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Tony Humphries

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One of the few DJs whose career at the hub of dance music (New York) spanned the 1970s,'80s and '90s, Tony Humphries is one of the most important names in the evolution of house. His status is especially vaunted, considering his role in the development of garage music (also known as the Jersey Sound, in honor of Humphries' work at Newark's Club Zanzibar). Though Larry Levan is considered the seminal garage DJ (his Paradise Garage club gave its name to the style), Humphries nurtured the style throughout the 1980s and '90s and was potentially Levan's equal at inspiring audiences to higher and higher flights of dancefloor bliss.

Born in Brooklyn in 1957, he began collecting records at the age of ten and joined a DJ club while at college in Manhattan. Humphries had never considered a career in music, but when his job in the editorial department of New York's Daily News was temporarily halted due to a strike early in the 1980s, he never looked back. Humphries began working at a record store and spent his extra time spinning at New York's 98.7 KISS-FM in 1981. One year later, he debuted with a residency at the Club Zanzibar in nearby Newark, New Jersey.

Though Larry Levan's DJing at the Paradise Garage gave a name to the soulful New York variant of early house music later termed garage, Humphries was just as instrumental in bringing the sound to a wide audience. Every major East Coast producer coming up in the late '80s and early '90s name-checked him with vigor, and his DJing was also influential on many second-wave British acts. The U.K. connection came in handy by the turn of the decade — Humphries became one of several American DJs to make a name (and quite a large paycheck) on British shores. Several years later, the London super-club Ministry of Sound tapped Humphries for an exclusive deal to DJ and produce for its club/label combo, and Humphries also worked on remixing for Chaka Khan, Deee-Lite, the Sugarcubes and Janet Jackson, among others. Besides mix albums for Strictly Rhythm and Tribal UK, Humphries has recorded several of his own productions as the Tony Humphries Project.