Photo credit: Ernest Collins
Serving others and giving back to his community has always been important to Frederick Dunson. Born on Chicago’s west side, he attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help Grammar School, St. Ignatius College Prep and Columbia College where he majored in Arts & Entertainment Management & Public Relations. He was employed at the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County for nearly 34 years where he worked his way from File Clerk to Chief Deputy Clerk of the Juvenile Justice Division. He received numerous commendations and acknowledgements for his public service and retired in December of 2014.
Since then he has continued his service work as Founder, President & Executive Director of the Frankie Knuckles Foundation – NFP, formed to honor famed Grammy Award winner Frankie Knuckles, Frederick’s best friend and business partner to continue Frankie’s legacy through charitable endeavors.
Dunson and Knuckles who were partners of their production company D/E Entertainment held some of the most highly anticipated and attended events for 13 years at some of the most renown and venerable venues here in the city of Chicago!
Founded in December 2014, the Frankie Knuckles Foundation – NFP is a not for profit educational, and cultural organization dedicated to the advancement of Frankie Knuckles’ mission as the global ambassador of House music through media, conservation and public events continuing and supporting the causes he advocated. The FKF is a recognized 501c3 and focused on these initiatives: music in schools, LGBTQ youth homelessness, AIDS research / prevention & diabetes research / education.
Frederick currently serves on the Black Perspective Committee of the Chicago International Film Festival, the Board of the Empowerment Center for Better Living where he attends and is a member as well as a member of the Non for Profit Committee of the West Loop Community Organization and recently served on its Board of Directors.
GO BANG! Magazine: When and how did you first become aware of and get involved in the club scene of the Disco days, which predates House.
Frederick Dunson: I became aware of the club scene during my high school years, so we’re talking about ’75. There was a group of friends who were slightly older and they would let me tag along with them and they would get me in the bars/clubs. So, this was during the disco era…blinking lights, mirror balls and lighted dance floors…LOL! I got involved once I started working at the Warehouse, so that would have been ’76 – ’77.
GO BANG! Magazine: I understand that DJ Frankie Knuckles was your best friend. How did you and Frankie first meet and what was it about him that clicked and made you guys become homies?
Frederick Dunson: Frankie was more than just my best friend he was my brother. When you’ve been friends as long as we were (38 years) there’s no other way to describe it. My family considered him to be a part of our family as well. We met through a friend (Kurt Robinson) who introduced us at the Bowery one night and we just clicked. We chatted during the week. He would come by our house for dinner. Kurt and I started helping him out addressing invites for the weekly parties and the next thing I knew (as mentioned) was that I started working at the Warehouse.
Frankie was such an open, warm and caring person that his sensibilities about life and what makes a great party drew us close. And the fact that he wanted to see what Chicago had to offer made us gel, plus we shared a love of music and he introduced me to the music that I came to love…House!
GO BANG! Magazine: Not only were you guys best friends, but you also went into business together being business partners in a production company, D/E Entertainment. Can you name a few of the most memorable events that D/E Entertainment produced?
Frederick Dunson: D/E came out of Frankie coming to Chicago and playing for different promoters…after a gig one night at the Rivera where the management and staff were so nasty to the LQBTQIA+ attendees and pretty much everyone who was there, that at the end of the evening he told me that the only way that he’d come and play again was that “it would have to be an event we produced”. So we formed D/E and started producing two annual events a year – 4th of July & Thanksgiving – at a few of Chicago’s hottest venues.
A few of our most memorable events included Adeva performing at Crobar, Jocelyn Brown at the House of Blues, a party that included a Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Madonna impersonators, and the evening Cristina Aguilera dropped in to party!
GO BANG! Magazine: Individually, you are quite a dynamic person. You had an extensive career in the Cook County Circuit Court system, which you retired from in 2014. But, since then, you’ve kept busy being one of the founders of the Frankie Knuckles Foundation – NFP. The foundation focuses on specific initiatives: music in schools, LGBTQ youth homelessness, AIDS research / prevention and diabetes research / education. I understand that these were all issues that Frankie held dear to his heart. Why did you think it was important for the Frankie Knuckles Foundation (FKF) to exist?
Frederick Dunson: FKF was the brainchild of Randy Crumpton (the late entertainment attorney) who represented Frankie. After Frankie’s untimely passing, there were events and fundraisers that was using his name and we (his family and friends) didn’t know where the funds were going. So, Randy’s thought was that a foundation in Frankie’s honor could do the same thing for causes he advocated, help people out, plus have an educational and conservation component regarding House music, as well as continue his legacy and oversee his brand.
