Guardians of the Groove

by Phillip Collier

June 15, 2020

Dr. John comp presented to client.

In 2013 I was asked by Robert Alford of Alford Advertising to come up with some concepts for an ad campaign for radio station WWOZ. Known to locals as just O.Z., it is a non-profit community supported station specializing in the cultural heritage of New Orleans and the surrounding region of southern Louisiana. O.Z. is revered for its support of local talent; at any point in the day one can tune in to hear musicians playing live, and many musicians even host their own shows on the station.  

When Alford reached out to me, the station’s branding was all over the board. They were using several logos and slogans, and there wasn’t any consistency. I knew they needed a better logo, but there was one slogan that stood out to me: “Guardians of the Groove”. I thought that slogan summed up the O.Z.’s mission of preserving and playing all types of New Orleans-based music, much of which was originally recorded as phonograph records. I thought if I could somehow showcase these musicians and show their appreciation for the station that was playing their recordings on a daily basis, that would be the answer.

Allen Touissant comp presented to client.

I knew my friend and local photographer Michael Terranova had taken portraits of two New Orleans musicians, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint, and they just so happened to be at the top of my list to feature. As I studied the two photographs, it came to me that it would make sense for them to be lovingly holding an old phonograph record as if it were a treasure in an ad. Knowing I couldn’t just call up the famous musicians for a conceptual photo shoot, I had a record photoshopped into the existing photographs that Mike Terranova had taken to use in my ad layouts. I thought the ad campaign had legs as I was sure the folks at WWOZ could get us the noted local musicians to pose for the photographs and endorse the station. As for the label on the records, I remembered the classic jazz label Okeh that had recorded so many New Orleans jazz classics. As a tribute, I created a similar type of label using the word Ozee instead.

The final step was to create a new logo playing up the phonograph record motif and emphasizing the OZ portion of the call letters. Robert Alford and I pitched the campaign to the radio manager and got the approval. We were off and running. We had a wish list of our favorite local talent and we ended up photographing most of those musicians  using Mike Terranova during the next year. But alas, the main two, Dr. John and Alan Toussaint, could never get scheduled before the campaign ended and have both since passed away.

Phillip Collier, Robert Alford, Mike Terranova, and Crystal Gross in an ‘it’s a rap’ photo with Trombone Shorty. 
Phillip Collier, Robert Alford, Mike Terranova, and Jacob Alford in an ‘it’s a rap’ photo with Walter “Wolfman” Washington. 
Phillip Collier, Robert Alford, and Mike Terranova in an ‘it’s a rap’ photo with Kermit Ruffins.