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Jerry Brock, Historian, Broadcaster, and Filmmaker BORN: Texas, September 4,1955 Interviewed at the Croissant d'Or Cafe, Ursuline Street, October 2001 I've always tried to be behind the scenesand supportive of the music and the New Orleans culture. I came here in 1976, to contribute to starting WWOZ radio; my brother Walter and I'were both community radio activists. I had been involved with Lorenzo Milam in a station called KCHU in Dallas, Texas. He gave us a choice of locations;we had already been involved in setting up new radio stations in Tampa, Florida, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. We chose New Orleans because it was in the South, where we werefrom. Weknew of the music of Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Sidney Bechet, andJelly Roll Morton; both my brother and I, from a very young age, were fanatics for literature and music of all kinds. The astounding thing, once we arrived in New Orleans, was that we had no idea that this musical tradition was a continuum of a much earlier tradition, with thepeople. Itjust hit us like a ton of bricks. Within the first two weeks of being here, we'd met everybody. It floored us that this was a living, breathing culture that exists on a neighborhood-to-neighborhood basis. The originalprogrammingplans for WWOZ had been much more eclectic until we realized that no one was broadcasting to this community. The only timeyou heard any New Orleans music on the radio or TV back then was a little bit during Mardi Gras,and that was it. We realized there was a void to be filled. We were hanging out with Professor Longhair, James Booker, and Huey "Piano" Smith, the Lastiefamily, all these other beautiful people. And Danny Barker had a big influence on mepersonally. In many ways, he was like afather figure to me. Walter and I used to alwaysjoke that if we weretodedicate theprogramming of WWOZ to GardenDistrict architecture, we'd never haveproblems raising money. But we realized that the important thing wasto dedicateit toNew Orleansmusic culture. At that time, the majority of that culture was being done by working-class people, asfar as economicsgo. When Danny saw the work we wereputting into theproject, hejust opened his arms to us. Being the intellectual cat that he was, he really understood the struggle that we went through. The City of New Orleans and the archdiocesetook us tofederal court and tried to stop the radio station. Essentially 90.7 FM, where WWOZ exists on the dial, was the 95 lastfrequency of any consequence. Their public statement was that they wanted to use thatfrequency for teachingstudents at the Notre Dame Seminary—religious broadcasting techniquesandpractices. Lorenzo Milam was thefounder of noncommercial radio in America—he lives in San Diego now. He'd been identified by the extreme right in America as the Antichrist. In 1973 he wrote what becameknown as the "Petition against God."He had spent all his time and energy and money building commercial radio, and be saw that religious broadcasting had the support and the wherewithal to open all these radio stations. They were taking up all the noncommercialfrequencies that were available. He made apetition to the FCC[Federal Communication Commission] requestinga ninety-day freeze on allotting any newpermits, to determine whether there should be a wholenew frequency bandfor religious broadcasts. Tothis day, the FCChas never officially accepted thepetition , butpeople are still organizing in communities to defeat it. My brother and I were identified with Lorenzo Milam, so once wegot here, the Catholic Church wanted to stop us. They saw us being apart of this man who was against religious broadcasting. So that's the unstated reason why they took us tofederal court. The music doesn't have the depth it once had. Even though New Orleansis still considered one of the most musical cities in the world, it's only afraction of what was here, whenyou really look at the thousands ofjazz artists who emerged out of this community in the early part of the century. What happened here was a renaissance which has affected popular music all over the world since it occurred. You could compare it to the Baroque renaissance in Austria, with the Bach family, Handel, all of them. That's why our dedication became having this New Orleansmusic recognized, notjust as afine art, but also as a great art.People like Kid Thomas and George Lewis and Danny Barker and the Barbarins—thesepeople dedicated their lives to this music. That's one...


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