During August 1976, Walter Brock, a program director for the community radio station KCHU in Dallas, Texas, visited the city of New Orleans for the first time. Brock found himself drawn to the music that "always made the city dance"  and was surprised that he could scarcely hear any of it on the local radio. After discovering that there was only one frequency left available in the area, he knew he had to move quickly. Brock was introduced to a lawyer working for the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation named Bobby Matthews who filed an application to the Federal Communications Commission for a non-profit, community-oriented radio station.  Brock then invited his brother Jerry to come to New Orleans and help run the station.
Walter Brock soon found that starting WWOZ was easier said than done. After many struggles with legal proceedings and finding financial support, WWOZ officially started broadcasting on December 2, 1980, at 90.7mHz from a two-room apartment located above music club Tipitina’s at 501 Napoleon Avenue.
In the September 1982 issue of Wavelength Magazine, WWOZ was described as playing old favorites like, “Little Richard, Fats Domino, Sidney Bechet, or Jelly Roll Morton,“ as well as, “James Brown ‘Live’ at the Apollo, Bobby ‘Blue‘ Band, boogie-woogie, swing, bebop, and the best of contemporary jazz.”  Although the station wasn’t entirely dedicated to Louisiana music, Walter Brock made sure to maintain authentic Louisiana culture by separating music with commercials like, “Country Cajun’s recipe for turtle sauce picante.” There was an immediate response of enthusiasm to the initial WWOZ broadcasting. Research showed that "listeners of all ages were tuning in from throughout the metropolitan area and there was an expected preponderance of middle-class, college-educated uptowners." 
According to the November 1983 issue of Wavelength Magazine, the celebrated WWOZ station, "moved its studio facilities to Armstrong Park in early November and also did a live broadcast from the park sponsored by the Louisiana Jazz Federation."  Today, WWOZ is located on the second floor of the French Market Building at 1008 North Peters St. in downtown New Orleans.
On August 27th, 2005, two days before Katrina hit New Orleans, WWOZ went off the air. When WWOZ general manager David Freedman was finally able to return to New Orleans on a "bogus press pass" he found that while the WWOZ tower "really took a beating" and some of the live recordings done by WWOZ over the past 25 years had been ruined by the heat, the transmitter remained intact, meaning it would eventually be possible to beam a satellite signal from Baton Rouge.  In the meantime, however, "WWOZ in exile" was streaming a signal to WWOZ's internet homepage thanks to the efforts of community station WFMU in Jersey City, New Jersey.