music in 1986 when the two mixed “Donnie” by The It (featuring Chip E., Larry Heard, Robert Owens, and Harri Dennis). From humble beginnings, Hardy’s contributions to House Music are considered mammoth.
While Frankie Knuckles at the Warehouse (and later the Powerhouse) had a very smooth style of playing, Hardy was very different. He had less regard for sound quality and would play with manic energy, mixing everything from classic Philadelphia Disco classics, Italo disco imports to new wave, mutant disco and rock tracks. Hardy also pitched records up way more than Knuckles (pitch is the difference between normal speed and the speed at which the record is currently playing. Usually expressed as + or -, with 10 being maximum/minimum). Techno artist Derrick May remembers hearing Ron playing a Stevie Wonder cut with the speed at +8.
Hardy played a lot of reel-to-reel edits and was always tweaking the sound system and playing with the EQ. A Ron Hardy trademark was playing a track
Hardy left the Music Box around 1986. Though he continued to DJ around the area, Hardy was DJ’ing at the edge of the looking Glass on 13th Street when Chicago became house music’s mecca later in the 80s.
There has been a renewed interest in Ron Hardy’s legacy as a DJ. In 2004, two bootleg 12″ records were released with “Ron’s edits” and in 2005, Partehardy Records, run by his nephew Bill released authentic edits not heard in over 20 years. There is also another bootleg series of edits called “Music Box”, containing either genuine Ron Hardy re-edits or tributes by other DJs imitating his editing style. DJ Theo Parrish also made a series of tribute-remixes called “Ugly Edits” some of which bear a striking resemblance to Hardy’s re-edits.
In addition to his DJ mixes, long-buried original productions have also come to light — among them, “Throwback 87”, a collaboration between Ron Hardy and Gene Hunt. Ron Hardy has a section dedicated to him on the 2nd DVD of the DJ documentary Maestro.