In the sixties, New Orleans station WTIX, tailored musical selections to meet local tastes featuring artists like Irma Thomas, the Neville Brothers, Ernie K-DOE, Bennie Spellman and Lee Dorsey. By playing local New Orleans favorites, WTIX surprisingly became one of the most prominent radio stations in the country- influencing other stations to air many of the same songs. The relationship with local singers WTIX developed in the sixties still exists to this day.
As it did in the sixties, KRVS in Lafayette makes local songs part of its diverse musical playlist including Zydeco, Cajun, Jazz, and Blues. Like other community-oriented stations around the state, KRVS also has made a point to air live, local performances at festivals and even from their own studio. In 1987, KRVS started a live music show broadcast weekly from the Liberty Theater in Eunice, Rendezvous Des Cajuns, that continues to this day. The Theater attracts an international audience and in between sets, artists are encouraged to tell the story of their music to those attending and listening live.
Resisting the homogenization of radio, a handful of Louisiana stations have managed to maintain an independence, diversity, and distinctive community sound as part of their broadcast mission. WWOZ in New Orleans is both listener-supported and volunteer-operated. In addition to playing blues, jazz, Cajun, zydeco, gospel, Brazilian and Caribbean, WWOZ broadcasts live annually from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. They can also be heard over the internet.
Started through the determination of Paul Marx, Louisiana music promoter and preservationist, Eunice radio station KBON's call letters mimic the French phrase "C'est Bon" or "That's good!" Begun with the intent of attracting a wider and younger audience to Southern Louisiana's unique musical culture, KBON is now one of the most listened to radio stations on the internet and has influenced a new generation of musicians.
The Baton Rouge Zion Travelers started broadcasting their Sunday morning gospel radio show back in 1948 at a white-owned station — which was unheard of at the time. Now, over a half century later, the spiritual singers are still broadcasting the same show on the same station, WIBR in Baton Rouge.
Baton Rouge Zion Travelers
One program that has reflected the varied aspects of Louisiana music is a nationally syndicated public radio show called American Routes. Based in New Orleans, host Nick Spitzer weaves together musical history while exploring a mix of musical cultures- from blues and jazz to rock and zydeco and beyond. American Routes reveals the shared threads in these musical genres, and what makes them unique.
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Making Waves: Louisiana's Radio Story