For the past 30 years, every Christmas Eve, DJ Robert Drake has delivered a marathon mix for the bolder holiday hearts. They are adventurous music lovers who find their Euletide delights in obscure big band Christmas he numbers and spacey seasonal lounge music. Or anything other than the endless Bing Crosby and Mariah Carey.
The Night Before on WXPN with Robert Drake — Held annually from midnight to midnight on December 24th, the event is an anticipatory, entirely voluntary test of holiday music endurance featuring rarely performed pieces from Drake’s collection of hard-to-find holiday music. Our assortment of chestnuts is constantly evolving.
The show, which began on Christmas Eve 1993 and the station desperately needed a few hours of holiday filler, now has tens of thousands of loyal listeners in Philadelphia and many more streaming from far away. Appointments listening to viewers have become holidays. They come away from the usual holiday music and seek the comfort of Drake’s varied and trustworthy aural holiday landscapes. And with each passing year, more and more listeners say that Drake has come to feel like part of his family.
This Christmas, in honor of his 30th anniversary, Drake will be playing the Holiday Cocktail Party Mix for 30 hours on December 23rd at 6pm. The Inquirer recently told Drake, a longtime Philadelphia DJ and “Kids Corner” producer, how his childhood obsessions and subsequent grief first became the driving force behind his holiday show, and how his talked about his song for Christmas that will never be played.
Now, it’s important to know that around the age of 12 or 13, I started having a strange obsession with Christmas music. was running around collecting Christmas music.
I was intrigued to dig through flea markets and old thrift stores to find obscure artists who, for whatever reason, decided it was important to create a holiday album. I don’t think anyone bought it except for friends and family.
The genres they covered were all over the map. Lots of country and old school music, but also lots of obscure R&B artists from the 1970s and his 1980s. There was an artist called Esquivel who played holiday music for Space Age Lounge. From legendary artists to obscure studios his musicians, A Christmas in the Blues has had his albums.
Les Brown and his Band of Renown. His orchestra emerged in the 1930s, nutcracker suitewhich is probably the best version.
My grandmother was in charge of the music, so it was Eugene Ormandy, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Kate Smith’s A Christmas Carol. But when I was about ten, when it came time to play Christmas music at home, all the adults would turn to me and let me decide.
(laughs) No, I did it myself after all.
The biggest surprise for people is the complete lack of playlists. I have no preconceptions about what I am going to do. I choose songs from my library. It takes him three minutes to figure out what the next song is as soon as he hits the play button. This will keep you awake and allow you to respond to the day. Like 2020, when we’re all dealing with his COVID for the first time, I was able to do more inclusive, celebratory music. I didn’t announce that I was doing it. I’m just doing it internally.
At my holiday shows, people rarely ask for anything. I think they like the fact that I’m creating this kind of radio for him 24 hours a day.
I have one rule. Do not sing animal songs. I have no patience for them.
Actually, there’s a little more to the story than I tell too much.In 1993, my father, Robert Drake Sr., died suddenly. I dreaded the holidays, but at the same time, XPN management needed someone to work on Christmas Eve. It was pre-digital, so I needed a body in the studio. I wasn’t celebrating the season, I was depressed. That first Christmas Eve, I brought a good portion of my collection – and it was only me playing music.
It was therapeutic for me, But it also connected me with a lot of people who were dealing with their own frustrations during the season. somehow It was the holiday season, or I was working late, but they really listened and enjoyed what I was doing. It wasn’t until I started doing the Christmas Eve show that I really understood the power of radio.
Every year I invite people to send me Christmas cards at the station here. I use them as decorations, but what people don’t see is what people wrote on the inside of their Christmas cards. They discuss how important it is for me to be here every year. I literally became part of their decoration. How they set up the tree and turned on XPN. How can they expect me to be part of their family. They go out of their way to make sure I am part of their vacation – and I find it very I think you are humble.
No (laughs) They know they can go to any commercial station or Spotify and hear as many animal sounds as they want.