December is a big month for birthdays, including Dave Bartholomew, who will be 100 years old on December 24, and Henry Roeland “Professor Longhair” Byrd, who was born 100 years ago on December 19, 1918.
Bassist George Porter Jr. turns 71 on December 26, and Roselyn Leonard, one-half of the New Orleans busker husband-and-wife musician team of David and Roselyn, will celebrate 80 years on the planet on December 26 as well. She celebrates with friends and family at Cafe Istanbul that evening from 7 p.m. to midnight, with special guest Al “Carnival Time” Johnson. Roselyn and David have bought a house and raised four children by playing music on the streets here and throughout the world. Roselyn: we salute you! 80, and still singing and playing beautifully and enriching New Orleans musical culture.
And another: WWOZ will celebrate the beginning of its 39th year on December 4. It’s going to be an all-day celebration that will bring in musicians from all over the city into the OZ studio on North Peters to perform and reminisce about OZ’s origins, the great music that’s been played over the years, and to celebrate the station’s growth into the powerhouse of New Orleans music that it has become.
Brothers Jerry and Walter Brock started the station on December 4, 1980, which originally broadcast from a small transmitter building beneath a shared tented broadcast tower. A few months later, the station moved to a cramped two-room apartment with no air conditioning that was located above Tipitina’s. According to station lore, when artists performed live downstairs, with Tipitina’s permission, their performances were broadcast via a microphone lowered through a hole in the floor. Ultimately, the station moved to a dilapidated yet functional building in Armstrong Park in 1985.
Interestingly, the very first song they played on-air was a reggae track (both Brocks were into reggae) called “Keep Cool Babylon,” by Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus (look for it on YouTube).
The station’s license, which was originally held by a non-profit called the Nora Blatch Educational Foundation, was donated to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation. WWOZ will also present an exhibit at the Jazz & Heritage Gallery at 1205 North Rampart Street. The exhibit features images from its team of volunteer photographers, including Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee, Charlie Steiner and Leona Strassberg Steiner, Kichea Burt, Bill Sasser, Jamell Tate, Olivia Greene, Black Mold, Eli Mergel, Ken Maldonado, Keith Hill, Mac McAndrew, Marc PoKempner and Michele Goldfarb. The opening reception is Friday November 30, from 5 p.m. through 8 p.m. and closes at the end of the year.