An Oasis in the Bayous

Published on: June 10th, 2024


In the WWOZ Studio. Photo by Katherine Johnson.


Gerald French photo by Gerald French

--Written by Melissa Milton

Twice a week, on Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings, the leader of the Original Tuxedo Band, drummer Gerald French, cozies up to the microphone in the WWOZ studio and brings us, as he says, "more platter, less chatter."

If you’re tuning in on Thursday afternoons, you’ll hear DJ Giant, “the warm fuzzy uncle that your parents don’t want you to spend too much time with, who’s gonna teach you all the bad stuff that you shouldn’t know, and how to have a good time,” says Gerald with a laugh. Gerald knows about uncles and the lineage that they can pass on, being the nephew of acclaimed New Orleans drummer and longtime OZ show host, Bob French.

And if Friday mornings are when you’re dialed in to 90.7 FM, you’ll be under the guidance of the Jazz Police, and "it’s strictly business, like a history lesson, teaching people about Louis Armstrong, about Sidney Bechet, about King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton, all these pioneers that came from New Orleans and started the course for what we know now is traditional New Orleans jazz."

"A lot of musicians think that traditional New Orleans jazz should only be played one way. And I agree with that to an extent. I learned this music the proper way from guys who were my grandfather’s peers, and uncle’s and my dad’s peers. And I sat under those guys, and I learned from them the way that they learned from the generation before them. But, as the music changes, as time changes, different things are going to sneak into a culture because of the influences of what’s going on at the time. I don’t care if you’re listening to Preservation Hall, if you’re listening to Tank and the Bangas, if you’re listening to the Rumble, whatever, there are still elements in all of that music, as different as all of them are, that still make them New Orleans. That’s the beautiful thing about our culture, it permeates through everything. These are things that we should cherish, these are the things that we should push forward."

For Gerald, being an OZ show host is more than simply playing the fun R&B and soul music his afternoon fans request, and that he also loves, and helping his morning listeners connect the dots between historic and contemporary New Orleans sounds. It’s about family, too. "My biggest mission in all of what I do is to make my Dad proud and to honor my grandfather. I try to make the audience feel like family."

"OZ gives me a sense of community. It also gives me a sense of what New Orleans is really about, what New Orleans should be about, which is preserving our culture and our heritage and also having a safe space for young and upcoming musicians to get exposure to the world. There’s no other place where artists can just walk in with their stuff and get it played. For a lot of us as kids, the first time we ever heard ourselves on the radio was on OZ. There's no place in the world like this. OZ is an oasis for that breeding, for that cultural process. It’s very fertile ground."

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