The Mastrogiovanni Family at WWOZ

Published on: September 12th, 2023


Michael Mastrogiovanni


Lauren Mastro


Johnny Mastro

Thanks to WWOZ volunteer Melissa Milton
for all the hard work on this piece!


WWOZ is blessed to have in our family three members of the the Mastrogiovanni family. Meet them here!

Johnny Mastro, Musician & Show Host | Lauren Mastro, Show Host | Michael Mastrogiovanni, Volunteer Photographer


Johnny Mastro, Musician & Show Host

Johnny Mastro is a Mama’s Boy, and proudly so. This substitute WWOZ show host is, by day and by night, the leader of Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys, a New Orleans-based blues band with deep musical roots in south central Los Angeles.

Johnny was given that term of endearment many years ago by Laura Mae “Mama” Gross, longtime owner and proprietor of the blues club, Babe’s & Ricky’s Inn. Johnny spent 16 years playing for Mama’s audiences and becoming family with her along the way. For a deeper dive into the history of that fabled juke joint, check out the 2013 documentary of the same name. You’ll find Johnny onscreen talking about the amazing Mama and the scene she created!

“Mama taught us that you just gotta be yourself. But you also gotta put out and try and move people. If you can feel it, they can feel it.”

Following his sister Lauren Mastro, show host for OZ’s Sunday morning gospel show, Johnny and his wife moved to New Orleans in 2012 and jumped right into the music scene here. They'd been coming to the Crescent City for years, having been married here before Katrina. “There’s a vibe here, that’s still here, that I’m still excited about.”

Ozillians can hear what Mama was talking about and feel that vibe every Saturday night at Bamboula’s on Frenchman Street, where Johnny and the MBs anchor a weekly gig.

You can listen to Johnny’s most recent recording: “Elmore James for President.” 


Q: Take us back to the start of your musical career.
A: I bought one of these small harmonicas when I was nine. I was just a young kid, I had a paper route and a little money. Then that Christmas, my mother, or Santa Claus, got me the full harmonica.

Q: First blues musician you remember listening to?
A: Sonny Terry

Q: Favorite blues artist?
A: Hound Dog Taylor

Q: Best part about hosting a show on OZ?
A: My idea is to expose the listening audience to the rougher side of blues. It can be urban, it can be country. For me, it’s that edge, that rawness. I get to design my own show and that is the most rewarding part!

Q: How do you decide what to play on the air?
A: It’s like guiding the ship. Having produced records for my band and others, that helps because you think about the order, groove, style and tempo of the songs you play and in what order. I envision it like trying to take the listener on a little trip and I’m the Captain!

Q: Is there a Mastrogiovanni sibling project in the works?
A: (Laughing) We all have our own serious opinions on music so it might be best to keep us separate!

Q: What’s in the pipeline for 2024?
A: We’ve got a new single, “Shake It Spy,” coming out. That whole Mardi Gras Indian thing, I love it. The beats, the energy…the way the big chiefs are men amongst men. We got drafted into the Young Brave Hunters. Big Chief James Batiste knew my brother, and he met the whole family and kept encouraging us to come and hang out. Over the years we’ve become tight with them, so now we’re part of the family. I play percussion with them.


Lauren Mastro, host of our Gospel show, Sundays 8:30-10am

Please tell us what it means to you to be a part of WWOZ and how living in New Orleans has nurtured your creativity?

Even after all these years, the uniqueness, creativity, and artistic expression regularly on display in our beloved city still delights and even, on occasion, surprises me. When I moved to New Orleans, little did I know that I would soon be captive to the magic of the city; the music, the energy, and the people. As many have found, New Orleans has a way of taking hold of one’s soul and not letting go; among other things, I found myself involved with the formation of the original Jazz in the Park series in Armstrong Park, decorating shoes for the Muses Krewe, and sewing for the Young Brave Hunters Black Masking Indians! But my biggest surprise and greatest privilege, having initially approached OZ with the humble request to simply volunteer, was finding myself behind the mic at OZ, bringing gospel, spiritual, and inspirational music to OZ listeners around the world every Sunday morning! Living in the musical South with it’s blues and gospel roots, coupled with its deep history of civil rights and stubborn resilience, is an inspiration which motivates me to approach each show with the utmost love, accuracy, and respect.

How important is it to you that your two siblings Michael and Johnny are also a part of the OZ family?

My brother John, leader of the blues band Johnny Mastro and the MBs and fellow OZ show host, introduced me to blues and roots music decades ago when we both lived in Los Angeles. In fact, I originally was only a blues show substitute on OZ, and therefore was terrified when asked to sit in for the great Brother Jess on his Morning Gospel Show. But John was there to talk me off the ledge, sharing his extensive knowledge of the blues and it’s intersection with gospel in the form of legendary artists such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Reverend Dan Smith, and he even mailed me cds from his own vast collection. When he and his wife Lisa decided to move to New Orleans, it seemed natural for John to become involved in OZ so he could share his musical knowledge, as well as his extensive music collection, with the world! As Michael’s visits became more frequent, it became apparent that the city’s energy animated him; watching him zip around Jazzfest with such delight was like watching a kid in a candy store! It quickly became evident that he had found his home. His enthusiasm for all things New Orleans, as well as his artistic talent photographing second lines, social aid and pleasure clubs, and Black Masking Indians, made him a natural fit for OZ as well. I am immensely proud of the contributions that both of my brothers continue to make to the culture of New Orleans: John with his music, and his musical knowledge shared on the air, and Michael with his photography and volunteer support…and to think that they are only two of my four wonderful and talented siblings!


Michael Mastrogiovanni, Volunteer Photographer

Please tell us what it means to you to be a part of WWOZ and how living in New Orleans has nurtured your creativity?

Before I moved to New Orleans 9 years ago I used to listen to the station every day online. It provided a window into the culture and local happenings. I learned a lot about the city and what was going on before I was even living here which helped me hit the ground running and become immersed in the culture once I got here. The music featured on 'OZ and certainly the city itself have been huge sources of inspiration for my photography and living here has led me to other artistic pursuits that I could never have imagined that I would be part of including sewing for a Black Masking Indian group and actively participating in carnival.

How important is it to you that your two siblings Lauren and Johnny are also a part of the OZ family?

It’s pretty wild. It was never the plan for us to all end up in New Orleans and it was certainly not planned for us all to become involved with OZ. It kind of just happened. It’s really cool to turn on the radio and hear my sister Lauren doing the weekly Sunday gospel show and then being able to also hear my brother John doing his thing as a show host as well on the “greatest station in the nation”. I started out as a volunteer during pledge drives when phone banks were still a thing and enjoyed just being at the station and meeting the show hosts and other volunteers. Now I’m a contributing volunteer photographer and it’s really exciting to see my photos being shared via the Oz website with viewers and listeners around the world.

In 2022, the Press Club of New Orleans' 64th Annual Excellence in Journalism Awards, one of Michael's photos from the Young Men Olymiapn second line won the Hal Ledet Still Photography Award (the Best of the Best of all top Photography Awards).


Coming soon: more with Lauren and Johnny!

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