The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival’s 50th anniversary celebration was cancelled for the weekends of April 23-26 and April 30-May 3. The local radio station WWOZ (90.7 FM) created an 8-day broadcast event during the same days and hours as the originally scheduled Jazz Fest. This schedule included over 100 archival Jazz Fest audio performances from an extraordinary list of thousands of headliners.
The current typical Festival day is from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm and with 12-13 stages and 5 to 6 headliners per stage, the stations curators had to choose among the potential 10,000+ performances over the 50 year period. Of course, the beginnings of the Festival didn’t have as many daily bands and since the station began in 1980, they had limited recordings of the prior Fests. The beloved station has an interesting origin and focus:
WWOZ went on the air as New Orleans’ community radio station in 1980, after years of work. The call letters WWOZ reference the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, specifically the line, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” The content would be the focus of the station from dedicated volunteers and music lovers, led by brothers Jerry and Walter Brock. Jerry is also the co-owner (with Barry Smith) of the Louisiana Music Factory, a truly must-see/enjoy establishment now on Frenchmen Street.
The definitive New Orleans music history Up From the Cradle of Jazz calls WWOZ “the most exciting broadcast development of the 1980s,” as it “became a kaleidoscope of voices, rich in oral imagery—jazzmen, composers, Cajun fiddlers, parades, grand marshals, gospel artists and R&B bluesmen, writers, occasional filmmakers, historians, Mardi Gras Indians, fathers and sons and mothers and daughters of musical families.” WWOZ provided intimacy between the musicians and listeners, immeasurably broadening the sense of place.
The following announcement from WWOZ got the ball rolling for their innovative Jazz Festing In Place program:
Here is a very special announcement we hope will lift your spirits.
Pull out your festival shirts, hats, flags, chairs and get ready to celebrate the best of New Orleans music from your backyard, your front porch or your air-conditioned living room-anywhere in the world!
WWOZ will broadcast for 8 days-8 hours each 11am-7pm, the same days and hours as the originally-scheduled Jazz Fest!
April 23-26 and April 30-May 3
We’re even creating our own special cubes highlighting the schedule which will include some of the best performances in the history of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Dr. John * Fats Domino * The Neville Brothers * Irma Thomas* Allen Toussaint* Henry Butler * Marcia Ball * Preservation Hall Jazz Band * Mardi Gras Indians * Trombone Shorty * Kermit Ruffins * John Boutte *The Radiators * Big Freedia * Ernie K-Doe * Ellis Marsalis * Danny Barker * The Rebirth Brass Band *Bob French and the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band-and many other Jazz, Blues, Cajun and Zydeco artists.
We’ll also be airing the rarely heard “Fire Benefit” from 1974 featuring Professor Longhair, the Wild Magnolias and Dr. John.
The 8-day broadcast will also include interview segments highlighting the music, food, crafts and heritage of New Orleans and Louisiana to give the feeling of a wide-reaching cultural festival. We will also be sharing recipes for some of your favorite Jazz Fest cuisine, and also help you connect with local festival food and craft vendors.
New Orleans is fueled by our people, our music, and coming together to revel in it all. In this uncertain time of social distancing, thousands of New Orleans music fans across the city and around the world gathered around Festing In Place. In spite of it all, we celebrated Jazz Fest together, and apart.
New Orleans and the surrounding areas have over 100 festivals during the year; where celebrations focus on the music, there is food and where celebrations focus on the food, there is music!
WWOZ would greatly appreciate any donations or sponsorships throughout the next many months, as it has been announced that the dozens of music and food festivals for the remainder of the year (i.e. Essence Fest, Satchmo Fest, Blues & BBQ, Zydeco Fest, Gumbo Fest, Oyster Fest, Creole Tomato Fest, Tales of the Cocktail, Crawfish Fest, Shrimp Fest, Boudin, Bourbon & Beer, etc.) have been cancelled. They support live programs and musicians on a daily basis. And if you are not already a member, please consider joining and become an Ozillian! Contact KaTrina Griffin, Membership Manager at [email protected]. We all look forward to 2021 for the 51st anniversary of the Jazz & Heritage Festival and Jazz Festing In Fairgrounds!