When Frankie Knuckles Met Robert Williams (Again)

When X Met Y is a series that sheds light on what happened when two creative minds got together for the first time

This time around we present a slight twist on the feature: Frankie Knuckles had already partied with Robert Williams, the man who would eventually employ him as the resident DJ at Chicago’s Warehouse club. But after an ill-advised doughnut caper, Frankie met Robert a second time...

I grew up with Larry Levan. When we were kids, we were really juvenile delinquents in every sense of the word. We meant nobody any harm, but we were roughhouses. When we were about 15 or 16, we managed to get inside this nightclub where everybody was hanging out. When it was over everyone was hanging about outside like they usually do and we saw this pastry truck sitting outside this restaurant.

Larry had the bright idea of running into this truck and grabbing some doughnuts ’cause we were hungry. The guy was obviously making his morning deliveries. This was about 5 AM. So we run inside the truck, grab a couple of stacks and now we’re running up 2nd Avenue and we run smack into a police car. Now, just to backtrack a little bit, there’s a friend of ours that used to hang out who was at the club that night. He used to hang out at all the parties, especially when we were at The Loft. His name was Robert Williams.

So we ran smack into this police car and we end up in central booking in downtown Manhattan and because we’re juveniles, we’re sent to juvenile camp in the South Bronx. (Which was about two blocks from my house.) So we’re sitting in there, I’m nervous, losing my mind, crying. Larry’s sitting back smoking a cigarette and can’t be bothered with none of it. All of a sudden, the juvenile counselor walks in and it’s Robert Williams.

But he walked in and saw the both of us sitting there, asked what had happened. I was beside myself, couldn’t speak. I was a little sissy, what do you want? I couldn’t get it out. So when he read the chart and saw what we were there for, he said, “You two are so stupid.” But from that particular point on he took us under his wing and watched us very closely to make sure nothing happened to us. It seemed like we were in there for years but we were only in there for two weeks. When you’re a kid everything seems much longer than it actually is. Our parents wouldn’t come and get us because they said, “Listen, you were bold enough to do something as stupid as that. Pay the consequences and hopefully you will learn from it.” That’s the last time I was ever arrested for anything.

But that’s how it started. Robert Williams is the person who asked me about going up to Chicago to open The Warehouse with him and he ultimately became my business partner. Robert originally wanted Larry for The Warehouse, but at the time Larry was building The Garage. I was out of work, I got lucky.

By Frankie Knuckles on March 7, 2013

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