THE BROWN SUGAR SHOW
Live on WWOZ New Orleans


"The radio was always on in the kitchen and always tuned to WWOZ, the great New Orleans station that plays mostly early rhythm and blues and rural Southern gospel music. My favorite DJ, hands down, was Brown Sugar, the female disc jockey. She was on in the midnight hours, played records by Wynonie Harris, Roy Brown, Ivory Joe Hunter, Little Walter, Lightnin' Hopkins, Chuck Willis, all the greats. She used to keep me company a lot when everyone else was sleeping. Brown Sugar, whoever she was, had a thick, slow, dreamy, oozing molasses voice—she sounded big as a buffalo—she'd ramble on, take phone calls, give love advice and spin records. I wondered how old she could be. I wondered if she knew her voice had drawn me in, filled me with inner peace and serenity and would upend all my frustration. It was relaxing listening to her. I'd stare at the radio. Whatever she said, I could see every word as she said it. I could listen to her for hours."

—Bob Dylan


brownsugar.mp3


I met Belle Moore—aka WWOZ disc jockey Brown Sugar—at the fairgrounds once during Jazz Fest. Someone in the crowd pointed and said, Look there go Brown Sugar, and I ran over to say hello. She was a sweet, short, middle-aged woman and not at all buffalo-sized. Everyone in New Orleans loved her show. While WWOZ played a lot of the 40s and 50s bluesmen Dylan mentioned, on Brown Sugar's show you were likely to hear women singers and more contemporary downhome R&B—like Denise LaSalle, Albert Collins, Jeannie Cheatham, Little Johnny Taylor, Freddie King, and Koko Taylor—with a heavy emphasis on sexed up cheatin' songs.

I remember sitting outside on the balcony of my one room garret apartment at the corner of Dauphine and Dumaine in the Quarter, a few blocks from the WWOZ studios in Louis Armstrong Park, my feet propped up on the rusted iron railing, sipping a bottle of whiskey, popping blank cassettes in my beat up boombox to tape her show, fiddling with the tuning knob to notch out interference from the next station on the dial. Like Bob I would listen to her for hours, and life was good.