It’s amazing! Even though he’s not with us, he and his music continue to touch the lives of many. There’s always an email or a post on one of our socials (media sites) that describes that very thing and to me that validates why it was so important to establish FKF!
GO BANG! Magazine: The fact that the FNF calls the south side of Chicago its home and has a physical location at the Stony Island Arts Bank, 6760 S. Stony Island Avenue, is a testament to the fact that south siders made up a great part of the House music family and culture. What factors went into choosing the location for the foundation?
Frederick Dunson: I know it seems like it, but our office is located in the West Loop. Frankie’s vinyl catalogue is housed at the Stony Island Arts Bank, as a result of a conversation that Randy arranged between me and friend to FKF – Theaster Gates. The collection could have been sent to a number of other cities, but it was Frankie’s wishes to keep his collection in Chicago. We were in discussion with Columbia College’s Center for Black Music Research to house it there but after spending time and speaking with Theaster about our (FKF & Rebuild) vision for the collection, it made all the sense in the world to house it there…besides Theaster loves House music !
There have been a number of FKF and Rebuild events produced there, as well as revolving around the collection. And yes the response to it being housed there is indeed a testimony to the fact that south siders have definitely made a contribution to the fabric of the House music culture here in Chicago…but there are also a number of visitors from overseas that drop in to take a look at the collection or attend events.
GO BANG! Magazine: The FKF Board of Directors includes an array of individuals from different backgrounds including you, Alan King (Chosen Few DJs), Maurice “Judd” Chaylor, David Morales (Def Mix Productions), Robin Robinson (Journalist), Eric Kupper (Hysteria Productions) and Ken Dunkin (Politician) to name a few. How does this variety of individuals enhance the Board?
Frederick Dunson: A few of the names mentioned were Founding members and have now moved on. I like to think that we are a great representation of what House music looks like. It was important to me that each person that belongs to the Foundation had some sort of relationship with him, knew him and could bring their respective gifts to assist in our efforts to bring visibility and accomplish some of the goals of the organization.
GO BANG! Magazine: Besides being an integral part in the history and legacy of the House music culture, what are some of your other interests?
Frederick Dunson: You’re too kind…thank you for such kind words…
Some of my other interests…hmmm…bingeing on TV. I’m unapologetically a television junkie; travel, music, art and cooking. I consider myself a pretty good cook. Frankie and I always wanted to open a restaurant, and of course an interesting and great conversation.
GO BANG! Magazine: After we get through this COVID-19 pandemic, are there any events, panels, or productions coming up at the Frankie Knuckles Foundation that you can share with our readers?
Frederick Dunson: Hopefully things will get back to what seems like our “new” normal and we’ll be able to gather and celebrate each other and life, but in the meantime we’re tentatively planning a global virtual celebration observance of Frankie Knuckles Day on August 25th.
GO BANG! Magazine: The COVID-19 pandemic has caught the world off guard. How are you dealing with it?
Frederick Dunson: Yes it has! Unfortunately, our leadership in Washington didn’t pay attention to all of the red flags that were sent and we as a country could have responded sooner! I’d like to think that I’m dealing with it fairly well by being vigilant and following the guidelines prescribed by Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot, by being compliant and staying out of harm’s way, plus a positive attitude goes a long way (smile).
GO BANG! Magazine: On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down, begging for his life and repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.” This incident has caused civil unrest and massive protests across the world. How do you feel about this unfortunate situation and call for police reform due to the horrible treatment of minorities by the police?
Frederick Dunson: It is indeed a very unfortunate situation…seeing Mr. Floyd lose his life because of the hatred instilled into one person who abused his power was so horrendous, but seeing Chauvin’s partners stand there and do nothing was even more offensive!
Since a large amount of my professional background was working in the court system, I respect the criminal legal system, when it works like it is meant to do. It’s when those involved in the system don’t follow the law and treat people with the kindness and dignity we’re all entitled to under our Constitution that it then goes awry and liberties get abused. We have a right to be angry and ask for change, but not destructive to our own neighborhoods and destroy the services and business that we so desperately need in our communities to keep us alive. And yes, there certainly must be police reform to bring about a change nationwide. It’s a must that it comes sooner than later!
You can contact Frederick Dunson at: firstname.lastname@example.org. For individuals seeking more information or to learn about FKF, you can visit the website at: http://thefkfoundation.org and follow on FB and Instagram.
Pierre A. Evans is a freelance writer of Entertainment, Music, Art, Culture, Fashion and Current Events, and previously for SoulTrain.com, NDigo.com, ChicagoDefender.com, EmpireRadioMagazine.com, and UrbanMuseMag.com, an author, singer/songwriter, actor, model, poet, dancer, and DJ. He is also the owner of Pinnacle Entertainment Productions. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram