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Phuture founder Earl ‘Spanky’ Smith has died

DJ Spank-Spank aka Earl Smith is one of the three pioneers responsible for the legendary “Acid Tracks”

Chicago producer Earl Smith aka DJ Spank-Spank has died, annouced Phuture's Facebook page yesterday. The news comes following a stroke earlier this year, but circumstances of his passing are still unconfirmed. “MGMT:::To our acid house family and music family at large we are very sorry to say that our friend and partner DJ Spank-Spank has passed away,” reads the annoucement. “Spank is (was) a legend. We will for certain continue the work he’s started on his final album project and his innovations in music. Please for now: Pray for his family and DJ Pierre his brother. Allow them time to grieve. We will come back with news. Much love.”

Smith was a founder and constant member in the ever-evolving line-up of the Chicago house outfit Phuture. The group came into being after a DJ Ron Hardy set that Smith and fellow Phuture founders DJ Pierre and Herb J saw at Music Box in Chicago. But it was in 1985 when Spank came across an old Roland TB-303 upon which “Acid Tracks” was built, and out of which acid house emerged. Ron Hardy was the first DJ to play the legendary 12 minute wonder on cassette in 1986. The track got its official release the following year via Traxx Records, and it featured pioneering Chicago house producer Marshall Jefferson in its production credits.

Phuture (as Phuture 303) released their debut album Alpha And Omega nearly a decade after that legendary track. “The theme of Alpha And Omega is that acid started with Phuture, so give us our respect,” Earl Smith told Mike Shallcross in The Wire 170. “Magazines and labels go to all these other producers and talk about acid music, but there wouldn’t be all these other producers if it wasn’t for Phuture. I don’t think there would be techno without Phuture starting the acid sound.”

Though he was the lead drum programmer and main vocalist for Phuture, Smith also worked solo, as well as running the 24/7 internet station Global Traxx Radio with Chicago’s Charles ‘DJ Turk’ Tyler. His music has been released on labels such as Djax Up-Beats, Strictly Rhythm, Emotive and Dance Mania, among others. At the time of his death, Smith was still working on new tracks. “The world has no idea how talented he was and how much I depended on him,” DJ Pierre told Thump. “He texted me last night saying he was working on music and how excited he was to have this opportunity to perform again. We were working on our album project and he was so excited about that.”

Read Mike Shallcross’s article on how Phuture’s “Acid Tracks” triggered the rave phenomenon in The Wire 170.