Mixed Signals: The Diverse Radio Stations of New Orleans

10:34 September 26, 2018
By: Steven Melendez

New Orleans is known throughout the world as a musical city, so it’s no surprise that it hosts some of the most interesting radio stations around the country, from traditional Louisiana music to handpicked selections of avant-garde tunes and fascinating political discussions. Nowadays, not only can you listen to New Orleans stations at home, at work, or as you drive around the city, but you can also stream them online from across the country or around the world.

Here are some of the area’s most intriguing radio stations:

<em>Mixed Signals:</em> The Diverse Radio Stations of New Orleans

WWOZ, 90.7 FM, wwoz.org

Likely New Orleans’s most famous radio station, WWOZ has been broadcasting music from Fats Domino to Dr. John for close to 40 years. Specializing in local artists and music from genres with ties to the area, including blues, jazz, bluegrass, and gospel, the station got its start in 1980 and was soon broadcasting from above Tipitina’s, the celebrated Uptown music venue.

Since then, the station, whose volunteer hosts have included the late New Orleans musician Ernie K-Doe, moved on to a building in Louis Armstrong Park, and then to the French Market area along the river. Today, WWOZ is run by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit behind Jazz Fest.

<em>Mixed Signals:</em> The Diverse Radio Stations of New Orleans

WHIV, 102.3 FM, whivfm.org 

The fact that this community radio station shares its name with the AIDS virus is no coincidence. The station was established in 2014 by the New Orleans Society for Infectious Disease Awareness, a nonprofit led by Tulane medical professor Dr. Mark Alain Dery. Dery has said he intended the call letters to help destigmatize the infection. (New Orleans and Louisiana still have some of the highest rates of HIV in the country.)

WHIV doesn’t just focus on health topics, though. The station offers an eclectic mix of music and a variety of talk shows focused on social justice issues, including local programming and nationally syndicated programs like Democracy Now and The Bernie Sanders Show. New Orleans musicians like Lynn Drury also host their own shows or appear regularly on the station.

<em>Mixed Signals:</em> The Diverse Radio Stations of New Orleans

WTUL, 91.5 FM, wtulneworleans.com 

Affiliated with Tulane University, this nonprofit radio station has been broadcasting in New Orleans since 1959. Today, WTUL’s freeform format means that many of the student and community-member DJs craft their own shows from the station’s ample archives of CDs and vinyl, proudly leaving out anything you might hear on a Top-40 station. 

Despite its university ties, WTUL receives much of its funding from donors and holds an annual pledge drive marathon, where sets of DJs stay on the air for 24 continuous hours, playing requests and soliciting pledges. Legend has it that the first DJ to host what would become the yearly tradition even took a microphone into the shower, covering it with a condom to keep it from shorting out in the water. Another claim to fame is that Tulane alumnus Jerry Springer reportedly made his broadcast debut on this station.

<em>Mixed Signals:</em> The Diverse Radio Stations of New Orleans

WRBH, 88.3 FM, wrbh.org

 Since 1982, WRBH has specialized in reading printed material over the airwaves to listeners who are blind or print-impaired. The station, founded by blind Loyola University math professor Robert McClean, is still the only full-time reading radio station in the country. It delivers its listeners a mix of fiction and nonfiction, including newspapers like The Times-Picayune, The Advocate, and Gambit, plus national magazines like Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, and Consumer Reports.

While its programming is intended for people who have difficulty reading for themselves, there’s no reason other listeners can’t also enjoy WRBH’s programming, including podcasts like The Writer’s Forum literary interview series. Fans can also volunteer to read for the station.

<em>Mixed Signals:</em> The Diverse Radio Stations of New Orleans

WWNO, 89.9 FM, wwno.org 

WWNO is the New Orleans NPR affiliate, and it carries National Public Radio programming, like Fresh Air with Terry Gross, This American Life, and RadioLab. But from its studios on the campus of the University of New Orleans, it also broadcasts locally focused programming, like the food show Louisiana Eats!, the midday interview series Out to Lunch, and the local culture showcase Notes from New Orleans.

An affiliated station also broadcasts 24/7 classical music on 104.9 FM. All-day jazz can be heard through the station’s HD Radio broadcast or online.

<em>Mixed Signals:</em> The Diverse Radio Stations of New Orleans

WXDR, 99.1 FM, dolphinradio.org 

One of the city’s newest broadcasts, Dolphin Radio takes its name from the mascot of Delgado Community College, where the station is based. It’s changed its location on the dial a few times since its launch in 2011, but now can consistently be heard throughout much of the city, especially near the college’s City Park campus.

The station provides an eclectic mix of music and helps give Delgado students radio experience.

<em>Mixed Signals:</em> The Diverse Radio Stations of New Orleans

KLEB, 1600 AM, streema.com/radios/KLEB 

Fans of South Louisiana music will want to tune into this station, nicknamed The Rajun’ Cajun, broadcasting out of Lafourche Parish. While the AM signal is often stronger in New Orleans at night, KLEB can be streamed live online through a variety of free radio apps and web services. Its mix of zydeco, country, swamp pop, and other local genres includes tunes in English and French and really can’t be matched elsewhere on the airwaves. 

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