Ten years ago, there was a storm, and then there was a flood, and they changed New Orleans forever. Many stories from that time have been told, but not this one: how New Orleans radio station WWOZ, where New Orleans Calling is produced, went off the air and could have been lost forever, if not for the efforts of hundreds of different people who loved the music and culture of the Crescent City. And we’re letting some of those people tell the story themselves, on this special episode of New Orleans Calling.
In 2005, WWOZ’s studios had been in the “Treehouse” building in Armstrong Park in New Orleans for 21 years. It was right in the Treme neighborhood, the birthplace of jazz. The small community radio station had been on the air for 25 years, and had become a legend in New Orleans for its authenticity and its colorful personalities — and also around the world, due to the magic of Internet streaming. But when a Category 5 hurricane approached New Orleans and the station went off the air, and then the city flooded, nobody knew if WWOZ could ever return to the airwaves.
This episode of New Orleans Calling tells an untold story — how individuals across the country, determined to save this voice of New Orleans music and culture, brought WWOZ back to the Internet, and then back to the airwaves, and then home to New Orleans. Some parts of this story have been told before, but the whole story has never been, and not by so many voices of the people who made this happen.
Producers George Ingmire and Dave Ankers set out to capture these stories over an eight-week period. And we realized that telling the story as a montage of different elements would be in the spirit of WWOZ and community radio — a collaboration and celebration of many people and voices.
Voices in this program include, from WWOZ: host and producer George Ingmire, General Manager David Freedman, Program Director Dwayne Breashears, Volunteer Coordinator Maryse Déjean, Chief Engineer Damond Jacob, Music Director Scott Borne, and former staffer Freddie Blue.
Also, WWOZ volunteer show hosts: DJ Soul Sister, Peggy Lou, Dennis “Big D” Schaibly, Bill De Turk, Sondra Bibb, “Boudin Man” AJ Rodrigue, Keith Hill, Dan Meyer, Your Cousin Dimitri, David Torkanowsky, Gentilly Jr, and “Mr Jazz” Mike Gourrier.
Also: Ken Freedman, General Manager of WFMU in New Jersey; Beth Courtney, President and CEO of Louisiana Public Broadcasting; and Ginny Z Berson, formerly of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB).
One set of interview answers was left as a voice message, and another was recorded on an iPhone 6. Ken Freedman of WFMU and Mike Gourrier of WRIR recorded their interview responses to emailed questions, and then sent them to us via the Internet.
Every voice in the program is identified in the audio, with the exception of musicians and show hosts David Torkanowsky and Dan Meyer, whose voices appear in large montages of other voices.
Due to time constraints, we could only use some of the interviews conducted for this program, but all of them were critical to our understanding of this story. Very special thanks go to our additional interview subjects: Black Mold, Hazel the Delta Rambler, TR Johnson, Bob Murret, Charles Laborde and Jim Hobbs, Neil Pellegrin and Jivin’ Gene Mark, and David Spizale of KRVS in Lafayette, Louisiana. (We wish we could have included everyone, and their parts in the story are fascinating. And if we’d hadn’t run out of time, we’d have interviewed even more people.)
In addition to all the hard work of staff members and volunteers to bring WWOZ back, over 30 non-commercial radio stations stepped forward, unsolicited, to raise money to keep WWOZ going in 2005. WWOZ can never repay this debt, but it is acknowledged by the formation of the Katrina Network, to which WWOZ has pledged its support in times of disaster. In 2012, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Katrina Network rose again, coming to the aid of WFMU in New Jersey. The following stations make up the Katrina Network:
WFMU Jersey City, NJ
KRVS Lafayette, LA
KALW San Francisco
KBCS Bellevue WA
KBOO Portland OR
KDHX St Louis
KDNK Carbondale CO
KDSD San Diego
KOTO Telluride, CO
KQED San Francisco
KRCB Rohnert Park, CA
KRFC Ft Collins
KSVR Mt Vernon WA
KZFR Chico, CA
WBGO Newark NJ
WCWP Long Island, NY
WEMU Ypsilanti, MI
WFCR Amherst, MA
WFHB Bloomington IN
WGDR Plainfield VT
WJFF Jeffersonville, NY
WLIU Southampton, NY
WMPG Portland ME
WOMR Provincetown MA
3PBS Brisbane, Australia
THIS WEEK’S TRACK LISTING:
Rebirth Brass Band – “Glory Glory/Jesus On The Mainline” (music bed)
Side Effect – “What The Heck Let’s Discotheque” (music bed)
Allen Toussaint – “Tipitina and Me” (music bed)
James Booker – “Medley: Tico Tico / Papa Was A Rascal / So Swell When You’re Well” (music bed)
Willie Tee – “Teasin’ You” (music bed)
Galactic – “Ash Wednesday” (music bed)
Jane Bunnett – “New Orleans Underwater” (music bed)
The Meters – “Cardova” (music bed)
The Neville Brothers – “Healing Chant” (music bed)
Seva Venet – “St James Mazurka” (music bed)
Evan Johns & His H Bombs – “Boudin Man” (music bed)
Dr A Go Go – “GoGo Sleepwalk” (music bed)
Gregg Stafford – “Basin Street Blues” (music bed)
Dr John – “Storm Warning” (music bed)
New Orleans Jazz Vipers – “Hope You’re Coming Back To New Orleans” (music bed)
George Jenkins – “Barbecue” (music bed)
Dr John – “Goin’ Back to New Orleans” (music bed)
John Coltrane – “After the Rain” (music bed)
Treme Brass Band – “Grazing In The Grass” (music bed)
Fi Yi Yi Mardi Gras Indians – live recording by George Ingmire, 2006 (music bed)
Walter “Wolfman” Washington – “Medley,” recorded live at WWOZ Spring 2006 Pledge Drive by Dennis Schaibly and Freddie Blue (music bed)
Wanda Rouzan – “Stand By Me,” recorded live at WWOZ Spring 2006 Pledge Drive by Dennis Schaibly and Freddie Blue
Dirty Dozen Brass Band – “Just A Closer Walk With Thee” (music bed)
Side Effect – “What The Heck Let’s Discotheque”
NEW ORLEANS CALLING is a production of WWOZ, listener-supported community radio in the Crescent City.
Host, writer, editor, interviewer, audio engineer, intrepid field recorder, and co-producer is George Ingmire.
Dave Ankers is the producer.
Melanie Merz is the supervising producer.
National distribution managed by Russell Shelton and Carmen Connor Post.
Web support by David Stafford.
Live tracks produced by Dennis Schaibly, Freddie Blue, and George Ingmire.
Executive Producer is WWOZ’s General Manager David Freedman.
Special thanks to:
Sally Young, Dee Lindsey, Jorge Fuentes, Chris Wells, and Veronica Cromwell for their voice talents;
and to WWOZ’s WWOZ’s Dwayne Breashears, Damond Jacob, Maryse Déjean, Scott Borne, Dee Lindsey, Lauren Del Rio, Dimitri Apessos, Duane Williams, Mark Laskowski, Carrie Booher, Leslie Molson, Beau Royster, Charlie Steiner, Blake McGlaun, and Jorge Fuentes;
and to WWOZ volunteers Helen Kyriakoudes, Doug Marshall, Catey Boyle, and Erin Lierl.
Huge appreciation goes to “Big D” Dennis Shaibly and Freddie Blue, George Ingmire, and Jim Hobbs for holding on to their old recordings for ten years. And special thanks to Rachel Lyons and Dolores Hooper of the Archive of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, and to Chris Ellison.
Photo of George Ingmire by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee www.rhrphoto.com