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A Block Party Birthday for WWOZ

Duke BB and Gene at Tips 1984

WWOZ on a Friday night in 1984, upstairs at Tipitina's: Duke-a-Paducah, Leo Zuperku, BB, and Jivin' Gene Mark. Duke-a-Paducah and BB's 50s R&B show gave Jivin' Gene Mark (far right) his start. Gene carried on the show for almost three decades until he retired the microphone earlier this year. From Wavelength Magazine in May of 1984.

By Ryan Sparks

On Dec. 6, the staff, volunteers, and fans of WWOZ got down at Tipitina’s uptown in honor of the radio station’s 33rd birthday. Like many birthday celebrations in New Orleans, the Thursday night party was just a kickoff. This weekend everyone is invited to get down (again) in the Treme, just a few blocks from the former home of the station’s studios in Armstrong Park.

Today, Saturday December 7th, from 12 p.m.-4 p.m., the community-supported jazz and heritage station will host a block party in front of Kermit Ruffins’ Speakeasy at 1535 Basin Street. Kermit will provide the barbecue, and the Baby Boyz Brass Band and bluesman Guitar Slim, Jr. will supply the music.

Trumpeter Mario Abney and his band playing in the studio during the recent (Fall) pledge drive.  Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee  rhrphoto.com

Trumpeter Mario Abney and his band playing in the studio during the recent (Fall) pledge drive. Photo by Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee rhrphoto.com

An early WWOZ programming schedule from 1981 when the station only broadcast 9am-10pm

An early WWOZ programming schedule from 1981 when the station only broadcast 9am-10pm

WWOZ has come a long way since it began broadcasting pre-recorded shows from a small room upstairs at Tipitina’s, but the focus has always been on keeping Louisiana music—jazz, funk, zydeco, and blues—in heavy rotation on the airwaves and supporting the musicians who make it. This past year the station expanded its regional reach with a new transmitter capable of pumping music from Plaquemines to the Northshore and began a new series called Cuttin’ Class that brings middle and high school student bands into the studio to perform. That inclusive, all-ages attitude will be in the air on Saturday afternoon. Ryan Sparks is a writer living in New Orleans. He edits the online arts and culture magazine Southern Glossary.