Born Joseph Saddler on January 1, 1958 in Barbados he grew up in the Bronx. He became involved in the earliest New York DJ scene, attending parties set up by early luminaries. Learning from Pete Jones and Kool Herc he used duplicate copies of a single record and two turntables but added a dextrous manual edit with a mixer to promote the break (a point of isolated drum rhythm) - the ordinary playing of the record would be interrupted to overlay the break, the break could be repeated by using the mixer to switch channels while the second record was spun back. The speed and dexterity needed showed why Saddler was called Flash, although he got the nickname in school due to the fact that he hung around with another guy named Gordon. He also invented the technique intially called cutting, which was later renamed scratching.
He played illegal parties and also worked with rappers including Kurtis Blow and Lovebug Starski before forming his own group in the late 1970s after promptings from Ray Chandler. The initial members were Cowboy (Keith Wiggins), Melle Mel (Melvin Glover) and Kid(d) Creole (Nathaniel Glover) making Grandmaster Flash and the 3 MCs. Two other rappers briefly joined but they were replaced more permanently by Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams, previously in the Funky Four) and Scorpio (Eddie Morris, also used the name Mr. Ness) to create The Furious Five. They pioneered MCing, head-to-heads, and invented some of the staple phrases as well as skillful raps. They performed at Disco Fever in the Bronx from 1978.
Signed to Sugar Hill Records in 1980 by Joe Robinson Jr. They released numerous singles, gaining a gold disc for "Freedom", and also toured. The classic "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel," released in 1981 was the best display of their skills, but it was their least successful single at the time. The group's most significant hit was "The Message" (1982), which went platinum in less than a month. Flash sued Sugar Hill in 1983 over the non-payment of royalties and in 1984 the group split between Flash and Mel before disintergrating entirely. Flash, Kid Creole and Rahiem signed to Elektra while the others continued as Melle Mel and the Furious Five. They reformed in 1987 for a charity concert, to release one album and then fall apart again. There was another reunion, of a kind, in 1994, although Cowboy had died in 1989 from the effects of his crack addiction.
Discography (Albums only)
The Message (1982), Greatest Messages (1983), They said it couldn't be done (1985), Stepping Off (1985), The Source (1986), Ba-dop-boom-bang (1987), On The Strength (1988, reunion album), Flash is Back (1998).