Back in 1976 Walter Brock visited New Orleans for the first time. He fell in love with the local music. However, there wasn’t much of this music played on the radio. You see, Walter was in radio in Texas. He found out there was only one frequency still available in New Orleans. So he worked as fast as he could to start WWOZ – 90.7 FM New Orleans. The call letters reference the Wonderful Wizard of OZ and specifically one of the most famous lines in film history when the Wizard told Dorothy to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”
meaning that attention should be given to the program content rather than the personalities of the disc jockeys. As the Guardians of the Groove “WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.“
I Found My Thrills
The first official broadcast happened on December 2, 1980. Then, the station was located in a tiny apartment above club Tipitina’s on Napoleon Avenue. What was the reason for the station’s success? First, WWOZ played old favorites like Little Richard and Fats Domino. Second, they also played the best contemporary jazz. People of all ages and social statuses loved the music.
Many of the DJs at WWOZ started out as volunteers for the station. Some of the DJs through the years were Big Mama, Ready Teddy, and Billy Delle. Many remember Brown Sugar, who Bob Dylan said had a “thick, slow, dreamy, oozing molasses voice”. According to his memoir, Dylan listened to her while in New Orleans recording his album Oh Mercy. In the book he noted, “Whatever she said, I could see every word as she said it”.
Jazz Festing in Place
Sadly, Jazz Fest was cancelled this year due to Covid-19. So WWOZ partnered with the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation to stream some of the greatest performances in festival history. It was a big success. By the end of the first hour of Jazz Festing In Place listener numbers hit the roof.
Since those early days the station has moved. Today WWOZ is on the second floor of the French Market Building in the French Quarter. However its mission has not changed – to bring traditional Louisiana sounds to the masses. Enter the Land of OZ here.
The Savvy Native is a group of experienced local tour guides who were either born in New Orleans or wish they had been.
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