At the age of ten, Tenaglia first started to collect records. In 1979, he began going to nightclub Paradise Garage, where DJ Larry Levan’s genre-less blend of music appealed to him. This was the club model Tenaglia would one day emulate: Levan’s bold style, the venue’s plain décor, and the party’s warmth and inclusiveness.
Tenaglia left New York in 1985 and started DJing in Miami as a resident at Cheers nightclub, playing classic New York and Chicago house. He returned to New York five years later. At this time, he started to create some remixes, including Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” (1991), Jamiroquai’s “Emergency on Planet Earth” (1993), and Madonna’s “Human Nature” (1994).
Tenaglia’s first mainstream success was with a remix of The Daou’s “Surrender Yourself” (1993). The title of his 1995 debut artist album on New York’s TRIBAL America/IRS Records described the genre as Hard & Soul. Tenaglia cited his influences ranged from Patti LaBelle to Kraftwerk, with many lesser-known soul, R&B, Latin, samba and disco artists in between.
Subsequent to this Tenaglia released three label compilations – Mix This Pussy (1994) and Can Your Pussy Do The Dog? (1995) for TRIBAL, and Gag Me with a Tune (1996) for Maxi.