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This month’s Community Radio Profile drops just in time for the celebration and musical balm that is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. In late March, I had the pleasure to visiting WWOZ in N.O. and got to chat with some of the amazing folks that keep the station grooving—one of whom was Murf Reeves, Music Director and Show Host at the station. WWOZ’s current temporary studios are nestled three stories above street level right on the river front in the French Quarter. Like most Music Director offices, Murf’s walls and table tops were covered with band posters, CDs, one-sheets, and headphones. Murf took some time out of the wild and wooly Jazz Fest schedule to answer a few of my questions.

This interview was featured in our May 2024 Newsletter. Not subscribed? Click here for monthly doses of community radio inspiration.

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Serah Mead: Please let us know who you are, your position at WWOZ

Murf Reeves: My name is Murf Reeves and I am a show host and music director for WWOZ in New Orleans, Louisiana.

 

SM: How did you find your way to WWOZ?

MR: I found my way to WWOZ through my ex-partner, Marigny. We met in Boston and I had visited New Orleans a few times and she told me of WWOZ. When she got pregnant she said she wanted to have the baby in New Orleans, which is still the only city I have ever wanted to live in (I have been here about 20 years). So, I said, “hell yes!” The fourth or fifth day in New Orleans I walked into WWOZ and asked, “how do I get on the air?” This was back in 2001.

 

SM: What role has music played in your life?

MR: Music was my school and my friend growing up. I began my musical journey with three cassettes my dad let me have from Columbia Tape Club: The Who’s Face Dances, Led Zeppelin IV, and The Doors Greatest Hits. I was hooked. Not only with the music, but also the information around the music. I devoured liner notes and read music magazines trying to learn…what? I don’t know, but I wanted to know all of it. What I started doing was making connections through the liner notes. Seeing the same musicians, engineers or producers started to influence how I listened to music. I started looking for people like Tom Dowd and Eddie Kramer and I started to understand the importance of the engineer and the producer.

Then there were the liner notes. I learned about the world through the books that were mentioned or thanked in the liner notes. I grew up in the northeast and my African-American Cultures Studies were lame at best. Listening to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye and learning about what they read hipped me to a whole new world. I learned about politics, philosophy, astrology, history, a lot of different histories (and herstories) through liner notes, which shaped my thinking.

 

SM: The role of Music Director at any community radio station can often feel like that of Sisyphus – constantly pushing that boulder up a hill as a metaphor for the never ending pile of new music submissions. I imagine a station like OZ, in a city known for its rich musical culture, it’s even more daunting. What are your guiding principles to help you find the best music for the air?

MR: My biggest guides are the show hosts. I am fortunate enough to have a team of show hosts who are really engaged with the city’s musical scene. I also trust my gut and my butt. If the music is making me move, chances are it will find its way to the station.

 

SM: WWOZ is known worldwide for not only celebrating the music of New Orleans, but for celebrating music in general. As we make our way into this potentially divisive election year, do you feel that music stations have a role to play in politics? How so?

MR: As far as politics, I feel it is up to the community stations to make sure their listeners know where to go and what to do in their community but not tell the listeners who to vote for. WWOZ takes the side of music. Many of the show hosts express their opinions through the songs they play. WWOZ is also a place to go when you need a break from the world and just want to groove.

 

SM: What are your top 5 all time deserted island albums?

MR:

Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life Vol. 1&2

Fishbone – Truth and Soul

Allman Brothers Band – Live At The Fillmore East

Professor Longhair – Crawfish Fiesta

Jane’s Addiction – Nothing Shocking

 

SM: What are your top 5 new music recommendations?

MR:

Leyla McCalla – Sun Without The Heat

Connie Price & The Keystones with Apani B. Fly Mc & Bo Dollis Jr. – Uptown Rulers

Trumpet Mafia – Dippy

Flagboy Giz – Disgrace To My Culture

SaxKixAve – Nectarine Peels

 

SM: What’s currently spinning on repeat in the Murf House?

MR: Connie Price & The Keystones with Apani B. Fly MC & Bo Dollis Jr, Uptown Rulers. Also Dumpstaphunk (Bassist Nick Daniels passed away on April 26th).

 

SM: Anything else you’d like to share with us?

MR: Never stop listening and sharing music with everyone. Music is such a powerful healing force and we can never let its fire go out. Join a band, write a song, sing in the shower, go to as many shows as you can, and make sure you throw a little in the bucket.