During finals, people stay up late and then talk a lot about how late they stayed up. But there are some people who stay up all night, every night—not just when they have a Sustainable Development paper due. In a three-part series we’re calling the Graveyard Shift, Bwog hangs out with people ’til dawn and gets sleepy. Below, Erin O’Brien spends the night at WKCR listening to Sun Ra.
On Tuesday nights, while you are likely asleep in your suite, or possibly burning the midnight oil in Butler, the Night Train is chugging along in Lerner. In the wee hours of the morning just after Election Day, Sweet Willie Roll Bar leans back from the mic and starts talking excitedly about the artist now playing on the airwaves.
“This is the Sun Ra song I was talking about. It is so ridic!” He is talking to his intern, a freshman by the name of Spencer, who has his nose buried in his studies while oversized headphones cover his ears. The Sun Ra song is called Lanquidity, and it is, Bwog confirms, pretty ridic.
We are in what is called the master control room of the WKCR radio station, located past a buzzer and up a flight of stairs on the 114th end of Lerner. It is 3:30. Sweet Willie, a.k.a. junior Willie Avendano is presiding over his show “Night Train.” This is his third year hosting the show. Willie is also the head of the Latin Music Department, and his knowledge of music is encyclopedic. We are just on the tail end of Psychedelic Hour, which runs from 3am to 4am. In an adjoining soundproof room, Anabel or Ace, the future station manager and head of jazz, is studying, while bespectacled Hambone lolls on the floor. They call this room the “moo aquarium.”
DJ names mean a lot at WKCR. To have a nickname bestowed upon you is a great honor, as programmer Amalia laments she has not received one as of yet. Ben Young, the director of broadcasting and operations for the station, is the only one that seems to control the nickname-giving. His nickname is Ham Beauty Apparel, or HBA.
It is now 4 a.m., and Ace and Hambone come in to bid Willie a good evening. He proudly declares to Ace: “The Train is riding hard.” Hambone cracks a knowing smile as he steps through the door, “Keep the dream alive.”
Willie has another hour to go. After detailing the better points of a song entitled, “Free Your Mind, and Your Ass Will Follow,” he returns to musing about Sun Ra. Apparently Phil Schaap, their adviser and general Svengali, had a slightly harrowing experience with the musician several years before. Schaap, also known as El Varshkar, apparently was hanging with Sun-Ra one night in his tour bus, and unfortunately fell asleep. Upon waking, he realized the vehicle was in motion, and much to his dismay he surmised he was in Massachusetts. He was able to convince Sun-Ra to take him back to New York and Columbia by bribing him with the promise of his favorite flavor of ice cream.
The clock strikes 5 a.m., and the sun has not yet risen. The Night Train has come to a stop, and now the Daybreak Express is getting ready to hit the track. Willie starts the day off with some Miles Davis, as Charlie Hack a.k.a. Shak Attack, comes in to take over the decks. Before heading off to home and bed, Willie stops to chat with him about rapper Sam I Am. Willie emphasizes his words with his hands as he raves, “He’s so ill dude.”
@Harmony Hunter This train ride sounds great, but how do I get to Harmony from the train station?
@--- I love Willie
@The French Connection You go Willie-Coco! As Soul Security Will’s co-conductor of The Night Train, I would like to personally invite you to come down when I am hosting (that would be alternate Wednesdays), o ye of strong heart–it’s raunchier but certainly just as funky.
Colette \TFC\ Mac.
@Anonymous Hey I found his playlist from that night:
East Of Underground Walk On By
East Of Underground Smiling Faces Forge Your Own Chains: Heavy Psychedelic Ballads and Dirges 1968-1974
El Michels Affair Walk On By; Shaft Truth and Soul Presents: A Tribute to Black Moses
El Michels Affair Shimmy Shimmy Ya Enter the 37th Chamber
Solomon Burke Get Out Of My Life, Woman
Aretha Franklin You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Cookin on 3 Burners Feel Good Inc.
