Fireside Chat

Robert Williams: The Story of the Warehouse and Music Box

60 minsFirst aired 6 Nov 2018
Courtesy of Reggie Corner / The Way We Were

From the Warehouse to Music Box: 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 and gay disco, at 206 South Jefferson Street. Convincing his friends from New York’s hottest dancefloors to help him build his dream, Williams lured Frankie Knuckles to the Warehouse to be his resident DJ; then he got 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 went onto create the Music Box. With Ron Hardy as his DJ, Williams’ vision became a reality: The Music Box was a notorious and magical club, with 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 sonic revolution. An essential but often under-appreciated figure in the countercultural history of modern America, Robert Williams is a man you want to hear speak the truth.


Interview by Jacob Arnold
Written and engineered by Frank Westerkamp
Produced by Carmen Hofmann

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