Fireside Chat

Robert Williams: The Story of Warehouse and Music Box

60 minsFirst aired 20 Sep 2016Next Fireside Chat Today at 9:00pm EDT
Photo courtesy of Reggie Corner

From the Warehouse and Music Box to Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy: a history lesson from the man who put Chicago on the map and changed the course of dance music forever.

Without Robert Williams, there would be no Chicago house music. Originally from New York, Williams attended the seminal after-hours discos, including David Mancuso’s Loft, and met Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles when they were mere club kids. When he moved to Chicago in 1974, Williams and his fraternity brothers threw riotous after-hours parties that later became the Warehouse: the highly influential black, gay disco, at 206 South Jefferson Street. Convincing his friends from New York’s hottest dancefloors to help him build his disco dream, Williams lured Frankie Knuckles to the Warehouse to be his resident DJ, and Richard Long and Associates, to install a custom sound and light system. After a few glorious years the Warehouse literally and figuratively fell apart, so Williams swiftly went onto create the Music Box. With Ron Hardy as his DJ, Williams’ vision became a reality: the Music Box was one of most notorious and magical clubs in a city with a long history of musical innovation, drugged-out debauchery and all-night dancing. Trials and tribulations came and went for Williams and his close band of loyal innovators and followers, but his legacy is undeniable. Inspired in large part by Williams’ parties, local producers began creating their own stripped-down tracks, inspiring dancers worldwide, and kicking off a true sonic revolution. An essential but often underappreciated figure in the countercultural history of modern America, Robert Williams is a man you want to hear speak the truth.

Photo credit: Reggie Corner, The Way We Were


Interview by Jacob Arnold
Written and produced by Frank Westerkamp

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