WWOZ has launched a fascinating new website that is shaping up to be an invaluable resource for fans of New Orleans music history, particularly those who visit the city from out of town.
A Closer Walk is a new project from WWOZ—in partnership with Bent Media, e/Prime Media, the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation and Randy Fertel—that catalogs a variety of New Orleans music landmarks. The easy-to-use site currently offers the location and backstory for nearly 80 places connected to over two centuries of the city’s musical history. Some of these landmarks (Tipitina’s, Preservation Hall, Eagle Saloon) are still standing or operating to various degrees today, though many others (Storyville, French Opera House, Spanish Fort) have more or less disappeared.
“The history of the city’s music, and its outsized influence in popular music everywhere, can be traced to creole cottages, parlors, churches, and street corners as well as concert halls and auditoriums,” a note on the site reads. “Some are still active; others have been transformed or demolished. A Closer Walk highlights and contextualizes these sites, to advocate for their future, to celebrate their memory, and to honor the men and women who have shared their music with us.”
While A Closer Walk primarily focuses on landmarks from New Orleans’ jazz, R&B and funk golden age, the site also showcases a few spots with more recent contributions to city’s hip-hop landscape, including Hollygrove club Ghost Town and the Magnolia Projects. Other surprises like country/rock maverick Gram Parsons’ Metairie gravesite—which has an interesting history of its own—make the list as well.
However, the website’s most useful feature is its assortment ready-made tours. Those interested in the history of Mardi Gras Indian culture can work their way from A.L. Davis Park to the House of Dance and Feathers. Those interested in the French Quarter’s music history can work their way from Werlein’s to the Old U.S. Mint. Those interested in the early days of jazz can work their from Lincoln and Johnson Parks to Spanish Fort. A Closer Walk makes doing all of this easy and informative with its maps, itineraries and a wealth of supplemental information (you can even get a primer on classic dances from different time periods). It may the lack the personal touch of an old school walking tour, but it certainly lacks the price tag too.