CHICAGO — It took only one take to make a timeless record.
The year was 1999. In a basement studio at 64th Street and Parnell Avenue, DJ Hudson “Hot Mix” Beauduy said he laid down a house track while DJ Casper, a South Side native, rapped over the instrumental with vocals he often used as a roller-skating MC scraping by in city clubs.
The “Cha Cha Slide” would soon make its way around the world, bringing Casper from London to Japan while his hit became a staple at bar mitzvahs, BBQs, the Olympics and countless weddings — with everyone clapping their hands.
Casper, whose real name was Willie Perry Jr., died Monday from cancer, which had slowed the entertainer’s work in his later years, his wife first told ABC7. He was 58 years old.
“Casper was a fun-loving, giving person,” his wife said in a statement provided to channel 7. “He was a genuine, family oriented man. He loved Chicago with all his heart. He will be greatly missed.”
Beauduy, a longtime friend and collaborator, said he’s found peace with Casper’s death, knowing that his music will live forever.
“It’s universal. To this day if you want to pack a dance floor, you drop that track,” Beauduy said. “You don’t need a partner. From babies to young people to older folks, it lays out exactly what you need to have a good time.”
Casper and Beauduy debuted the magnetic dance — originally called the “Casper Millennium Slide,” given the impending turn of the century — at the legendary former Taste Entertainment Center in Englewood, which had been the oldest black-owned club in the city.
Casper never thought it would be a hit, telling ABC7 the song was first an “aerobic exercise for my nephew” who worked as a trainer at Bally’s Total Fitness. But at the Taste that night, “the crowd went wild,” Beauduy said.
“Next thing you know, Elroy Smith with WGCI radio is pushing it out and then Universal Music comes calling,” Beauduy said. “The rest is history.”
Beauduy said he nudged Casper to rename the song the “Cha Cha Slide,” given his famous instructions to “cha cha real smooth.”
From there, the song gained international renown and has since become a staple at parties, weddings and school dances, with DJ Casper leading party goers in the line dance.
“Cha Cha Slide” and its follow-up “Cha Cha Slide Part 2” were distributed by Universal Records. The original song spent five weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, according to the New York Times, before becoming a dance floor staple and one of Chicago’s biggest cultural exports in recent memory.
The pair didn’t strike it rich, “even though we should have,” Beauduy said. But the record changed their lives, selling millions of copies and spawning into remixes in dozens of genres, Beauduy said.
The Guinness World Record for the largest Cha Cha Slide was set in 2011 with 3,231 beach-goers in Blackpool, England.
In the music video for the Cha-Cha Slide, Casper and dancers take to the Michigan Avenue and East Wacker Drive by what is now the Chicago Riverwalk.
Casper went on to tour with James Brown, appear in a Pepsi commercial for the NFL and was featured in three songs off Chance The Rapper’s “The Big Day” album.
Farley “Jackmaster” Funk, an originator of Chicago house music and a friend of Casper’s, said the iconic Chicago performer was a kind man who never took issue with being a one-hit wonder.
For years before he ever told someone to cha-cha slide, Casper had hustled through the South Side nightlife scene, riding roller skates inside nightclubs, pantomiming Lenny Williams hits and making his way out of the club just in time to work a day job, Funk said.
Casper was “a downright entertainer,” Funk said. He never got discouraged — and “just knew he wanted to be famous.”
“The guy traveled the world and got hired everywhere to perform one song. He’s signing autographs and it’s generational — from 50-plus to 18-plus to kids,” Funk said. “How many generational records are there?
“It’s a different kind of one-hit.”
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: