Scattered among the classic productions of the mid-'80s Chicago house scene are those of Jamie Principle, the first to record song-based house music and the closest to a songwriter in the entire community. Principle never received his proper respect, since many of his best singles were only released years after their (usually ecstatic) introduction on the Chicago club scene. Also, the balance of input between Principle and producer Frankie Knuckles has never been defined, resulting in singles credited to "Frankie Knuckles Presents," "A Frankie Knuckles Production," or occasionally just "Frankie Knuckles" instead of what should perhaps have been acknowledged as Principle co-productions.
He was born Byron Walton on Chicago's south side, and early on differed from the majority of future house producers by gaining inspiration from a novel group of artists: David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Prince, and Human League instead of the almost requisite mixture of Parliament/Funkadelic and obscure disco. He played drums and clarinet as part of a band while attending church, and decided to try making music on his own by 1980. With a synthesizer and his own live drum accompaniment, Principle began writing songs and later bought a four-track recorder to set them down on tape. A mutual friend, José Gomez, introduced his recordings to the don of Chicago DJs, Frankie Knuckles, and Knuckles began dropping Principle songs -- still on reel-to-reel tape -- into his sets at the Warehouse.
One of the tracks, "Your Love," became a huge hit at the clubs and on the Hot Mix 5's radio show. Finally, in 1985, two years after house music had debuted on wax, "Your Love" was released on Trax Records. Another previously unreleased gem, "Waiting on My Angel," was released on Person Records one year later. According to reliable rumor, Knuckles attempted to sell an unreleased Principle single to both of the two major Chicago house labels, Trax and DJ International, at the same time and without his permission; soon, Principle had distanced himself from the producer, and released the dis record "Knucklehead" in response.
The B-side of "Your Love" on its Trax issue was "Baby Wants to Ride," a piece of X-rated funk which made clear Principle's allegiance to Prince. The ffrr label licensed the single in 1988 and it became a major international club hit. Principle hit the Americans with two singles for Atlantic ("Cold World" and "Date with the Rain," produced with Steve "Silk" Hurley) but then signed to the Smash subsidiary of PolyGram. The singles from his 1991 album Midnite Hour did moderately well in clubs but Principle's increasingly pop-slanted productions alienated club-goers and simultaneously failed to cross over into pop markets. He continued producing, and appeared on Jesse Saunders' Chicago Reunion album in 1993. ~ John Bush