Jerry Butler’s “One Night Affair,” released in 1972, is widely considered to be one of the earliest disco recordings. The top 10 R&B hit by a baritone crooner already 15 years into his career was a cover of an O’Jays song from a few years earlier, souped up with the slick modern groove that would come to dominate American dance floors within a few years. One of that record’s arrangers was Robert Bowles, who subsequently became a disco legend as a session guitarist (under the name Bob “Boogie” Bowles), playing on massive hits like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and Peaches & Herb’s “Shake Your Groove Thing.” So it’s surprising that, on being told that Butler’s version of “One Night Affair” is now hailed as groundbreaking, Bowles bursts into disbelieving laughter.
“I think that ['One Night Affair'] should’ve been a better record,” Bowles says. “But that’s great! It worked out pretty well, the bassline is singable…The thing of it is, when we started doing it, it was rhythm and blues, and somebody gave it the title of disco.”