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Roller Disco was the Groovy Combination of Skating and Disco Music in the 1970's

Fads | March 19, 2018

February 5th,1979: An acrobatic dancer doing the splits in mid-air at a roller disco. (Photo by Chris Moorhouse/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

The 1970’s was quite possibly the biggest decade of the popular activity of roller skating. Early on roller skating was always billed as a sport or a leisurely activity. That being said, roller skating became more than that. It had become a notable, historical phenomenon.

Roller skating in the 1970’s groovy era had become a craze!

Part of the 1970's, also known as the groovy era, found people becoming roller skating freaks! People were not only roller skating as a form of recreation, but also as a means of transportation. Roller skates were being worn as shoes, much like an accessory. Everyone was getting in on it!

The concept of roller discos originated as a fad in the 1970s during the height of the disco craze.

A roller disco is a discothèque or roller skating rink where dancers wear roller skates of some kind to dance. The music played in the 70’s roller discos were (then) modern with a beat that was easy to dance to. 

By the 70’s, roller skates had been around for a long time. They were actually invented in the 18th century. They fully realized their hay day was in the mid-70’s and 80’s. Around the same time, disco music was also becoming popular. This was most likely a coincidence by boy did they go together. It was about this time that people were ready for a new craze and, VOILA… roller disco was born!

Roller rinks were popular hangout spots.

Countless people, adults and children alike, found themselves spending leisure time in the local roller rink. If you could keep upright, it was an enjoyable pastime. When roller disco hit the scene, it was a dream come true!

James Brown drew inspiration for his fancy footwork from roller skating.

A distinctive style of skating known as JB Skating emerged. It included imitating the fancy footwork moves from the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown. The famous James Brown had started his own sub-craze!

Roller Disco was very popular in major cities, especially in New York and Chicago.

During the height of the 70’s roller skating revolution, every major city in American had developed their own distinctive skating style. Chicago and New York had become knowns as famous roller skating cities; even being dubbed as roller skating meccas. There was a sort of swagger surrounding the activity. To be done correctly, roller skating had to be made to look easy. It is hard enough just trying to keep from falling, but then dancing became involved.

Cher was hip to the roller skating craze!

1979 was the year that Cher release a song called, “Hell on Wheels.” The song was accompanied by another popular craze; a music video. Cher’s song was featured with a video of an eclectic group of truck drivers and bikers with Cher on roller skates wearing a form fitting jumpsuit; just one of her many provocative outfits. Her music video was one of the firs modern, MTV style music videos.

Before “Dirty Dancing,” Patrick Swayze made his big-screen debut as Ace, in “Skatetown USA,” which came out in 1979. It had been called, The Rock and Roller Disco Movie of the Year.

“Roller Boogie” and “Xanadu” were other movies that featured roller disco.

Disco music was funky and had great beats. Well before too long, discotheques were popping up everywhere. Coupled with the idea of dancing on roller skates, roller discos also became hugely popular. These roller disco clubs had a huge cultural impact. It was like funk squared!

Historically, club goers want to go where the action is. During this funky and groovy era, roller discos were where the action was! It gave clubbers the opportunity to get all decked out in their funky disco fashion. People could not only show off their style, but also to show off their roller skating abilities.

Roller disco took on a life of its own in the 70s. The cultural craze had all the makings of something awesome! It had all the popular elements of the exciting nightlife including fashion, disco music and, well, roller skating.

Roller disco became popular on primetime television.

Popular television shows also featured roller skating and roller disco, including, “Charlie’s Angels.” The Angels weren’t the only ones, though. Other popular shows like, “Chips,” also got in on the fad, portraying roller disco.

Roller vinyls were typically promoters to both Disco Music and Roller Skating Rinks. Most of the 70’s, disco era, vinyl records include cover art of a funky group of people with rather wild, disco outfits and of course roller skates.

The 70’s was a crazy, groovy era. Looking back, it seems so funny now. Over the years, fads have come and gone. I feel confident that roller disco will be one of those that qualify as one of the more memorable ones.

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.