For a long time the word “house” referred not to a particular style of music so much as to an attitude. If a song was “house” it was music from a cool club, it was underground, it was something you’d never hear on the radio. In Chicago the right club would be “house,” and if you went there, you’d be house and so would your friends. Walking down Michigan Avenue, you would be able to tell who was house and who wasn’t by what they were wearing. If their tape player was rocking The Gap Band, they were definitely not house, but if it was playing Loleatta Holloway or (surprisingly enough) the Eurythmics, they were and you would probably go over and talk to them.
One day soon, Chicago [black, gay] kids would invent a stark new kind of dance music, and because of where this came from [The Warehouse], and because of where it was played, it would steal the name for itself. But for several years, house was a feeling, a rebellious musical taste, a way of declaring yourself in the know. Certainly the word house was used long before people started making what we would now call house music.
–Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey, (1999)
But, where does house music begin?
In the beginning there was Jack, and Jack had a groove, and from this groove came the groove of all grooves, and while one day viciously throwing down on his box, Jack boldly declared, let there be house.
–“My House” by Rhythm Control (1987)
And then, of course, there’s the New York version of this fancy-dancin’ story: