Each Christmas Eve, for the final three many years, DJ Robert Drake has delivered a marathon combine for the extra daring of vacation coronary heart — these adventurous music lovers who discover yuletide pleasure in obscure large band Christmas numbers and spacey seasonal lounge music. Or something apart from limitless Bing Crosby and Mariah Carey.
The Night Before on WXPN with Robert Drake — which runs each December 24, from midnight to midnight — is an anticipation-fueled, wholly spontaneous, vacation music endurance check, and an ever-evolving assortment of hardly ever performed chestnuts plucked from Drake’s assortment of hard-to-find vacation music.
The present began on Christmas Eve 1993, when the station desperately wanted a couple of hours of vacation filler, and has now change into appointment vacation listening for tens of hundreds of loyal listeners in Philly, and extra who stream from distant. They arrive for a break from the standard vacation music fare and the consolation of Drake’s numerous and reliable aural vacation panorama. And with every passing 12 months, extra listeners inform Drake he has come to really feel like simply one other member of the household.
This Christmas, to mark his thirtieth anniversary, Drake will play for 30 hours, beginning Dec. 23 at 6pm, with a Vacation Cocktail Celebration Combine. The Inquirer just lately spoke with Drake — a lifelong Philadelphian and longtime DJ, who additionally produces “Children Nook” — about how a childhood obsession, and later grief, first fueled his vacation present, and what Christmas songs he’ll by no means play.
Okay, it’s essential to know that someplace round 12 or 13 years of age, I began to have a bizarre obsession with Christmas music. Whereas everybody else was working round accumulating Prime 40 songs, I used to be working round accumulating Christmas music.
I turned intrigued with digging via flea markets and previous thrift outlets to search out unknown artists who, for some cause, determined it was essential for them to do a vacation album; which I can’t think about anyone purchased besides for his or her family and friends.
The genres they lined had been everywhere in the map. A number of nation and old-timey music, but additionally plenty of unknown R&B artists from the 1970′s and 1980′s. There was one artist known as Esquivel, who carried out area age lounge vacation music. There have been blues Christmas albums from legendary artists to unknown studio musicians, who simply determined to do a Christmas music.
Les Brown and his Band of Renown. His orchestra got here out within the Thirties, and so they did a model of The Nutcracker Suite, which might be one of the best model.
My grandmother was in command of the music, so it was Eugene Ormandy, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Kate Smith’s Christmas carols. However once I was about 10 years previous, when it got here time for the family to play Christmas music, all of the adults would flip to me and make me resolve as a result of I used to be the one accumulating.
(Laughs) No, that was ultimately my very own doing.
The factor that’s the most important shock for folks, is I’ve completely no playlist. I’ve no preconceived notion as to what I’m going to do. I’ll decide a music from my library, and as quickly as I hit play, I’ve three minutes to determine what the following music is. This retains me awake — and permits me to reply to the day. Like in 2020, once we had been all first coping with COVID, I used to be capable of do much more music that was extra inclusive and celebratory. I didn’t announce that I used to be doing that. I simply do it internally.
Folks hardly ever request something for my vacation present. I feel they like the truth that I’m doing this type of 24-hour radio creation and so they’re simply alongside for the trip.
I’ve one rule: No singing animals. I’ve no persistence for them.
There’s really somewhat bit extra to that story than I don’t usually inform. In 1993, my father, Robert Drake Sr., handed away all of a sudden. I used to be dreading the vacations, and on the similar time, the administration at XPN wanted anyone to work Christmas Eve. It was pre-digital, so that you wanted to have a physique within the studio. I wasn’t celebrating the season, I used to be depressed. So I volunteered. That first Christmas Eve, I introduced in a very good chunk of my assortment — and it was simply me enjoying music.
It was therapeutic for me, however it additionally linked me with a bunch of people that had been coping with their very own frustrations over the season. So many individuals began calling to let me know they had been having a blah vacation season, or had been working late, however that they had been actually tuned in and having fun with what I used to be doing. That I used to be giving them an opportunity to have a good time the that means of the vacation season. It wasn’t till I began doing the Christmas Eve reveals that I actually understood the facility of radio.
Annually I encourage folks to ship me Christmas playing cards right here on the station. I’ll use them as ornament, however what folks don’t see is what folks write contained in the Christmas playing cards. They refill a complete facet speaking about how essential it’s that I’m right here yearly. How I’ve actually change into a part of their ornament. How they put up their tree, and have XPN on. How they will depend on me to be a part of their household. They exit of their means to ensure I’m a part of their vacation — and I discover that very humbling.
No. (Laughs) They know they will go to any industrial station or Spotify and listen to as many singing animals as they need.