The Daktaris Give It Up, Turn It Loose
Lee Moses California Dreaming Time & Place
Soulive Eleanor Rigby Rubber Soulive
Lena Horne & Gabo Sabor Rocky Racoon
Eddie Hazel I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Raphael Saadiq It’s A Shame
Yesterday’s New Quintet Presents Sound Directions Wanda Vidal; Fourty Days The Funky Side of Life
Yesterday’s New Quintet You’ve Got It Bad Girl Stevie
Ivan “Boogaloo Joe” Jones You’ve Got It Bad, Girl
Stevie Wonder Bang Bang
Aloe Blacc Billie Jean Live in Studio
Aloe Blacc Femme Fatale Good Things
Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra Girls On Film
Chicago Afrobeat Project Superstar #7 (A) Move to Silent Unrest
The Whitefield Brothers Lullaby for Lagos Black Man’s Cry: The Inspiration of Fela Kuti
Karl Hector & The Malcouns Toure Samar Black Man’s Cry: The Inspiration of Fela Kuti
Amnesty Can I Help You? Free Your Mind: The 700 West Sessions
Sun Ra & His Arkestra Lanquidity Lanquidity
Gil Scott-Heron The Bottle Winter in America
Roy Ayers Ubiquity Time & Space
Return to Forever Earth Juice Where Have I Known You Before
Randy Watson Experience Morning Bell (ft. Donn) Exit Music: Songs for Radio Heads
Weldon Irvine Turkish Bath In Harmony
Weldon Irvine We’re Getting Down Spirit Man
Weldon Irvine Deja Vu Time Capsule
Black Merda Good Luck
Sly & the Family Stone Trip To Your Heart
Funkadelic Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow
Mulatu Astatke Yègelié Tezeta Ethiopiques Volume 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale, 1969-1974
Mulatu Astatke ft. Belaynesh Wubanta And Assegedetch Asfaw Alemiye Psych Funk 101
Kukumbas Respect Psych Funk 101
Ofege Adieu Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedelic Afro-Rock and Fuzz Funk in 1970s Nigeria
Amanaz Sunday Morning Africa
Witch Black Tears Lazy Bones
Young Jazz Rebels Slave Riot, Part 1-3, Before; Slave Riot, Parts 4-6, After; Black Freedom Slave Riot
@Anonymous owned Bwog. how about covering someone from Spec, since they stay up all night too?
@Anonymous HBA=Health and Beauty Aid.
@Anonymous sun ra isn’t hyphenated
@Sugar Ray is repeatedly misspelled as Sun Ra in this article. Please correct.
@I AM AWAKE
@I AM feeling ‘fml’ right now.
@the eye did this last year http://eye.columbiaspectator.com/article/2010/02/18/all-night-wkcr
@yea wtf this is like literally the exact same idea behind the eye piece…
@Anonymous 1) people listen to jazz?
2) people listen to the radio?
3) people listen to jazz on the radio at 4am?
This is definitely blog worthy, but I’d say you would want to do a story on the 2 listeners who are strange enough to be regular listeners…
@This is a fine article, but... …I have been checking bwog routinely since 8 PM, searching for a new article to appear. I THOUGHT BWOG NEVER SLEPT. POST SOMETHING. PLEASE. OR SOMEBODY WRITE SOMETHING INCREDIBLY OFFENSIVE ABOUT BARNARD OR THE C5, just PLEASE give me some RELIEF from studying. I have resorted to googling pictures of funny animals. FUNNY ANIMALLLLLSSSSSS
@Anonymous When is orgo night?
@impressive this article is fantastic. it should be in the magazine, not on bwog
@Anonymous SWRB, Ace, Hambone, WKCR…love you to bits. The wonders of WKCR are truly some of the best kept secrets at Columbia.
@psh long live WBAR!
@Good Job Getting streaming working last week for the first time this semester.
@uhhh excuse me, it was also working all the way at the beginning of the semester…but yah. semi fail.
@Anonymous is hambone a virginia ham?
@Anonymous willie’s the man
@Anonymous that was really well-written, thank you for sharing
@Anonymous In case you weren’t aware, Bwog upholds a concern for its commenters.
That’s why we’re going to give you a grammar lesson FREE OF CHARGE.