Music Genre(s): Blues, New Orleans
If you're a hard-core fan of New Orleans music, you're undoubtedly familiar with WWOZ show host Billy Delle and his program "Records from the Crypt". He's been lifting the lid off the crypt for 28 years, resurrecting 1950s New Orleans rhythm & blues to the delight of 'OZ listeners everywhere.
Billy owned close to 50,000 LPs and 45s at one point, though Hurricane Katrina diminished his collection by about half. His passion for record collecting was fueled by garage sale finds: "You couldn't get records from Little Richard or Fats Domino in good condition," says Billy, "cause everybody would play 'em so those would be well worn." But every so often, Billy uncovered some fantastic music that was obscure but in great condition, spawning a "retroactive ongoing process" of music research.
In 1982, when WWOZ was still broadcasting from the top floor of Tipitina's on Napoleon Avenue, Billy began broadcasting his R&B show. The name "Records from the Crypt" was inspired by another of Billy's passions: E.C. Comics' "Tales From The Crypt" of the early 1950s.
In 1985, Delle was chosen to narrate "Yeah You Rite," a documentary produced by Louis Alverez & Andrew Kolker celebrating the diverse dialects that are unique to New Orleans neighborhoods.
Billy's 1995 Mardi Gras Special, co-produced by David Freedman, David Kunian, and Roger Collins featured Eddie Bo, Tommy Ridgley and Harry Nance, received a Golden Reel Award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.
Delle was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2003, and in 2006, Billy was honored at the annual Big Easy Awards, becoming the first recipient of WWOZ's Guardian of the Groove Award.
Billy has now retired from his day job managing Sally's Beauty Supply after more than 39 years. And after a brief hiatus in 2008, he returned to the airwaves in 2009 to resume hosting "Records from the Crypt" each Wednesday on WWOZ. Some of the stories he tells about his life in New Orleans are just as fascinating as his musical adventures. But if the music of New Orleans is amazing, it stands to reason that life here is amazing too!
— January, 2010
When everything was turned upside down by Hurricane Katrina I realized how much a part of my life Billy Delle has become. The old saying "you don't miss your Billy ‘till your Delle runs dry" was never truer. I was fortunate enough to be there when he made his triumphant return in 2009.
I have many of Billy's old shows on tape and have recorded every show since he returned to the airwaves. I treasure them as much as I do the Ernie K-Doe shows I taped back in the 80s, and I believe they will be even more sought after in years to come.
Long live Billy Delle and them "Records from the Crypt"!
—A.J. Rooooodddddddddrigue (The Boudin Man)