Ron Hardy is the only man who can test Frankie Knuckles' status as the godfather of Chicago house music. Though he never recorded under his own name and left little evidence of his life, Hardy was the major name for Chicago dance music from the late '70s to the mid-'80s. By 1974, he had already effected a continuous music mix -- with reel-to-reel machines plus a dual-turntable setup -- at the club Den One. Several years later, Hardy played with Knuckles at a club called the Warehouse and though he spent several years in Los Angeles, he later returned to Chicago to open his own club, the Music Box. While Knuckles was translating disco and the emerging house music to a straight, southside audience at the Power Plant, Hardy's 72-hour mix sessions and flamboyant party lifestyle fit in well with the uptown, mostly gay audience at the Music Box. A roll-call of major Chicago producers -- including Marshall Jefferson, Larry Heard, Adonis, Phuture's DJ Pierre, and Chip E -- all debuted their compositions by pressing up acetates or reel-to-reel copies for Hardy to play during the mid-'80s. Lingering problems with heroin addiction forced him to leave the Music Box around 1986 and though he continued to DJ in the area, Hardy wasn't around when Chicago became house music's mecca later in the decade. He died in 1991.