Making Waves: Louisiana's Radio Story

The Sixties

 

Operation Yellowstone Vietnam. Following a hard day, a few members of Company A gather around a guitar and play a few songs, January 18, 1968. ARC Identifier: 530617  (National Archives: #530617)

 



President Kennedy thanks Loyola priest for WWL's assistance during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Courtesy of Loyola University Archives) Cuban Missile Crisis

In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, WWL in New Orleans, once again allowed the government to use its large and powerful radio facilities for communications operations.


KOKA DJ Claude B. B. Davis (Courtesy of LPB)

Vietnam War

In the late 60s and throughout the Vietnam War, KOKA in Shreveport became the information pipeline between soldiers overseas and their families back home. Using 3-inch tapes provided by Armed Forces Radio, Disc jockey B.B. Davis would call the parents in the area to let them hear what their sons had to say then send tapes back to the soldiers.

 

 

Payola

While local audiences could help shape a station's content, some national record labels would attempt to influence the playlists through the illegal practice of payola - paying a station to get a record played. "Payola" is a contraction of the words "pay" and "Victrola" — a brand of record player. Payola was used to help a song get more airplay and to help the label's artists become better known.


Federal Coummunications Act

The Radio Act of 1927 establishing the Federal Radio Commission (FRC) was developed, in part, to regulate people like early KWKH rebel William K. Henderson. By 1934 the FRC became the FCC, or Federal Communications Commission. Payola was addressed in 1960 with an amendment to the Federal Communications Act outlawing under-the-table payments and requiring broadcasters to reveal if airplay for a song had been purchased. In 1996, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act that increased the number of radio stations that an individual company could own in a single market. As a result, more and more stations were brought under the ownership of big, national companies.


Making Waves Narrator John Larroquette (Courtesy of John Larroquette)"Underground Radio"

By the late 60s, in response to playlists shaped by corporations and stricter regulations, a movement was born using the new technology of FM stereo "underground radio." A radical departure from Top 40s radio, "underground radio" featured music that seldom made it to commercial radio hosted by DJs with a cool unassuming attitude.


WWOM

In 1966, New Orleans station WWOM was home to "underground radio." Known as "Mother Radio," WWOM featured personalities with unique names like Judas or Popeye who had almost total freedom in song selection and commentary. Judas was New Orleans native John Larroquette who would later garner four Emmys for his television role on the sitcom, Night Court. He is the narrator of Making Waves: Louisiana's Radio Story.

 

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Making Waves: Louisiana's Radio Story

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