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WWOZ - Dirty Coast

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WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station, a community radio station currently operating out of the French Market Corporation Offices in New Orleans, Louisiana. Our governance board is appointed by the New Orleans Jazz.  and Heritage Festival Foundation.

We are a listener-supported, volunteer-programmed radio station. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States. We also broadcast live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. The station specializes in music from or relating to the cultural heritage of New Orleans and the surrounding region of Louisiana.


The founders of WWOZ were brothers Walter and Jerry Brock, from Texas, who thought New Orleans needed a community radio station and began organizing it in the mid- 1970s. Jerry is also the co-founder of the Louisiana Music Factory, and a record producer engaged in the works of various local artists. The Nora Blatch Educational Foundation (named after radio pioneer Nora Blatch, wife of Lee De Forest) was established as a non-profit organization to hold the station license. The call letters WWOZ were chosen as a reference to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, specifically the line, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," meaning that attention should be given to the program content rather than the personalities of the disc jockeys.

The station began broadcasting 4 December 1980 from the tiny transmitter building in Bridge City, Louisiana beneath their shared rented broadcast tower. A few months later the broadcasts moved to the space the station had been using in a dilapidated two-room apartment upstairs from the legendary music club Tipitina's at Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street in Uptown New Orleans.

Conditions at WWOZ in the early 1980s were spartan. The studio/office had no air-conditioning, and for a time just before moving out of the Tipitina's site the only running water to the tiny bathroom was from a neighbor's garden hose run in through a window. Everyone who did a show volunteered hours of time on other tasks to keep the station going, from addressing envelopes to sweeping the floor. When artists performing live downstairs at Tipitina's gave their permission, their performances were broadcast via a microphone lowered through a hole in the floor. When permission to broadcast live performances downstairs could not be obtained, programming went to pre-recorded reel-to-reel tapes, as the music downstairs made it too loud in the studio to talk over the microphones and the vibrations made it impossible to use the station's turntables.

In 1985 WWOZ moved the studio to a building in Louis Armstrong Park in the Tremé neighborhood. With the station facing financial difficulties, the license was transferred to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation (parent organization of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival) which helped subsidize the operation. The station later added an office in a small house across the St. Philip Street from the studio.

In 1996, Better Than Ezra, an Alternative rock band from New Orleans, wrote a song titled "WWOZ", where they mention this radio station.


WWOZ programming is most heavily weighted toward contemporary jazz and rhythm & blues, with other programming including traditional jazzbluesCajun musiczydecoold time and country musicbluegrassGospelCeltic music andWorld music.

As the station is well known for its support of local music, local musicians are often guests on programs, and sometimes perform live over the air, especially for the station's twice-yearly membership drives. Musicians and singers such as Rob CambreSamirah EvansAlan FontenotBob FrenchHazel the Delta RamblerErnie K-DoeBobby MitchellDavis RoganTom SaundersJohn SinclairDon Vappie, and Dr. Michael White and others have had their own shows on the station.

WWOZ is also well known for its location broadcasts of live music events, including the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Effects of Katrina

WWOZ made the decision to go off the air at midnight on 27 August 2005 in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina to allow its programmers and staff to evacuate the city. It actually went off the air slightly earlier, just after 10pm. In the storm the WWOZ studio suffered minor damage but the Park's power system was wiped out and not a repair priority in the big picture, while the WWOZ staff, like the rest of the New Orleans population, was scattered to shelter in several states. But the station's transmitter atop the Tidewater Building on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans was found to be intact and serviceable, given a studio source. Within a week WWOZ initiated a webcast as "WWOZ in Exile" via Internet servers at WFMU in New Jersey. Many long term listeners from around the country donated tapes of WWOZ broadcasts from years gone by, some of which were rebroadcast in part or whole. On 18 October 2005 WWOZ resumed limited hours of broadcasting over the air in New Orleans, via studio space provided by Louisiana Public Broadcasting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The station returned a physical studio to New Orleans in December 2005, using temporary office and studio space at the French Market office building, returning to its airwaves on 15 December.

Much of WWOZ's programming has long been based on the large personal record collections of the various programers, many of which were lost in the disaster. For some time after the station returned to the air, one programmer did a series of shows entirely from CDs rescued from the debris in post-Katrina muck.

At first the French Quarter studio was expected to be a temporary arrangement for approximately a year. However agreements were made for WWOZ to use more space in the French Market office building for studio and office space, and WWOZ expects to remain at this location for at least a few years.

Show Hosts

It is worthy of note that WWOZ's On Air Showhosts are 100% volunteers. They receive no compensation for the shows that they bring to air primarily from their personal collections of music. Most of them are deeply involved in the New Orleans Music Community and many are musicians as well. The station does a have a small staff of paid personnel who handle the day-to-day operations of the station.




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