Library Receives Rare New Orleans Recordings

Posted September 11, 2007 at 3:56pm

More than 7,000 hours of one-of-a-kind recordings derived from various music festivals, nightclubs and street events in New Orleans have been given to the Library of Congress.

The live jazz and blues recordings, spanning 15 years, feature diverse forms of New Orleans’ roots music including jazz, blues, gospel, brass band and zydeco. The contribution was made by New Orleans radio station WWOZ-FM in an effort to ensure the safety of the station’s collection of historic recordings after Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters nearly spoiled the station’s primary tape storage facility. The GRAMMY Foundation supported the gift by awarding WWOZ a $45,000 grant toward the preservation of the collection.

“We are excited about this unique collection and look forward to partnering with WWOZ and the GRAMMY Foundation to preserve it and make the historic recordings available to the American people,” Librarian of Congress James Billington said in a statement announcing the gift.

“The WWOZ Crescent City Living Legends Collection” includes the most extensive collection of live music performances dating back to 1993 of New Orleans’ most recognized artists, including Professor Longhair, Clifton Chenier and Queen Ida.

According to David Freedman, general manager of WWOZ, “Without the combined support of the Library and the GRAMMY Foundation, the station could not have come up with the money to save all its live performance recordings. At the same time, we were in a position to greatly enhance the Library’s collection and thus every American’s access to great music.”

The fragile recordings will be stored in climate-controlled vaults at the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation while awaiting cataloging and digital preservation.

The Library of Congress will provide public access to the preserved audio at listening stations in the Recorded Sound Reference Center in the Library’s Madison Building on Capitol Hill.

— Brandace Simmons